Moreover, the plague did not abate when the wanton madness of the stage plays took possession of a warlike people, once accustomed only to the sports of the arena. It was the work of wicked spirits crafty enough to know that that pestilence would soon run its course. They seized the occasion, to their great delight, to inject a more deadly contagion, not into men’s bodies, but into their souls. This contagion so beclouded the wits of those wretches, so befouled and deranged them, that even now—for, future generations will scarcely believe the story if it reaches them—after the City of Rome has been laid waste, those who were so infected by the plague and were able to flee from Rome to Carthage were day after day stampeding one another in a mad rush after the clowns in the theatres.

Augustine The City Of God

Book 1, chapter 32