The spectator zone in one of the Roman facilities indicated that the training sessions could be an attraction in themselves. Both players could pay for them to see their opponents and fans who wanted to watch the outlined muscles of their favorites.
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Most gladiators did not fight to the death. Experts estimate that out of every ten fighters who entered the ring, nine survived the next day. Sometimes, however, death was an inevitable result, especially if requested by a sponsor – a wealthy patron who paid for the spectacle.
If the loser was not to be spared, the winner was expected to make the final cut with the sword, usually a quick stab in the neck or heart. If, at the end of a particularly bloody battle, none of the characters were able to complete “their work,” there was a masked executioner with a heavy hammer at hand to inflict fatal wounds. “The killing of gladiators was done quickly and cleanly,” John Coulston, an archaeologist at the University of St. George, told National Geographic. Andrews in Scotland. “It was a professional courtesy. If someone was to die, then let it be as painless and absolutely deadly as possible, “he added.
At the beginning of the Roman Empire, gladiators became slaves, criminals or prisoners of war, who were brought into the arena in chains. For men and women convicted in this way, it was a milder punishment than execution, because there was a chance that one day they would be free again.
In the first century AD, however, gladiatorship became a lucrative occupation. Some even voted for him voluntarily. Ambitious fighters relinquished their rights and became slaves, a risky move to pay off debts or escape a life of poverty. Others were professionals waiting for families outside the amphitheaters.
However, all gladiators were at the lowest level in the strictly hierarchical society of ancient Rome, as were sex workers and actors. By law, they were considered property, not people.
However, the performers did not mind, as brave performances in the arena could turn them into popular heroes. The admiration of the fans was increased by the split they represented. This means that people with the lowest status have become popular celebrities. Watching and approaching them offered the Romans bound by the rules of the excitement of the forbidden. “They were like sexy rock stars,” art historian Katherine Welch told National Geographic.
Roman scribes rolled their eyes at the rich women who admired gladiators, but this attraction seemed more or less universal. Among the idols of women were, for example, the Thracians Celadus and Crencens.
Types of gladiators
Each of the gladiators had their own type of fight, known as armature. Based on their specialization, skill level and experience, they were paired in the arena to balance their strengths and weaknesses to ensure exciting fights.
For example, an agile, almost naked warrior called a retiarius, armed only with a net, a trident and a small knife, could face a massive murmillo warrior wearing more than forty-five kilograms of armor. Thraex had a distinctive bronze crest and a curved sword, while the secretaries wore a helmet with only two eye holes and carried a shield and sword similar to those used by Roman legionaries.
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Despite these favorites, which appeared at every match, the spectators always enjoyed their surprises. Literary sources and tombstones contain references to various more exotic types of gladiators who were used to diversify the well-known group. These included, for example, the essedarius entering the ring on a horse-drawn chariot, a scissor with a crescent-shaped knife curved in his hand, ideal for cutting a retiaria net, or a laquearius equipped with a long lasso to catch his opponent.
The warriors who were able to switch between the two fighting styles were so remarkable that this skill was sometimes featured on their tombstones.
Retired gladiators, who gained freedom in combat, then became the leaders of gladiatorial barracks. They were called lanistae. They then employed a number of other specialists, such as doctors, ointment makers for massaging fighters, chefs and armourers. The operation of the barracks was a relatively expensive affair, so they also belonged to the emperor or the rich Romans.
Women in the arena
Some historical reports and a handful of preserved stone carvings record the rare occurrence of women with swords. This was shocking to the Romans, as they were of the opinion that the fairer sex belonged to households.
Researchers are debating whether or not women actually fought as gladiators. A carving found in Halikarnassus in present-day Turkey depicts two armed women in gladiatorial gear. Their names, Amazon and Achillia, are complemented by the result of their match: a draw. This engraving confirms several ancient accounts of women fighting in the arena.
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The warriors were associated with legendary, distant tribes, such as the Amazons. “Whenever spectators of the amphitheater saw a woman with weapons appear in the arena and skillfully use them, they considered it the epitome of exoticism and luxury,” explained Alfonso Manas, a National Geographic historian at the University of Granada. The warriors were so scandalous that Emperor Septimius Severus banned them in 200 AD.
Although the carving of Achilles and the Amazon confirms that gladiators competed in the arena, other evidence is more controversial. The little-known bronze statue at Hamburg’s Museum of Arts and Crafts depicts a woman naked from the waist up, holding what looks like a crooked sword or dagger in her left hand and looking down as if looking at a defeated opponent. Her leg is wrapped in leather or fabric straps known as fasciae, which is a typical gladiatorial outfit. In his 2011 work, Manas claims that the statue represents a gladiator.
However, others claim that the statue is more of an athlete holding a strigil in her hand – a scraper that the Romans used to remove sweat, oil and dirt. The absence of a helmet and armor indicates that she was not a warrior. “No gladiator is shown with such little protective clothing,” said historian Kathleen Coleman.