A history of gladiatorial contests in the roman empire

Bloody, brutal but popular, gladiatorial contests are often seen as the dark side of Roman civilization. Historians have struggled to explain how a country that civilized so much of the world could be so keen on watching men and women fight to the death. Ritualized violence Ritualized, public violence had been a favorite entertainment of the Romans for centuries. The practice began as an ancient Etruscan funeral ritual:

A history of gladiatorial contests in the roman empire

The Paestum frescoes may represent the continuation of a much older tradition, acquired or inherited from Greek colonists of the 8th century BC.

A history of gladiatorial contests in the roman empire

This is described as a munus plural: The enemy, besides their other warlike preparation, had made their battle-line to glitter with new and splendid arms.

There were two corps: The Romans had already heard of these splendid accoutrements, but their generals had taught them that a soldier should be rough to look on, not adorned with gold and silver but putting his trust in iron and in courage The Dictatoras decreed by the senatecelebrated a triumph, in which by far the finest show was afforded by the captured armour.

So the Romans made use of the splendid armour of their enemies to do honour to their gods; while the Campanians, in consequence of their pride and in hatred of the Samnites, equipped after this fashion the gladiators who furnished them entertainment at their feasts, and bestowed on them the name Samnites.

Their Campanian allies stage a dinner entertainment using gladiators who may not be Samnites, but play the Samnite role. Other groups and tribes would join the cast list as Roman territories expanded.

Most gladiators were armed and armoured in the manner of the enemies of Rome. High status non-Romans, and possibly Romans too, volunteered as his gladiators. By BC, "small" Roman munera private or publicprovided by an editor of relatively low importance, may have been so commonplace and unremarkable they were not considered worth recording: The climax of the show which was big for the time was that in three days seventy four gladiators fought.

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It proved immensely popular. Gladiator games offered their sponsors extravagantly expensive but effective opportunities for self-promotion, and gave their clients and potential voters exciting entertainment at little or no cost to themselves.

Despite an already enormous personal debt, he used gladiator pairs in silvered armour. Legislation of AD by Marcus Aurelius did little to stop it, and was completely ignored by his son, Commodus. Later games were held by an editor, either identical with the munerator or an official employed by him.

As time passed, these titles and meanings may have merged. From the Principate onwards, private citizens could hold munera and own gladiators only under Imperial permission, and the role of editor was increasingly tied to state officialdom.

Gladiators, Chariots, and the Roman Games [srmvision.com]

Bigger games were put on by senior magistrates, who could better afford them. The largest and most lavish of all were paid for by the emperor himself. In the mid-republican munus, each type seems to have fought against a similar or identical type.

In the later Republic and early Empire, various "fantasy" types were introduced, and were set against dissimilar but complementary types. For example, the bareheaded, nimble retiarius "net-man"armoured only at the left arm and shoulder, pitted his net, trident and dagger against the more heavily armoured, helmeted Secutor.

Passing literary references to others has allowed their tentative reconstruction. Other novelties introduced around this time included gladiators who fought from chariots or cartsor from horseback.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. 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. For instance, gladiator contests did often reconstruct famous battles or scenes using characters from history or legends.

Gladiator contests did take place in many places around the empire. Animals, such as tigers, were often used in arenas, where gladiators might fight each other as well as animals. Roman Spectacles: General knowledge of gladiators: A gladiator in ancient times was an armed combatant who entered gladiatorial arenas to entertain the Roman Republic and Roman Empire for violent, gore and bloody purpose, all in which was to keep the people of Rome entertained.

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. 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.

Lecture A Brief Social History of the Roman Empire