The World of the Gladiator
The figure of the gladiator is as compelling to us as it was to the Romans. Why are we drawn to this ancient blood sport? The usual explanation of the savagery lurking beneath our veneer of civilisation is too simplistic. Gladiatorial combat has always been far more than just an excuse for the enjoyment of violence. From its origins in the funerary religious practices of Republican Rome to the extreme form of entertainment we recognise today, the bloody business of the arena evolved into a microcosm of the Roman Empire, a self-contained world reflecting the culture, attitudes and history of Rome itself. The author brings the games and the gladiators into focus, placing them in their historical and cultural context. Using evidence from all over the Roman world, including fresh archaeological discoveries, the minutiae of the arena are set out and discussed. A picture of the gladiator's life is built up, from training and diet, to social status and mortality rates. The history of the amphitheatre, that iconic symbol of bloodletting, is also traced alongside the evolution of the gladiator. Films like Gladiator and Spartacus demonstrate that the idea of two men fighting each other for their lives has lost none of its power in over 2000 years. The particular persistence of this public taste for spectacle is explored, with unavoidable comparisons to the modern world.