Assess attitudes shown towards gladiators by Roman society.
Through 21st Century eyes the idea of gladiators fighting to the death, and of an amphitheatre where such brutality could take place watched by an enthusiastic audience, represents the cruel face of Roman Society. Nonetheless, to the Romans it represented an important feature of their civilization. Opposition to the games was seldom seen.
The origin of the gladiatorial games is not known for certain. One theory places the origin of gladiators to 264BC. According to this theory the first gladiators were slaves who were made to fight to the death at the funeral of a renowned aristocrat, Junius Brutus Pera. This spectacle was organized by his sons Marcus and Decimus Brutus in honor of their father.
Eventually the games were organized by the wealthy to demonstrate there power and influence within the local community. Gladiatorial bouts were advertised By painting signs on house fronts or on walls of tombs outside the city gates. Some of these signs still exist and can be found in Pompeii.
Gladiators were trained fighters who fought against each other, wild animals and condemned criminals for the entertainment of spectators who represented different levels of Roman society. On occasion they fought to the death.
The attitude of Roman society towards gladiators was contradictory. Paradoxically the gladiators were seen as the lowest of the low and on the other hand were held in similar regard to movie stars of today.
Gladiators were generally criminals, prisoners of war or slaves bought for the purpose of gladiatorial combat by a lanista (owner of gladiators). There were also a number of freed men who volunteered as gladiators. Female gladiators also existed, but they were rare.
Condemned criminals, who committed a capital crime, entered the gladiatorial arena weaponless. They were not considered real gladiators. However, those criminals who did not commit a capital crime were...
Bibliography: Coleman, K. ‘Gladiators: Heroes of the Roman Amphitheatre’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/gladiators_01.shtml (accessed April 2008).
Classic Technology Center. ‘The Roman Gladiator’, http://ablemedia.com/ctcweb/consortium/gladiators.html (accessed April 2008).
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