Friday, 14 May 2010
The very first gladiator fights did not take place in Rome. They probably took place in the cities of the region known as Campania. The people of Campania were descended from Greeks. The Greeks had a tradition of organising games and fights at funerals. The idea of gladiator fights may have arisen from funeral games.
Large numbers of people in the ancient world were slaves. Perhaps around 25% of the population of Rome were slaves. Slaves were the property of their owner. They had to do everything that they were told or risk being severely punished. Some slaves were treated well, others led miserable lives
The first gladiator fight in Rome took place in 264bc. The fight was part of the funeral held for the nobleman Brutus Pera. These fights were called a munus, meaning a duty owed to the dead man. The munus held for Brutus Pera involved six of his slaves fighting to the death in pairs.
The sword used by the legionaries in the Roman army was called a gladius. Because this was the weapon used by the men who fought in the early munera they became known as gladiators, meaning men who use a gladius. The sword was short and heavy. It was ideal for stabbing, but not for slashing.
The Romans loved spectacle and grand shows. By around 200bc prisoners of war were made to fight as gladiators using the weapons and armour that they had used in battle against the Roman army. Among the earliest prisoners of war to fight as gladiators were Celts. These men fought with a long, slashing sword and a large shield but no armour.
The Numidians lived in the desert areas of North Africa. The Numidians were skilled horsemen who launched raids into Roman territory to steal food and loot buildings. Numidian prisoners were made to fight as gladiators on horseback using their throwing spears and small shields.
In which year was the first gladiatorial fight staged in Rome?
The first gladiatorial fights were held in the cattle market. The stalls and pens were cleared away to give the men room to fight.
This is an extract from Action Files: Gladiators by Rupert Matthews