The meaning of freedom has changed throughout time, its face is best defined by those who struggle, fight, and even die for it. In ancient Rome, slaves, often referred to as gladiators, fought to the death in the Colosseum for the morbid delight of the crowd. If the slave fought like a lion and pleased the crowd, they would on rare occasions by virtue of the Pollice verso (with thumb turned) find it within themselves to grant the slave freedom. In an elaborate ceremony, a gladiator who won freedom was given a symbolic token, a wooden sword named rudis. It must be noted that although the slave was free, they were never allowed Roman citizenship (“Rudiarius”). Imagine, being unshackled for the last time, no longer needing to literally fight for your life, receiving the rudis and walk out of the Colosseum, free. Today, the Merriam Webster’s Dictionary definition of freedom is, “the quality or state of being free: the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action” (“Freedom”). Although freedom can be described adequately with words, the word and what it means is epitomized by those who have not only struggled for it, but more importantly they have made it their mission to fight for the freedom of others!
Freedom does not have to mean the same thing to each person, its meaning and method of attainment is as varied as those who seek it. For instance, in the movie Braveheart, the Scottish people’s idea of freedom was being able to raise crops, end jus primae noctis (an English lord’s entitlement to have sexual rights to any common woman the eve of her wedding), and finally have a country to call their own. In the battle of Edinburgh, William Wallace beseeches his countrymen to fight for their freedom against insurmountable odds with these words,
Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in
your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days,
from this day...
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