Gladiators
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Gladiators : History's Most Deadly Sport

  • Paperback
By (author) Fik Meijer

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  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 122 x 196 x 22mm | 258.55g
  • 07 Oct 2004
  • Souvenir Press Ltd
  • London
  • photos, line drawings, reproduced artworks
  • 0285637045
  • 9780285637047
  • 870,856

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Review text

Across six centuries the gladiator games enthralled the Romans. Thousands of spectators would put aside their humble lives, packing into the massive amphitheatres to watch a day's brutal, thrilling spectacle. Central to Professor Meijer's frank history is his imagined description of a day at the games, his research drawn from contemporary accounts including the criticisms of Seneca and Cicero, archaeological researches, and posters and graffiti found at Pompeii. In the morning wild animals captured from Africa and Asia were pitted against each other, egotistical evidence of Roman Emperors' 'mastery of nature'. Around lunchtime the executions would take place, Christians and slaves thrown to the lions and leopards, or crucified. Then in the afternoon the day's major attraction, the gladiator duels, would stoke the bloodthirsty crowd into a final frenzy. Specially trained in highly ordered schools, the gladiators were local criminals or prisoners of war, or sometimes just senators who fancied some excitement in their lives. Theirs was a rigidly structured existence, as Meijer describes, each gladiator having been finely fed and honed, and kitted out with very particular weaponry. The defeated relied on the mercy of the baying crowd for their survival, while the victors revelled in their glory even though an early death almost certainly awaited them too. Meijer also discusses how the gladiator spectacle came about and how it declined with the growing dominance of Christianity. Finally he analyses the hit films Spartacus and Gladiator for their inaccuracies, and speculates as to the role the games played in Roman society. It's a gruesome and thought-provoking insight into a gory yet elaborate world. (Kirkus UK)

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