The term Gladiator is synonymous with Roman culture, and while to us gladiatorial contests are little more than displays of extreme barbarism, contemporary Romans would have look upon these ‘contests to the death’ as a defining feature of their civilisation. But who were the gladiators, and what brought them into existence?
The Romans believed that gladiators first appeared in 264 BC. They were common slaves who were made to fight to the death at the funeral of a distinguished aristocrat, Junius Brutus Pera.. This spectacle was arranged by his heirs in order to honour his memory.
Most gladiators were still slaves. They were subjected to a rigorous training, fed on a high-energy diet, and given expert medical attention. Therefore they were an expensive investment, not to be despatched lightly!
For a gladiator who died in combat, the trainer – known as a lanist – may have charged the sponsor of the fatal spectacle up to a hundred times the cost of a gladiator who had survived. Clearly it would become significantly more expensively for the sponsor if they supplied the bloodshed that the audiences often bayed for. Although if a gladiator was allowed to be slain it was seen as an indication of their generosity.
Some maverick emperors with a perverted sense of humour made upper-class Romans (of both sexes) fight in the arena. But as long as they did not receive a fee for their participation, such persons would be exempt from the stain of infamia, the legal disability that was attached to the practitioners of disreputable professions such as actors, prostitutes and, of course, gladiators.
The ancient Roman gladiators have been a source of fascination for thousands of years. And as modern day archeologists and historians uncover more about their lives, our hunger to find out more about the Roman gladiator seems to increase.
What did gladiators eat?
Research by Karl Grossschmidt, a paleo-pathologist at the Medical University of Vienna has managed to give an insite into this unglamopurside to the gladiators life!
They also managed to turn up some other surprising results. Compared to the average inhabitant of Ephesus, gladiators ate more plants and very little animal protein. The vegetarian diet had nothing to do with poverty or animal rights. Gladiators, it seems, were fat. Consuming a lot of simple carbohydrates, such as barley, and legumes, like beans, was designed for survival in the arena. Packing in the carbs also packed on the pounds.
But a diet of barley and vegetables would have left the fighters with a serious calcium deficit. To keep their bones strong, historical accounts say, they downed vile brews of charred wood or bone ash, both of which are rich in calcium. Whatever the exact formula, the stuff worked. Grossschmidt says that the calcium levels in the gladiator bones were "exorbitant" compared to the general population. "Many athletes today have to take calcium supplements," he says. "They knew that then, too."
For related articles click onto:
AMSTERDAM: The Rembrandt Museum
ATHENS: How to get to Athens city from Athens International Airport?
ATHENS: The Parthenon
ATHENS: The Acropolis
BATH: Roman Baths
Eight Days in Rome - a photographic tour
ENGLAND: What is Stonehenge?
ROMAN ENGLAND: Who was Gnaeus Julius Agricola?
GREEK HISTORY: Who was Archimedes?
LONDON: Big Ben
LONDON: Buckingham Palace
LONDON: Tower Bridge
Roman England: The Kings Bath
Rome: Gladiator Graveyard Discovered!
Rome: Gladiator School
ROME: The Gladiator School
Rome: How to get to Villa Adriana from Rome
Rome: How to get to Villa D'Este from Rome
Rome: How to make Roman bread - Panis
Rome: Julius Caesar
Rome: Opening Times for Villa D'Este
Rome: Photographs of and around the Colosseum at Night
ROME: The Colosseum
Rome: The Roman Colosseum
ROME: The Pantheon
ROME: The Pyramid of Cestius
Rome: The Pyramid of Rome
Rome: Villa Adriana - Tivoli
Rome: What did Gladiators Eat?
Rome: What did the Romans Eat?
Rome: What does 'SQPR' mean?
ROME: What was a Gladiator?
Rome: Who were the Ancient Gladiators?
The Flying Dutchman
The Mary Celeste
VALENCIA: La Lonja de la Seda
VALENCIA: The Turia River
What is Stonehenge?
What is the Flying Dutchman?
Who was Archimedes?
Who was Guy Fawkes?
Who was Julius Caesar?
Based on an article by Professor Kathleen Coleman
Photo of mosaic care of http://uk.ask.com/wiki/List_of_Roman_gladiator_types
Photo care of http://www.overoll.com/Content/Bite-marks-may-identify-UK-gladiator-graveyard-/2010/6/7/263350.news?from=gimage and http://www.hollywood.com/feature/Top_10_Posthumous_Performances/5277553
Based on an article by Andrew Curry