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Video: Bloody Ancient Rome: the fate of the gladiators
2023 Author: Seth Attwood | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-26 22:42
The heart-rending roar of a crowd of 40,000, blood, sand, pretentious speeches and a handful of desperate brave men doomed to perish in the midst of all this. Violent gladiatorial performances are one of the most famous attributes of ancient Rome, which was mercilessly exploited by modern mass culture. But was everything the way we are used to seeing in the movies? Did the Romans really drive tens and hundreds of trained fighters into the arena for the purpose of slaughtering them like poor sheep? Of course, things are far from simple.
To understand the issue, you need to start from the very beginning. The first thing to understand is that gladiatorial games are not fun, no matter how strange it may seem. Or at least not only fun, but also an important religious ritual. In essence, games are a human sacrifice to the gods. The Romans adopted the custom from their neighbors and competitors on the peninsula - the Etruscans. Initially, the "games" involved prisoners of war, whom the Romans forced to fight with each other for their own amusement, promising to free the survivors. As a rule, initially at the end of the battle, the survivors were killed anyway, sacrificing them to the gods.
This began to change in 105 BC when gladiatorial games were introduced in Rome as an official public spectacle and religious ritual. Now the games were held not spontaneously after military campaigns, but in an organized way. The care of the arrangement of the spectacles was entrusted to the magistrate officials. In addition to prisoners of war, criminals and slaves began to take part in the games. Gladiatorial games also became a form of the death penalty for those who seriously violated Roman laws.
Interesting fact:according to Roman law, if a criminal sentenced “to the sword” survived in the arena for 5 years, then the charges were dropped from him. However, it was virtually impossible for the criminal to escape in the arena. He could simply be driven into the arena without weapons, and even if he killed the gladiator, a new, fresh fighter was put up against him. Thus, death was inevitable for the breaker of the law.
The popularity of games grew rapidly. The crowd inevitably began to sympathize with the most successful fighters. For Rome, games are becoming not only a ritual in honor of the gods and not just entertainment, they are becoming an important tool in the social and political life of a rapidly growing state. This means that specialists are needed who could be engaged in bloody labor with maximum efficiency.
Who studied what
With the development of gladiatorial games, the appearance of the first more or less professional fighters in Rome, the first schools of gladiators were created. Contrary to the cinema, it was not only slaves who were recruited there. Any person living in the Republic, including a woman, could apply to gladiators at will (although there were very few of them). However, in this case, it was not a slave who should have understood that after becoming a gladiator, he would immediately fall into the social category of “unworthy”. It also included theater actors, musicians, prostitutes, etc.
Despite the fact that the gladiators did not have any "fencing", their preparation took quite a long time and required a serious infusion of forces and means. Mostly future gladiators were engaged in physical training with proper nutrition. However, one shouldn't assume that they looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Strength exercises and a diet of mostly porridge made them look like such "strong chubby". In other words, although gladiators were living toys for the Romans, they were quite expensive toys. The ability to slaughter like cattle even a dozen gladiators in the arena in one performance is a luxury available only on special occasions for the state.
Most of the professional gladiators whose remains have been found died between the ages of 20-30. A study of their remains indicates the presence of a huge number of wounds with varying degrees of prescription, as well as traces of numerous healed fractures. This means that the gladiators, on average, survived in the arena for quite a long time. Moreover, they received specialized care. By the standards of antiquity, medicine was quite developed in Ancient Rome, especially military medicine.
Interesting fact: the famous gesture with the flick of a finger that decides the fate of a gladiator is actually a product of modern culture. The "Pollice verso" gesture did exist in Rome, but what exactly it looked like is unknown. His modern image (a finger turned up - life, a finger down - death) was created only in 1872 by the French artist Jean-Leon Gerome in a painting that is called “Pollice verso”.
At the same time, death for the gladiator was not at all an obligatory end for two reasons. First, the more popular a fighter became, the less luck, physical fitness, and combat skills affected his survival chances. The sympathy of the crowd was of increasing importance. And the crowd doesn't want to part with their favorites. Secondly, the routine of a gladiator's work was primarily associated with the ritual murders of slaves, prisoners of war and criminals. And all of these categories, as a rule, did not have the slightest chance against professionals.
When it came to a battle between gladiators and gladiators, the owners themselves did not really want to slaughter their subordinates like cattle for the amusement of the rabble. Therefore, a significant part of such battles were simply negotiated. Of course, even such battles were associated with a certain degree of risk to life and health, but they still fell into the category of staging and performance.
Despite the complexity and danger of work, many gladiators quite successfully survived to adulthood and even old age, until they received freedom (wooden sword) or died of natural causes. Successful gladiators who were previously slaves often made freedmen. By this time, the gladiator was already successful and wealthy enough to start a "new life".
Evidence has come down to us from the Romans that many authoritative fighters, even after gaining freedom, remained to fight in the arena. Others went to work in gladiatorial schools. Still others became mercenaries in noble families as "torpedoes" to resolve "issues", bodyguards, teachers. In addition, even acting gladiators often became "house slaves", to whom there was a completely different attitude and a different degree of trust from the master, due to the fact that they were engaged in special work and assignments.
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