The Gladiator: The Secret History of Rome's Warrior Slaves

The Gladiator: The Secret History of Rome's Warrior Slaves


By (author) Alan Baker

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  • Publisher: Ebury Press
  • Format: Hardback | 216 pages
  • Dimensions: 142mm x 206mm x 25mm | 318g
  • Publication date: 19 October 2000
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0091878802
  • ISBN 13: 9780091878801

Product description

A dramatic, vivid picture of Roman life, this evocative history tells stories of the extraordinary gladiators, trainers and emperors that participated in history's most violent game. Among the historical characters featured are: Spartacus, Celadus the Thracian, Caligula and Nero.

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Editorial reviews

Most readers will know of the fierce contests in Roman arenas mainly from films such as Spartacus and, more recently, Gladiator. However, Alan Baker shows that there is considerably more history and culture attached to this fascinating subject than the most well-researched and accurate films can hint at. Baker has thoroughly investigated his subject, drawing on contemporary writers such as Tacitus and Petronius, and he gives authority to his work by quoting extensively and at length from these and other authors. Gladiators were in many ways the lowest of the low in Imperial Rome, among the first to be driven out of the city when food was short. At the same time, they were adored as sporting stars are today. Even Faustina, the wife of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, developed a fixation for one, which was 'cured' by having the gladiator killed so that Faustina could bathe in his blood. Baker describes all aspects of gladiatorial entertainment, including fights against wild beasts and staged sea battles; women gladiators were common, though many, including the poet Juvenal, thought that this was unsuitable. Though we may see the life of a gladiator as cruel and barbarous, Baker points out that the average lifespan of a citizen of Imperial Rome was only 30 years, so becoming a gladiator did at least offer the chance to make a good end, winning favour with the gods. The book is full of fascinating anecdotes, such as the true story of Spartacus (it appears that, in reality, no one did say 'I am Spartacus') and snippets of information such as the unexpected fact that many early Christians enjoyed attending the contests before going to church. It might have benefitted from some pictures, but Baker's writing is so vivid that the reader can easily picture the scenes. (Kirkus UK)