Monday, 22 June 2009
I suppose movies like Spartacus and Gladiator- which I hated-have served to colour forever the popular impression of the men who fought in the arenas of ancient Rome. Gladiator at least gets one thing right; good fighters were the popular sporting heroes of the day. But the assumption that these men were thrown willy-nilly into the contest to sink or to swim is completely wrong. They were nurtured, and carefully nurtured, by prolonged and intensive training. Those who were unable to meet the standards set simply never made it to the arena. The assumption that they were all slaves is also erroneous. Many volunteered for a profession where the rewards, both in money and in popular adulation, were gratifying and welcome for men who would have lived and died in servitude and obscurity.