Retiarius stabs secutor (color)

History of the Gladiator Tradition Edit

Gladiators are generally purchased and tended to by a lanista. The gladiators are trained in a gladiatorial school known as a ludus[1]. They are used as performers in the arena for the purpose of entertaining the masses[2]. The origins of the gladiator can differ from person to person. Most gladiators are purchased or are either born into slavery, but some are also prisoners of war, or even disgraced military men[3]. Gladiators were considered to be very expensive to train, feed, and house. It is for this very reason that certain rules and regulations were enacted to ensure that no gladiator was needlessly killed. Combatants were trained to wound, but not to kill. Unfortunately, the life of a Gladiator was often brutal and sudden. Most gladiators were projected to have a life-span into the mid-20s. This meant that Gladiators did die in the arena, but death was not the goal of the games, however, sometimes it was an unfortunate outcome.

According to Jacobelli in Gladiators at Pompeii, there were several types of Gladiators. The most frequently depicted in modern context are the Samnites. The Samnites were the oldest and first recorded Gladiators of Rome[4]. The Samnites carried the famous large round or rectangular shield and gladius (short pointed dagger)[5].

Spartacus Edit

Poster-Spartacus 08

In the film Spartacus there is a Thracian slave sold into gladiatorial servitude. The slave, Spartacus, is driven by a desire for freedom and creates an uprising among the other gladiators in order to achieve that freedom. Spartacus is the first of its kind within the Sword and Sandal genre and because of this it has created a trajectory for other films to follow[6].

Spartacus was a Thracian gladiator which carried a sica and wore armbands[7]. However, in the film, Spartacus was a hybridization of both a Samnite and Thracian Gladiator, he carried a gladius and wore an arm band in the famous Draba battle scene[8].

Gladiator Edit

Gladiator 024

Gladiator is the first film to revive the Sword and Sandal genre since Anthony Mann's The Fall of the Roman Empire in 1964. In the film the protagonist, Maximus, is a Roman general that is preferred by Marcus Aurelius as an heir to the Roman Empire as opposed to his son Commodus. It is because of this that Commodus kills his father and sends Maximus away to be executed. Maximus survives and is picked up by slave traders that take him to Zucchabar, where he ultimately begins his servitude as a gladiator. Maximus befriends a fellow gladiator named Juba, and they both fight and survive several matches together. This eventually leads to Maximus and Commodus' battle. Commodus poisons his weapon which leads to Maximus' death; however, Maximus suceeds in killing Commodus before his death and is awarded with the vision of his deceased wife and child upon his death.

A scene in Gladiator shows when Maximus, upon killing many combatants quickly, is enraged and hurls his spear into an official viewing box, which in turn scatters the local VIPs in terror. This scene mirrors a similar scene from Spartacus in which Draba heaves his trident in a similar fashion. This is used to show Maximu's growing disdain for the concept of Roman authority.[9]

Pompeii Edit


Pompeii is another film to follow the gladiator narrative. Milo, the main character, is captured by slave traders where he eventually becomes a gladiator. Milo becomes a prominent gladiator where he forms a rivalry with Atticus another competing gladiator. Soon enough, they both become acquaintances as they both seek a freedom they will not be rightfully given. The friendship between Milo and Atticus is referential to Gladiator, which in turn takes its influence from Spartacus.

In the film one aspect of Gladiators that is explored is the concept of a gladiator earning their freedom over a period of time. This is evident with the character Atticus, as he meets Milo he explains to him that one more victory in the arena will give him his freedom. This aspect of the film is true in a sense. Gladiators that were able to win a number of bouts were given the option of retiring. In retirement they would be given a wooden sword, rudis, which would symbolize their newfound freedom. However, some Gladiators could choose to remain fighters in the arena, and they would be known as Rudiarius. The Rudiarius would become favorites among the crowd and would garner a heightened sense of popularity and fame due to their experience.[10]
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The Legacy of Spartacus Edit

The film Spartacus has had a profound impact on the Sword and Sandals genre of film making, and it is apparent in films Gladiator (2000) and even Pompeii (2014). In Gladiator Maximus befriends a fellow gladiator by the name of Juba and this friendship reflects the same relationship in Spartacus between Spartacus and Draba. This is certainly a nod to Spartacus and towards the end of the films the roles of Maximus and Draba are comparable. Draba sacrifices himself to save Spartacus and ultimately becomes a symbol for the slaves rebellion, and the fight for freedom. In Gladiator, Maximus is the one that sacrifices himself and asks for the freedom of his fellow gladiators, thus freeing Juba. In Pompeii, the adversarial relationship and eventual friendship between Milo and Atticus is also a call back to the Spartacus films.

References Edit

  1. Cyrino, Monica Silveira. Big Screen Rome Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 90
  2. Jacobelli, Luciana (2003). Gladiators at Pompeii. Los Angeles, California: Getty Publications. 6
  3. Cyrino, Monica Silveira. Big Screen Rome Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 95
  4. Jacobelli, Luciana (2003). Gladiators at Pompeii. Los Angeles, California: Getty Publications. 7
  5. Jacobelli, Luciana (2003). Gladiators at Pompeii. Los Angeles, California: Getty Publications. 7
  6. Cyrino, Monica Silveira. Big Screen Rome Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 103
  7. Jacobelli, Luciana (2003). Gladiators at Pompeii. Los Angeles, California: Getty Publications. 8
  8. Cyrino, Monica Silveira. Big Screen Rome Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 93
  9. Cyrino, Monica Silveira. Big Screen Rome Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 242
  10. Rouse, James. The Beauties And Antiquities Of The County of Sussex V1 London: Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2010. 284