Classics 2300 Gladiators - Chapter 2.docx

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Classical Studies
Classical Studies 2300
Christopher Brandl

Gladiators: Violence and Spectacle inAncient Rome Chapter 2 Chapter 2 – Recruitment and Training of Gladiators -Cicero: gladiators are ‘either men of no moral worth or barbarians’: either criminals convicted of capital crimes, and slaves (men of no moral worth) or prisoners of war (barbarians) taken captive in wars during the Republic -criminals had been condemned in court to live in a gladiator school (damnatio ad ludum gladiatorium), where they would be trained for a gladiatorial career -some convicts were sentenced to a school for arena hunters (ludus venatorius), a penalty equivalent to service in gladiator school but risk of death is probably less -a slave’s testimony in court was accepted only if it was given under torture; this is because slaves were believed to be not capable of moral judgment -slaves were bought by lanistae on the open market or sold by their masters directly to lanistae as punishment -men who fell into the hands of a lanista had little control over their destiny -Seneca puts lanista in the same class as the pimp (they are both traffickers in human flesh) -there could be an upside to a career as a gladiator, but it was a long shot -loss of a match did not automatically mean death -there was a possibility of eventual permanent release from the arena for the lucky few -gladiator ‘recruitment’ -Spartacusthe best known gladiator in both the ancient and modern world -he was depicted in many books and films -modern representation: some presented him as a Christ figure and some see him as a symbol ofAmerica’s cold war struggle against the godless communist dictatorships -Romans thought differently: they saw the success achieved by Spartacus’army against Roman soldiers reversed the natural order of things -Roman soldiers, freeman enjoying full citizenship, were not supposed to lose to a ragtag collection of slaves, but they eventually became prisoners of war -Spartacus used 400 captured Roman soldiers as gladiators at a funeral of a woman who committed suicide because she was raped by a Roman -event reversed Roman custom of using slaves like Spartacus and his colleagues to fight at notable Romans -now, a gladiator had become an editor of a munus with Roman soldiers providing the entertainment -Spartacus was from Thrace and was a mercenary in the Roman army -he was captured and sold to a lanista who ran a gladiatorial school (ludus) in southern Italy, because of his outstanding strength and military experiences -the training of slaves as first-class gladiators along with the cost of their armour and maintenance was indeed an expensive luxury -Campanian gladiators were considered the crème de la crème of the profession -it was speculated that Spartacus’period of training was like Batiatus’gladiatorial school – thorough and harsh as necessary to prepare the trainees for their violent careers as gladiators -another reason for harsh treatment: prisoners in the school had to be carefully supervised and kept under lock and key while they were not training -Plutarch wrote about the rebellion and how the prisoners (who were trained to be gladiators) had escaped -gladiators of Batiatus’ludus were mostly Thracians and Gauls -there is a fresco at the entrance to a house in Pompeii that depicts two gladiators on horseback fighting each other – one of them is named Spartacus -we don’t know if it’s the famous Spartacus or another gladiator with the same name Volunteer gladiators (auctorati) -during the Republic, there were young men in lower classes seeking fame and fortune in the arena who volunteered themselves -stigma attached to the profession of gladiator seems to have had considerable force in a society preoccupied with social standing and reputation -this stigma was called infamia (‘disgrace’)it applied to anyone engaged in certain lines of work (e.g. prostitution, any profession connected with entertainment such as acting or fighting as a gladiator or an arena hunter) -the threat of infamia did not deter a significant number of freemen of any class from becoming a gladiator -life as gladiator seemed appealing to financially desperate people -becoming a gladiator was one of the most common options of the insolvent (debtors) -recruiters of gladiators look for handsome and well-built young men with potential as a sword fighter -those young men did not only include lowers classes, but also from the upper orders of society (many of the elite volunteers had managed to impoverish themselves very quickly) -bankruptcy was not the only reason to sign up to be a gladiator -there was a love of glory, longing to engage in combat, a taste for killing -boredom with peace, desire to avoid long-term commitment in military service (20-25 years), and need for a new identity have also been suggested -there was a legally prescribed process (auctoratio) for free men who desired to become a gladiator -a person who went through this process was called an auctoratus (one who hires himself out to another for a price) -process was available to prospective wild-beast fighters (bestiarii and venatores) -first step was to declare one’s intention to a tribune of the people, who could either approve or disapprove -if approved, candidate entered into a contract with a lanista or directly with an editor of a gladiator show -the latter method (contract with editor) was mostly for the upper orders and the commitment was usually for one appearance only -usual contract specified amount of money to be paid to the auctoratus, the specific length of service as a gladiator and the maximum number of combats required of the auctoratus -contract also specified cost of release from the agreement for the auctoratus before its terms were fully met -auctoratus could buy out his contract with the lanista or have someone else do it -candidate had to solemnly swear ‘to be burned, bound, beaten, and to be put to death by the sword’and to do ‘whatever else was ordered’ -oath was most likely sworn only to a lanista -this process was not necessary for an equestrian or a senator in good standing, who generally made an agreement with the editor (most often the emperor) for one event only and did not require any special training -last step in the process of becoming an auctoratus: an initiation ritual in the arena in which the auctorati were whipped with rods, perhaps while running a gauntlet of veteran gladiators -in late Republic, large numbers of freeborn men became gladiators, but by middle of 1 st century BC, slaves still outnumbered free gladiators The gladiator school (ludus) -each ludus housed a troupe of gladiators (familia gladiatorial), who were trained in various styles of fighting -note: ludus: gladiator school; ludi: games celebrated to honour various gods -gladiator school owned by the lanista, often an ex-gladiator, who rented his troupe to givers of gladiator shows -in Capua, owners of major schools that we hear of belong to upper-class Roman families -the decision of a Roman politician to own his own gladiator troupe may have been made in good part for economic reasons -lanistae often charged outlandish fees for the use of their gladiators -an editor renting gladiators from a lanista often found himself in a bind in the midst of a munus -if crowd wanted death for the defeated gladiator, the editor might have to pay a hefty compensation fee to the lanista if he decides to have the gladiator killed -compensation was 50 times the rental price of the gladiator -if editor refused to cater the desires of the crowd, he would lose favour and respect -choice to own troupe might be good since surviving gladiators could be sold at a profit after the munus or given to friends to strengthen political alliances -purchase of a gladiatorial school could be a good investment -Atticus, Cicero’s best friend, invested in a ludus – if he had been willing to hire them out for two recent gladiatorial shows, he would have recovered all costs in purchasing the school -Atticus might be able to distance himself from day-to-day operations of the school and using representatives to run the school for him – maybe that’s why he doesn’t incur infamia -gladiatorial venture could have been a hobby forAtticus The training of gladiators -spectators wanted to see gladiators who were experts at their profession and could produce an exciting fight -in the exercise grounds of the ludus, the most basic drill involved attacking a wooden post called a palus – inflict wounds with repeated attacks of a wooden sword and the shield (shield could be used as an offensive weapon, not just defensive) -these attacks were to be performed in a prescribed and systematic directions (not random) of a teacher of gladiatorial skills (doctor or magister) standing nearby -these directions are called ‘numbers’(numeri), which elsewhere are referred to as instructions (dictata) -they were predetermined series of offensive and defensive movements -dictata represented an important facet of gladiatorial art even if some think it would result in a boring fight -fans familiar with dictata would try to help a gladiator who was not putting them into practice by shouting them from their seats -gladiators would engage in practice fights with each other using wooden sword -at the most advanced stage of their training, gladiators practiced with opponents, using real weapons -trainees worked out carrying shields made out of twigs that were woven in such a way as to be double the normal weight of wicker-work and wooden swords that were double the weight of real swords -in the morning and afternoon, they practised in the palus, that was stuck to the ground (6 feet high in Roman measurements but 5ft. 8in. in modern measurements) -recruit treated palus as imaginary opponent (the approximate size of a tall Roman) -teachers in the ludus were usually ex-gladiators – they passed on their knowledge and experience to their students -normally, a magister or doctor would teach only one or two styles of fighting -doctores who taught styles of fighting employed by various kinds of gladiators: thraex, hoplomachus, murmillo, provocator, and secutor The ludus as living quarters -ludus was not only a training institution, but also served as living quarters for gladiatorial troupes nd -existed at Rome from at least 2 century -travelling troupes might not have their own ludus, but it is presumed they would stay at a ludus in town or city where they were going to perform -either paying rent or receiving hospitality as a professional courtesy -Senate decreed that these familiae be transferred to neighbouring towns in southern Italy because of the concern that revolutionaries might use gladiators as military force -in late Republic, Capua surpassed Rome as a centre for gladiator training and lodging -Capua was thought to foster good health in gladiators because of their sea breezes -food served at gladiator schools (sagina) was unappetizing -but the typical gladiator diet was nourishing and designed to produce strength -barley was the chief staple of gladiators’diet -gladiators were often called hordearii (barley men) -cheapness of this grain was popular with lanistae -portions were generous, even larger than rations given to Roman soldiers -living standards in a ludus were substandard -there were complaints about the filthy condition of cells in which gladiators were required to live -cells were small – between 32 and 49 square feet, accommodating two and at most three men -they slept on straw mattresses – no beds -ludus were not prisons – gladiators were allowed to leave and returns as they wished – but it was a prison for those who could not be trusted -they were usually kept in chains in a separate part of the ludus -Spartacus had been kept under lock and key because they were believed as most likely to escape -Spartacus was allowed to live with his wife -a woman who lived with a gladiator in a ludus was called a ludia (a woman of the ludus) -“gladiator groupie”, a woman who formed a temporary relationship with a gladiator -some gladiators had wives and children housed in the ludus, or sometime in a private house -some gladiators, who were slaves, could not contract a legal marriage, so a man and his slave partner who lived under the same roof were referred to as contubernales (‘sharing the same tent’) -some schools allowed fans to visit to keep up with the latest gladiatorial news -criminal background of many men in the ludus made life as difficult as the living condition -they had been judged guilty of temple-robbing, arson, and murder -from the point of view of the lanista, crimes committed by these inmates before entry into the ludus were irrelevant as long as they did not seriously harm other members of the ludus, and were not disobedient -social structure of ludus reflected Roman organization and hierarchy -each category of gladiators was divided into 4 segments named after the post used for training exercises: first, second, third, and fourth palus -gladiators of same gladiatorial type were ranked in these hierarchical groups according to the number of times they had been victorious in the arena -e.g. all the thraeces in the school were divided in all 4 ranks -gladiators very seldom mention their membership in the two lowest classes (tertius and quartus palus) – there was no glory in advertising membership in these lowest ranked groups -gladiators trumpeted their membership in the primus and secundus palus -record-keeping was important in the ludus -slave functionaries called tabularii or commentarienses (secretaries) kept careful records of winners and losers in the arena and other details of the status of the gladiators -these records are useful in putting together programmes for spectators (libelli) -knowing records were useful in placing bets, a favourite activity of the Romans at gladiator shows -primus palus in each category of fighting style consisted of the most successful gladiators in the ludus, while the quartus palus contained smallest number of victories -gladiator in training called a tiro (apprentice), could become a part of this ranking system only when he was promoted to the status of veteran after his first bout, if he survived -the leader of a group of gladiators of the same type in a school received a title derived from name of the highest-ranked group in that category -he was called the primus palus -e.g. Commodus considered himself to be the leading secutor (pursuer) in that category in Rome and thus was given (or took) the title of primus palus, which entitled him to a special cell in what was probably the largest gladiatorial school in the empire, the Ludus Magnus in Rome -Commodus claimed he won 12,000 matches, which is grossly exaggerated -no matter how many victories he had, his opponents would concede victory to him rather than lose their own lives if they won -the familia gladiatoria in a ludus was multi-ethnic -despite cultural and language differences, emotional attachments among gladiators were quite common (some surviving comrades paid for the burial of their cellmates) -sometimes all members of the troupe (familia) chipped in to pay for the burial -sometimes, trainers or fans would pay -not unusual for friendships to be formed not just among
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