The Gladiators

The Gladiators

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Did you know that Rome celebrates its 2769th birthday this year? In April 753 BC. the oldest settlement in Rome was founded, Roma quadrata, which, according to tradition, we owe to Romulus.
By the 2nd century, gladiatorial shows became one of the traditional Roman events, and almost every medium-sized town in the Roman Empire had an amphitheater where the games were regularly organized. Gladiator performances were terrible and cruel, yet they were extremely popular. From the 3rd century. BC. Cr. to the beginning of the 5th century, millions in the crowd were fascinated by the death plays in the arena. These performances, especially after the opening of the Colosseum in the year of 80, gained incredible proportions, and emperors used them to show their power over people and animals.
Locked in mortal combat before 50,000 cheering spectators in the Colosseum, the two gladiators thrust and parry until the crowd gets what it came for: one dead athlete and one living, victorious athlete. While the games themselves might have been exciting for the Roman crowds, Meijer's meticulous writing provides an overview of different types of gladiators, different animals with whom they fought, dimensions of the Colosseum and other amphitheaters and everyday life of the gladiators. Fik Meijer, one of the most famous Dutch historian, in his book Gladiators. History's Most Deadly Sport describes these cruel fights and everything that followed them. The focus of the book is a description of everyday programs which consisted of three parts: fighting various beasts or beasts fighting each other in the morning, midday many found their deaths in the real or staged executions; afternoons were reserved to gladiators fighting each other to the death. The author pays special attention to what happens to the corpses after the play, but other questions also arise: Where did the gladiators come from? What were their chances of survival? How comfortable was the audience in the Coliseum? Were there staged naval battles in the arena? What happened to the Colosseum after the banishment of the games? In short, this book is a comprehensive and systematic review of the most popular entertainment for people in ancient Rome.

The book begins with a chronology and an introduction and is divided into eight separate units, each consisting of smaller parts. This is followed by an epilogue, and, at the end of the book, one can find an abundant supporting material that includes a glossary, a list of amphitheaters, notes, bibliography, index and map of the Roman Empire of that time.

  • ISBN: 978-953-7177-83-6
  • Year of the edition: 2014
  • Number of pages: 208
  • Cover: hard cover
  • Original title: Gladiatoren - Volksvermaak in het Colosseum
  • Original language: Dutch
  • Translation: Snježana Cimić
  • Dimensions: 140x210 mm

Timeless and universal theme with an ancient twist most certainly will be of interested to a wide range of readers - experts who are studying ancient Rome, gladiator games or violence in general (historians, archaeologists, sociologists, psychologists ...), from laics interested in the topic to students and high school pupils to whom this book can serve as a 'window' into the world of gladiators.

The book is a good blend of scientific and popular texts, full of information and well-substantiated details. It should be noted that some chapters (eg. on obtaining animals for performances, the treatment of the bodies after the show, the public executions in the amphitheater - a particularly upsetting part, the fate of the Colosseum) a valuable contribution to our knowledge about the different performances in the Coliseum. The wider readership will surely be attracted by very informative final chapter on the film production that engages in representation of the gladiators and the gladiator fights.

Alka Domić Kunić, Ph. D.

Meijer's book is an important historiographic work of scientific and popular character that provides all the essential information about gladiator phenomenon and offers a relevant display of its historical development. The book is distinctive in that it looks at the phenomenon in the context of the time, indicating that the fascination with violence is just as present in modern societies today. Special attention was paid to the way the phenomenon is shown in modern film art, which is largely a consequence stereotypical images of gladiators and gladiatorial games as well as certain means by which these stereotypes are still transmitted and rooted in popular perceptions.

prof. Hrvoje Gračanin, Ph. D.