Gladiatorial Contest in Rome
Rome was a warrior state. Since the state was a great fighting state in their time, the wars sort of formed the gladiatorial contest in ancient Rome. The Romans were fascinated and pleasured by violence, bloodshed, and human suffering the gladiatorial games.
The gladiatorial contests began at the reign of their first emperor Augustus to pay tribute to their warrior traditions. The Romans built artificial battlefields within amphitheaters in cities and towns for public entertainment. It is very obvious that gladiatorial contest were important because of the enormous size of the amphitheaters.
In A.D. 80, the Colosseum, which seated fifty thousand people, was used to accompany a hundred days of games. On one of the days three thousand men fought and on another day nine thousand animals were killed. The public killings of men and animals were a Roman rite believing that this was a religious sacrifice.
Everyone in Rome was not entertained by these barbaric acts. The philosophers and Christians lobbied against such events. To little effect the gladiatorial games continued until the early fifth century A.D. and wild-beast killings went on until the sixth century.
Evidence suggests that the contest was part of the Roman funeral process. A Christian critic named Tertullian at the end of the second century wrote, Once upon a time, men believed that the souls of the dead were propitiated by human blood, and so at the funerals they sacrificed prisoners of war of slaves of poor quality bought for the purpose.
In 246 B.C., two nobles in honor of their deceased father, held the first recorded gladiatorial event with only six gladiators. But over the next two hundred years, the contests started to become common and gain popularity resulting in the increase of gladiatorial shows. An example of a gladiatorial show was in 46 B.C. when Julius Caesar dedicated the games to his dead daughter and the victory over Gaul and Egypt. Caesar didnt have only the traditional individual fights, but also he had fights between whole detachments of an infantry and between squadrons of cavalry who were mounted on horses and elephants. The games consisted of professional gladiators, prisoners of war, and death row criminals.
After the popularity of the gladiatorial games, the religious value still remained. Those who attended the games were dressed up as gods. The slaves were dressed up as the god of Mercury. The people who dragged away the dead bodies were dressed as Pluto, the god of the underworld. When Christians were persecuted, the were sometimes led around the arena in a procession dressed up as priests and priestesses of pagan cults, before the were thrown to wild beast naked. All of these events performed presented human sacrifice for religious purposes and in the memory of the dead.
At the end of the last century B.C., politics became involved in the gladiatorial games, and the games were viewed more as entertainment than religious and commemorative ceremonies. The contests were public performances held in the social center of the city, the Forum. The public started participating in the games due to the splendour of the shows and by the distribution of meat, and by betting, added more respect to the entire family and the dead. The funerals put on by aristocrats in the Republic were political acts because if their popularity with citizen electors. The fancy shows were fueled by competition between aristocrats who wanted to please, excite, and increase their number of supporters.
In 42 B.C., gladiatorial fights were substituted for chariot races in official games for the first time. It was then when officers of the state started producing the gladiatorial shows on a regular basis as a part of their job. Emperor Augustus restricted the gladiatorial games to two a year, limiting the aristocrats chances to receive the peoples vote for political offices. Each of the officials were forbidden to spend more on themselves than their associates. However, the emperors rules were often broken by aristocrats due to the competitiveness of political power and prestige.
Animals played a part in the gladiatorial shows also. In A.D. 108-9, Emperor Trajan gave games lasting 123 days containing 9,138 gladiators fought eleven thousand animals. In 169 B.C., sixty-three African lions and leopards, forty bears, and several elephants were murdered in a single show. Romans then started to hunt new animals such as tigers, crocodiles, giraffes, lynxes, rhinoceros, and ostriches. Some shows involved hundreds of animals in one show. All of the animals were killed for entertainment.
Gladiators were heroes to their culture. Even though most of the gladiators were slaves, women were attracted to them. But gladiators were also degraded by society. They were not allowed to be buried in normal burial grounds.
Women also fought in gladiatorial games also. The women fought in the arena were men fought. An example of women fighting was found on a small stone relief, depicting two female gladiators, with one breast bare, called Amazon an Achillia.
Sports today are on a much milder basis than gladiatorial games in ancient Rome. Today those type of games would be considered insane, but for Rome this was part of their religion and probably the most entertaining shows they had. Boxing and hunting presents violence similar to the gladiatorial games, but I dont think it is as barbaric. For instance, boxers dont fight to the death, only 12 rounds, and hunters can only kill plentiful animals, such as, deer and ducks during certain times of the year. Between these two different society, violence is proved to be the number one entertainment source in the two cultures.