Roman poet Juvenal coined the term "bread and circuses" around 100 A.D. to express his disgust with the behavior of the Roman people. He felt that the populace was too easily distracted from political issues with cheap entertainment and plentiful food.
In Satire X, Juvenal wrote: "… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses."
During Juvenal's time, the Roman politicians actually used this technique successfully: they would give out free wheat (Annona) and hold state-sponsored public games and mass spectacles (Ludi). For example, Marcus Brutus arranged a Ludi to rally public support after assassinating Caesar at the Ides of March. Collins has often cited the Roman Empire as an inspiration for the Hunger Games. All the Hunger Games' victors receive plentiful food and luxurious shelter, but for most of them, it does not make up for what they have suffered (Haymitch in particular).