Social Status

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Classical Studies
Classical Studies 3400E
Chris Piper

1 1. Why were gladiators considered attractive? Social Status Gladiators and actors had an ambivalent status in ancient Rome, and there were very real reasons for this. Gladiators were at the furthest margin of the social Because the women and men who acted, sang, danced or performed for the delectation and delight of the crowd put themselves on display so publicly, actors, dancers, prostitutes, gladiators were often likened to prostitutes (who also displayed themselves and their bodies openly; thus were thought to have given up control over them). Such persons were often associated with sexual promiscuity (especially if female/effeminate). Virtus Gladiators were popular because they displayed a quality called virtus, a very important value in the Roman ethical system. The manly skill and courage shown by gladiators won great approval because it was connected with fighting in wartime— and Roman was a state which was at war every year somewhere in her vast empire. Bloodshed, slaughter, military glory and violence were central elements in Roman culture. Gladiators could also be feared because of their physical size, prowess with weapons, and ability to inflict bodily harm. There was a basis for the Roman anxiety here. Spartacus' rebellion in the 70's BC began in a gladiatorial school. It took t
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