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The Gladiator: The Secret History of Rome's Warrior Slaves Paperback – 1 Aug 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press; New Ed edition (1 Aug 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091886546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091886547
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.4 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 230,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Full of fascinating anecdotes...Baker's writing vividly captures the scenes" (Good Book Guide)

Book Description

A vivid and gripping portrait of the Roman empire's heroic warrior slaves

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First Sentence
Hundreds of thousands of people were sent to their deaths in the amphitheatres of ancient Rome. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Chippindale TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 Nov 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a tremendous book for anyone interested in the gladitorial contests of Ancient Rome.
The Romans used to treat the games as a holiday and they were so immune to the sight of death, and human life was held in such disregard that they would cheer and shout at the demise of a fallen warrior, just as modern day people would at the scoring of a goal at a football match.
The gladiators life was inevitably short and violent, but not all contests were fought to the death, it took a tremendous amount of time and money to train a fighter and their "managers" did not like to see their investment terminated.
Even free men chose to take of the life of a gladiator. They could gain great wealth if they were successful and were much beloved by many of the women of Rome.
There were many different types of gladiators, some using a short sword and shield, others a net and a trident. They are all named and described in the book.
Man was not always pitted against man, sometimes a gladiator would be paired against a wild animal or a pack of animals.
The book gives you a real feel of what it would really be like to stride out of the dark into the bright sunshine and burning sand of the arena. Possibly with a slave with a red hot iron egging you on if you were a bit hesitant, and the loser would certainly be marked with the hot iron to ensure that he was dead.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By C J F CARAHER on 17 Feb 2003
Format: Paperback
For someone like me who has a mild interest in ancient history due to having enjoyed all the Hollywood epics such as Ben-Hur and Spartacus, as well as having been interested in Classical Studies at school, I found this to be an informative and entertaining read.
Not only do you find out what life was like as a gladiator, but you also get a gentle feel for life in Ancient Rome in general, such as the importance of the baying mob in the amphitheatres, the misery that slaves had to put up with as well as some anecdotes on the more wacky Roman emperors.
The next time you watch The Gladiator after having read this book, you'll appreciate more the storyline as well as the scenes in the Colosseum.
The longest section in the book is a fictional account of a typical day at the Games - it's gripping stuff - the fight between the bull and bear is the business.
While reading it you wonder, if these games used to be accepted as moral by human beings, who's to say they might not find a place again in a future society where even shorter attention spans than today and a lust for violence pervade, a la Rollerball?
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on 20 Jan 2001
Format: Hardcover
After seeing the movie I trundled down to the National Copyright Library and read a few books on Rome and the Romans but was generally disappointed in them. Most of the books I came across tended to be either very academic and dry, or on the other hand overly simplistic. Even more seemed to be primarily about 'Roman Britain' as opposed to the Republic / Empire generally. This one however is a little gem - very well written to the point that its hard to put down, and replete with juicy bits of historical information that ensures the educated casual reader doesn't feel patronised. If, like me, your have casual interest in Rome and the games, then I heartily recommend this title, although it might be rather elementary to someone with a more academic interest or advanced previous knowledge.

The decisive factor that makes this book standout from the crowd is the intimate way that it has been researched, which becomes apparent in two forms: 1. The living nature of the narrative, rather than being merely a list of dates and Monty Pythonesque names. 2. More significantly, Baker doesn't place the games in a separate sphere from our own contemporary society - he points out how the values and entertainments that underpin Western culture are not so very distant, temporally or philosophically, from those of Rome. Its also excellent value and would make a great gift for anyone with even a passing interest in history.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Aug 2002
Format: Paperback
This book provides a good look at Roman gladiators, with vivid writing making the events come to life. The author has done his research, and is hence able to show much to the reader which may be new (eg. the beast-fights - which many works fail to cover in any real detail).
This book is more for the casual reader than the scholar, however, as the author does not make a point of citing the relevant ancient sources properly. This is fair enough, since he is writing a popular history book and is trying to appeal to the layperson. A student of ancient history, on the other hand, would probably be better off with a book like "Spectacles Of Death" by Donald Kyle.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By William Holmes on 3 Jun 2004
Format: Paperback
"The Gladiator" is a readable and sometimes melodramatic account of the gladiatorial games of ancient Rome. The book is not a systematic, chronological history of the arena--rather, it offers an impression of what the contests would have been like at various points in the development of the Republic and the Empire.
The games started as sword fights between slaves at funeral ceremonies--sometimes to the death, sometimes not. Over time, successful Romans undertook to display their wealth by producing increasingly elaborate spectacles. The cost and complexity of the enterprise eventually became so great that the state became involved in staging the proceedings.
Baker describes (sometimes in upsetting detail) the different contests that a Roman could expect to see at the arena: battles between warriors armed with various types of weapons and armor, fights to the death between "hunters" and terrified animals, naval battles between fleets manned by doomed slaves, and brutal executions. Occasionally, an Emperor would step into the arena to display his fighting prowess (or to indulge his taste for sadism)--of course, his guard always made sure that his opponents were armed with wooden swords and doomed to die at the Emperor's hand.
Baker's book culminates in a chapter called "A Day at the Games." The account is lurid and unsettling, and Baker brings home the terror and pain of the men, women and animals who died in the arena to the cheers of the crowd.
The cruelty of the games simply staggers the imagination, to say nothing of the fact that this went on for hundreds of years. It makes you think that the term "Roman civilization" is a bit of an oxymoron.
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