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Gladiators: History's Most Deadly Sport [Paperback]

Fik Meijer
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 10.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Oct 2004
Superfit, muscled, macho, the gladiator was hero-worshipped for his skill and courage as he fought to the death, yet despised for his humble status. For over six cruel centuries, ten or thousands died in the bloodsoaked arenas of Rome and its colonies, watched by enthralled crowds, screaming for violence. Drawn from prisoners of war, slaves, convicts and in later centuries, Roman citizens fighting for money and excitement, the gladiators lived inside gladiator schools where they trained in special fighting techniques: the 'retiarius' with net and trident, the 'thraex' with short sword and round shield, the 'secutor' , the 'murmillo', the 'hoplomachus'. Few lived to old age or found freedom again. Fewer still lived to tell their tale. Professor Fik Meijer has ingeniously pieced together their true stories from grave epitaphs, graffiti, mosaic, frescoes and engravings, from artefacts found under the ashes of Pompeii, and quotations from ancient Romans writers, as well as his close study of Greek and Etruscan history. He describes the gladiators' origins, daily life, training, the odds of their survival pitted against the emperors' lust for blood and spectacle. He illustrates the vast, complex organisation and expense incurred in staging the shows. Tracing the origins of the gladiators over 2,500 years, from the initial belief that their blood spilled on a grave wound sustain the death on its journey to the underworld. Yet, as centuries passed and the Roman Empire grew gladiators became part of the vaster, more brutal entertainments, staged by successive emperors eager to manipulate the public with 'bread and circuses' and eager to exhibit their supreme power over men and animals, life and death. As more and more grandiose performances were staged, the Colosseum was built and copied all over the Roman Empire, and the extravagant spectacles became daylong. The morning show began with the 'hunting' of wild animals, sometimes in their thousands, followed by wild animal fights; bear against bull or captured slaves, Christian against crocodiles, lion, tigers, hippopotamuses even, all shipped from Rome's African colonies. At lunchtime came the public executions; death by sword, burning at the stake, crucifixions, and in the afternoon the long awaited, much applaud gladiators fights, the day s may attraction. There were even sea battles where the great arenas were flooded. Professor Meijer brings these events vividly to life, and ends his fascinating book by comparing the real evidence he has uncovered with portrayals in films such as "Spartacus" and "Gladiator" .

Frequently Bought Together

Gladiators: History's Most Deadly Sport + The Gladiator: The Secret History of Rome's Warrior Slaves + Gladiators: Violence and Spectacle in Ancient Rome
Price For All Three: 42.17

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Souvenir Press Ltd (7 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0285637045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0285637047
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.2 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 467,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"A fascinating and accessible guide to the history of Rome's
gladiators." -- 'The Teacher'

"A fascinating insight into Ancient Rome's gladiators... the
sport's origins, the gladiators' daily routines." -- 'The Big Issue'

"As accurate a picture of gladiatorial games as he can...
A very readable and comprehensive account of a topic of enduring
fascination." -- 'Journal of Classics Training'

"The aspect of the Roman Empire that every schoolboy wants to know
about is the gladiatorial fights in the Colosseum. Meijer obligingly fills
in the grisly details." -- 'The Times'

"The author has pieced together thousands of documents, eyewitness
testimonies and engravings to tell in vivid detail the story of the
gladiators." -- 'Daily Mail'

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The Gladiators is a compelling read start to finish. Fik Meijer is an expert at illustrating the raw grittiness of an era so poignantly marked by violence. He not only delves into the pernicious events giving the reader an image with the utmost clarity, but he takes a step back to describe the origins of gladiator contests during the ancient Greek era. He puts a face on the condemned gladiator, where he came from, how he was armed, how long did he survive?
Whilst not in any way condoning the Gladiator games, he is careful not to judge based on today’s modern social norms. To look back with disdain is anachronistic and takes away from the experience giving a distorted perspective. Instead, he tries to describe what he would see as a spectator, the incessant roar of the crowd, the arrogance of the emperors, the insatiable want for entertainment.
My only minute criticism is his attack of movies such as “Spartacus,” and “Gladiator.” Although, of course, these movies are plagued with historical inaccuracies, their main purpose was to entertain, not to teach. Those who’ve watched those movies with the intent to learn would be wise to pick up this book and leave the DVD on the shelf for later. Those movies are our own way to satisfy our lust for Gladiatorial combat.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and informative book 16 Feb 2013
By Balibou
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very good account of the life of the Roman gladiators. The book is well documented yet reads easily. I did not find it as good however as the book called Gladiators the unofficial guide, which I think gives you a better sense of the actual life of a gladiator.
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