Roman Colosseum And The Gladiators

Once the famous Roman Colosseum held 50,000 spectators. Today it is a home to stray cats.

Almost 50,000 people give a bloodthirsty roar as the gladiators enter the huge arena. "We who are about to die salute you!" the gladiators shout to the person producing the show. The brave gladiators face each other in pairs. They know it's a fight to the death. But if a beaten gladiator has put up a good fight, the crowd may take mercy and wave their handkerchiefs to save his life.

The gladiator fights were first introduced to Rome in 264 BC when the sons of Junius Brutus paid honor to their father's funeral by showing three pairs of gladiators fight. This ritual caught on and was preformed to honor significant men. As the years passed the ceremonies became more promoted and emperors began to present the games to symbolize their power.

The Romans loved to go to these bloody warfares. In the city of Rome, these events were held in the Colosseum. This structure is as large as a modern football stadium. Later on cages and dens for wild animals were built under the arena for added attractions. The Romans loved to watch fights between animals, as well as fights between animals and people.

But the most popular fights of all were combats between the powerful gladiators. When the Christians refused to sacrifice to the emperor and worship his false gods, they were accused of treason and thrown into the arena to combat wild beasts. When one member of a family was accused the whole family would be thrown into the lions den, small children included.

Who were the gladiators?

The word gladiator comes from the Latin word for swordsman, from gladius we get the word, sword. The gladiators were made up of prisoners of war, slaves, criminals, and volunteer free men. The crimes that could lead one to the arena included treason, robbery, and murder, among others. Some free men became gladiators of their own free will in hopes of gaining notoriety and patronage among the wealthy citizens. By the end of 50 BC almost half of the gladiators were made up of free men.

The gladiators competed against one another for the sake of public entertainment at festival games. Although some gladiators fought wild animals the combats usually featured a pair of male human contenders. They fought in diverse styles depending on their background and how much training they had endured. Originally as captured soldiers they were made to fight with their own weapons. The odds of a professional gladiator surviving a match were one in 10.

There were three special gladiatorial schools where slaves were trained to fight combat. The Ludus Magnus was the largest, connected to the Colosseum by an underground tunnel. Many gladiators were paid well for their presentation. Tiberius paid 1000 gold pieces to each ex-gladiator for one performance. The free man, Publius Ostorius, a famous gladiator at Pompeii, survived 51 fights. Some women even volunteered in hopes of winning fame but they were banned from fighting by Severus in 200 AD.

What happened in the arena?

The games in Rome are known today as the bloodiest exhibitions of public entertainment known to mankind. Men, women and children flocked to the Colosseum to watch the bloodthirsty fighter's murder one another. They even cheered them on and screamed for them to kill a warrior lying almost dead on the ground. The gladiators had no problem killing one another because being a gladiator was an occupation for social outcasts and barbaric men.

The gigantic Colosseum, built around 80 AD, seated 50,000 people. The people came from all over the Roman Empire and regions of Africa, Italy, and Rome. The games became a way of entertaining the wealthy, as well as the common people. Most would set all day and watch as men fought with one another and also with animals such as lions, bears, and even buffaloes.

The Games:

The games continued from dawn to dusk and lasted over a period of many days. The imperial games would sometimes exhibit thousands of pairs of gladiators in a sequence that could last for several months. The gladiatorial sports continued until the early 5th century AD.

The Gladiatorial games could last from ten to twelve days each year and accommodate Saturnalia, a festival celebrating the god Saturn. This was held at the time of the winter solstice with a huge celebration of great feasting and merrymaking. Signs were made up to announce the great event and Heralds proclaimed it in the streets.

In the morning, spectators could see battles fought between wild beast. One might see bears, buffaloes, lion's elephants and rhinoceros, all fighting against each other. After wounding each other for awhile the spectators would become bored so archers would shoot the exhausted animals with arrows from the stands. By using these animals in such a way the Romans managed to wipe out thousands of animals and either captured or drove away entire species. Now, the hippopotamuses were no longer seen in Egypt, lions disappeared from Assyria and elephants no longer lived in northern Africa.

Today the Colosseum stands in ruins and is still visited by thousands each year. No longer are the fearless gladiators performing and the wild animals are safe from the once famous games. But, even after all this time some animals still remain at the Colosseum. It has become a habitation for a large community of stray cats.

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