CLASSICS 2K03 Lecture Notes - Lecture 28: Funeral Games, Gladiator, Vestal Virgin

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2 Feb 2016
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Lecture 28: Gladiators
Etruscan influence
Greek funerary games
Common in Greek myth, where they were held in honour of the recently deceased
The most famous are the funerary games for Patroclus, as described in the Iliad
Some believe that Roman gladiatorial competitions owe their origins to Greek funerary games
Early Roman gladiatorial combat
Elaborate funeral rights for important people
Often instructions for a gladiatorial show included in the will
● munus = gladiatorial games (literally: obligations)
Some later Romans suggested early gladiator fights were a form of human sacrifice, but that
seems unlikely
Were supposed to display the positive and brave characteristics of the deceased
Gladiatorial combats in the Republican era
Began as funerary events; the competitions got larger and better and more and more people
attended
Senators began to see gladiators as less as a celebration of the dead and more of a way to
entertain the people
The same men who staged fights for dead family members, now did it in an attempt to curry
favour and votes with the people
Magistrates and gladiators
Magistrates (especially aediles) had to put on memorable games if they wanted to be elected to
further posts
This was social expectation, not a literal requirement of the office
Magistrates were required to pay for this themselves, and very many went into debt in order to
pay for it
Caesar was famously almost bankrupted by the sames he put on
Emperors and gladiators
Increasingly, it was the emperor who staged gladiatorial contests
The emperor had special seats where he could have a good view of the action, and where the
audience could have a good view of him
The emperor was expected to attend the games
Bread and circuses
Emperors as gladiators
Commodus (son of Marcus Aurelius) was co-emperor with his father for several years, and then
emperor after his death
Commodus loved gladiators and even competed in the arena
Never killed his opponents (except during private practice); they always surrendered
It was seen as shameful for an upper class man such as Commodus to fight as a gladiator
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