A history of gladiatorial contests in the roman empire

A man jabs me, elbowing through, one socks A chair pole against me, one cracks my skull with a beam, one knocks A wine cask against my ear. My legs are caked with splashing Mud, from all sides the weight of enormous feet comes smashing On mine, and a soldier stamps his hobnails through to my sole. One of the striking features of Roman life, whether under the Republic or Empire, was that Rome was specifically an urban culture -- Roman civilization depended on the vitality of its cities. There were perhaps only a handful of cities with populations exceeding 75, the typical city having about 20, permanent residents.

A history of gladiatorial contests in the roman empire

Dattatreya Mandal July 15, Often viewed as the working class heroes of the Roman society, the gladiators have surely seen their fair share of screen time in our modern-day popular media. So, without further ado, let us take a gander at twelve such incredible things you should know about the Roman gladiators that go beyond the realm of glitzy fiction to account for brutal reality.

In less than hundred years, such contests became pretty commonplace, and the combatants were generally the slaves of the organizer. In fact, in BC, one of these munera a ritualistic service dedicated to the dead involved 74 men pitted against each other in a gruesome event that took place over three days.

And as time went by, the munera expanded in scopes to include spectacles like the venatio — which entailed the hunting of over hundreds of exotic animals across the Roman lands by the trained venatores. And, as the Roman Republic grew in pomp and size, her nobles thought out news and grander ways to commemorate their legacy — by even making provisions its their wills for such funeral contests.

In essence, the funerary service became more of a political statement combined with bloody spectacles that supposedly espoused the greatness of the patrons.

The Future Lies In The Past

The situation soon turned into a riot, and the emperor had to send his troops to quell the disturbance. These amphitheaters mostly sprung up inside Rome the city beside the Forum, and were initially constructed from wood with sand floors.

In fact, the very word harena which meant sand, gave way to the term arena. Suffice it to say, overcrowding was a major predicament for the engineers, and as such one of the accidental mishaps resulted in the collapse of the entire superstructure of an amphitheater at Fidenae. The nature of the incredible demand for gladiatorial combats could also be measured by the actual number of amphitheaters inside the Roman-held lands.

According to architect and archaeologist Jean-Claude Golvin, this figure accounted for venues spread over the Roman-ruled realms, while being additionally complemented by 86 other possible locations that might have had some kind of arenas for gladiators and their bloody spectacles.

Such forms of crowd-pleasing entertainment alluded to the spectacle of long-drawn conflict as opposed to quick bloody events. In that regard, the hoplomachi were experts in prolonging the suffering of their opponents that entailed the drawing of blood and its spilling onto the sand.

Simply put, they were a far-cry from the ill-prepared criminals that went into the arena to die. Instead they were viewed more as dashing dare-devils, who while sharing some of their bad luck as being initially dispossessed, lived to please the rousing and often ruthless Roman spectators.

Well, in majority of the cases, the men and few women were bought from thriving slave markets. Some among them were simply sold by their masters because of their past crimes or transgressions, while others were prisoners of war. However, beyond the scope of dispossessed slaves and war victims, even free men joined the ranks of gladiators — some who had lost their inheritance and some who were simply addicted to the thrill of fighting and winning accolades from the crowds.

According to modern estimations, around 20 percent of gladiators admitted into the ludi gladiatori gladiatorial schools were free men of the Roman society. This directly contrasted with their fanfare and popularity among the citizens, especially during the grand gladiatorial spectacles that were akin to big sporting events of our modern world.

In fact, the fame and reputation of some gladiators reached to such dizzying heights that their names appeared on city walls, while discussions about their victories and even sex appeal arose in inns, villas, palaces and private dinner rooms.The Roman Empire had gladiatorial barracks that were marked by heterogeneity as membership and life of brotherhood constantly fluctuated due to betrayal and tours by troupes in the local circuit.

Some gladiators survived up to retirement as fresh recruits were brought in to train as gladiators. A Roman gladiator was an ancient professional fighter who specialised with particular weapons and armour.

A history of gladiatorial contests in the roman empire

They fought before the public in organised games held in large purpose-built arenas throughout the Roman Empire from BCE to CE (official contests). However, beyond grand spectacles and bloody feats, the very nature of gladiatorial contests alluded to the ‘institutionalization of violence‘ ingrained in the Roman society since its tribal days.

So, without further ado, let us take a gander at twelve such incredible things you should know about the Roman gladiators that go beyond the realm of glitzy fiction to account for brutal reality.

Lecture 13

Other Roman emperors such as Titus, Hadrian, Geta, Caracalla, and Didius Julianus, were also known to have occasionally taken part in gladiatorial contests.

The emperor Caligula was also known to force members of the audience to fight gladiators or animals in the arena. Ironically gladiatorial contests were held to appease the crowd, and there are no recorded instances in Livy, or any of the other Roman authors about protests against gladiators.

Protests occurred, and in the arenas, but they were usually directed towards the rulers. The gladiator as a specialist fighter, and the ethos and organization of the gladiator schools, would inform the development of the Roman military as the most effective force of its time.

In BC, the Marian Reforms established the Roman army as .

BBC - History - Ancient History in depth: Gladiators: Heroes of the Roman Amphitheatre