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Tuesday, 7 April 2015


The Roman custom of giving gladiatorial shows was borrowed from the Etruscans, who sacrificed slaves and prisoners on the tombs of illustrious chieftains. The first combat in Rome took place in 264 BC when six men fought to the death. Proving very much to the public taste, they soon become frequent spectacles.

Each gladiator tried to kill his opponent.  Gladiators were prisoners, condemned criminals or otherwise desperate men, who, having nothing to lose, were prepared to fight to the death in the hope of winning fame and popularity if they survived.

When a gladiator was disabled or disarmed, the spectators turned up their thumbs to indicate that the vanquished man should be spared. If they turned their thumbs down, he was to be slain.

A successful gladiator fighter was at first rewarded with a palm branch. In later years, however, it became the custom to add to this rich and valuable presents and a prize of money.

Successful Roman gladiators, as a result of their immense public appeal, used to carry product placements out in the arena; An early script for the 2000 movie Gladiator, had Maximus doing a product endorsement for olive oil, which was historically accurate for famous gladiators to do, but the detail was left out in later scripts for being too unbelievable.

The Ancient Romans invented "street food." While watching gladiators battle they ate salted peas.

In Ancient Rome, wealthy women would buy vials of sweat and dirt scraped from gladiators to use as a face cream.

When he was the overseer of public games, Julius Caesar increased his popularity by preparing magnificent spectacles in the Circus Maximus at a cost of a crushing burden of debt for himself.

Caesar was booed for catching up with his correspondence during gladiatorial games.

Caligua loved gladiatorial games. He once entered the arena as a gladiator and whilst his opponents had wooden swords, he had a real one.

The Emperor Titus gave an exhibition of gladiators, wild beasts, and sea fights that lasted 100 days and in which 10,000 men fought.

The emperor Trajan, who oversaw the greatest expansion of the Roman Empire, held a three-month victory celebration in AD 107 during which 11,000 slaves and criminals were killed in gladiatorial contests.

Domitian was also very fond of gladiator shows and he added important innovations such as female and dwarf gladiator fights.

During gladiatorial combats, the Emperor Commodus sat in his royal box equipped with a bow and arrows. From there he watched the cruel spectacle of men being chased by lions and leopards, and at the very moment when a beast was about to spring on its prey, he took aim and killed it.

Commodus also tried his hand at being a gladiator himself. He put on spectacular shows where he would take on savage bears and lions and beat dozens of gladiators in one on one combat. Trouble is, the beasts were tied up so they couldn’t run away, and the gladiators fought with wooden, or blunt, swords, so the emperor could never lose.

Gladitorial contests were finally stopped in AD 404, supposedly as a result of the daring of Telemachus, an Asian monk. After he rushed into the arena to try to separate two gladiators, the spectators stoned him to death. Afterward the Emperor Honorius issued an edict suppressing such exhibitions.

Russell Crowe won the Academy Award for best actor in 2000 for Gladiator.

Sources Eiropress Encyclopedia, Comptons Interactive Encyclopedia, The Guardian

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