The Gladiatorial Games
Today, we have the famous – movie stars, rock stars, royalty, etc. – that come across our media in every format, both the good and the bad. But who were celebrities in Ancient Rome? The gladiators!
The blood sport of the gladiators lasted for roughly 500 years, starting before the time of Spartacus and lasted well to the end of Rome. The Colosseum itself was built as a monument to Rome for their spectacles and its structure was mimicked throughout the empire in the various cities that hosted the games. Gladiators were slaves. The majority were men of the recently conquered nations. Turned into slaves, these men could be sold to trainers who taught them how to fight and some who were condemned to die were subjected to their deaths in the arena, killed by either beasts, executed by gladiators or sentenced to die as gladiators.
The men who owned gladiators were called lanistas, a title that stood in the lower social rank to Rome society. A lanista kept his gladiators at his ludus, or gladiatorial school. There, the doctore trained these men. Doctores usually were former gladiators that had survived their prime fighting years and now could teach others the techniques on winning.
Fighters were often given new names, their old ones thrown to the wind. Fight names could be anonymous, the most popular being Valerius, Sergius, Valens, Servius or Servillus. One of the most popular gladiators took the name Spartacus, the Thracian turned gladiator who led a slave rebellion in the Empire but his true name is lost to history. These men were taught in the ludus using wooden swords (gladius) and wooden shields. The program trained their skills against the palus, which is a wooden pole on a stand, or in contests fighting each other with the practice weapons to prevent true injury.
Gladiators had the best in the way of treatment over normal slaves. They ate well. If they were injured, the medicus gave them the best medical treatment available because they were investments, with money and time spent on their fighting abilities. Their career is rather short-lived, averaging 2-3 years. Games were not held weekly but depended on the event like a religious holiday.
Games lasted all day. Lower ranked gladiators fought in the morning along with the beasts then the executions of criminals. Many contests did not end in death. When one gladiator bested another, the loser, nailed to possible death by the winner, could raise two fingers in the air, seeking missio, surrendering with life and the opportunity to fight again.
Gladiators were the rock stars of the period. The streets on the way to the Colosseum were lined with vendors selling drawings of the champions, souvenirs of their hair, clothing snips and vials of their blood, believing it could cure many ailments and solve infertility.
The fascination over the gladiators and their intense bloody games still grab our attention today. Would these be popular today as well?
Rome 108 A.D., under the Emperor Trajan, is the center of the civilized world. It is a time of sophistication and decadence, a brutal world to their conquered.
Marcus, a Roman citizen sentenced to die as a gladiator, accused by his wife and brother for a crime he did not commit. Yet death eludes him and he rises to become champion of the sands. The title he does not want. He seeks revenge but his victories in the Colosseum bestow monetary rewards he can use to save a beautiful slave, Gustina, from certain death by the beasts. She gives him a taste of love in a world full of lies, betrayal and murder.
But his overwhelming desire for vengeance, for blood and the kill, brings a higher price tag – can he satisfy the demon inside him and face the truth? A truth that will kill the woman he loves?
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Gina Danna has spent the better part of her life reading. History has been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, dreaming of writing one of her own. Years later, after receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, writing academic research papers and writing for museum programs and events, she finally found the time to write her own stories of historical romantic fiction.