Matyszak, Philip. Gladiator: The Roman Fighter’s Unofficial Manual.

London: Thames & Hudson, 2011.

I quite enjoyed Matuszak’s faux travel books on ancient Athens and Rome. His “handbook” on the Roman legionary, to which this is meant to be a companion, is also quite good. I learned new things from each of them. He attempts to follow the same model here, but it just doesn’t work as well.

He discusses how one became a gladiator — for most, it wasn’t a matter of choice but a gradual death sentence by the courts — what a few of the arenas were like, from the Colosseum to Londinium, training and general life in the gladiatorial school, what a successful gladiator could look forward to, both in and outside the arena, and the odds of reaching retirement age. The problem is that, no matter how the masses swarmed to the games, the gladiator was at the very bottom of society. The lanista, who ran the school, was barely half a step above that. The activities of gladiators were therefore extremely circumscribed, which means that, after the first chapter or two, there really isn’t a lot you can say about them without constantly repeating yourself — which is what Matsyzak unfortunately does.

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Published in: on 24 September 2014 at 6:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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