Gladiator is probably one of my most favorite movies of all time. I can recall reading Entertainment Weekly back in 2000 when it first came out that gladiators often weren’t killed during combat simply because to do so was too expensive. Since then, I’ve read conflicting reports from various sources regarding what actually occurred in combat. One report from January of last year suggests that gladiators fought for show, to entertain the crowds rather than simply to kill each other.
Another, new study suggests that gladiators did, in fact, kill one another, though they did so according to a set of rules — a code of conduct, if you will.
The lack of multiple injuries and mutilation shows that the very strict nature of combat rules for gladiator fights was adhered to, they say.
However, despite the fact that most gladiators wore helmets, 10 had died of a squarish hammer-like injury to the side of the head. A possible explanation is that the injuries were inflicted after the fight, possibly by a backstage executioner who struck the doomed victim’s head, as has been suggested in artworks and literature.
These findings come from Ephesus, one of the largest Roman cities in western Asia. I’d be interested to know if gladiator combat was different in Ephesus than it was in Rome. In any event, these bones date from the 2nd century AD, and the findings from last year are from the same time period, which would seem to rule out gladiator combat changing over the course of a century or two.
Last year’s findings are more inferential in nature, pulling from artwork from northern Italy and Germany, whereas this year’s findings are the result of CT scans and microscopic analysis of actual bones. Given the idealistic nature of artwork in Greek and Roman times, it would seem to cast some doubt on the findings from January 2005: artists may have depicted the clashes between gladiators as how they would have liked them to be rather than how they actually were.
[tags]Gladiators, Roman history, combat, history[/tags]
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