Monday, March 25, 2013

Are You Entertained?- Part 2

"Are you entertained?" is the line used by Maximus in Gladiator. He said it in order to mock the crowd and the emperor because he had survived when they wanted him dead. What ended up happening was that the crowd loved his audacity and he became a mob favorite.

The Games were vary mob oriented. That meant that what the crowd wanted, the crowd got. To deny the mob could, and would, end the host politician's career. A smart gladiator would use this to his advantage. To understand how this could be done, one has to understand the gladiator himself.

Gladitors were mostly slaves, though some were free men who chose the life style. Often, soldiers would make their livings on the battle field and then return home after their term of duty only to be unable to cope with the mundane and adrenaline free life of a civilian. Many would become bodyguards to the rich Patricians or become mercenaries. Others would become gladiators as fighting was all they knew.

Mosaic on the ruins of a school
Often, as in Gladiator, we picture these fighters as strong, adult males. In reality, that would only be the case for cities like Rome that could afford the best gladiators. Gladiators either belonged to or worked for Lanistas, men who had previously been gladiators or sometimes soldiers. Lanistas owned gladiator school were they trained for fighting in the games (some did not own the schools but rented them from Patricians). Most would buy slaves for the games with any ability to hold a sword.

Gladiators could be children as young as fifteen or sixteen and women. They could be dwarves or giants, thin or broad. Dwarves would be pitted against children or women for the opening fights. Other times, expendable slaves would be sent in large, unarmed groups to fight two or three armed, mid-skilled gladiators.

Thumbs Down by Gérôme
Not all of the fights ended in death. A fight would go until one side was dead, maimed, or down and disarmed. If the gladiator was already dead, and had given a good fight, they could be spared. Once a man was down, the victor would stand with his foot on the other and look to the host. The host would look to the crowd who, depending on how entertaining the fight was, would either scream "death" or "life". The host would point his thumb up or down depending on the whim of the crowd. Down was death, and the victor would kill the gladiator he stood on, while up was life and the loser would be helped up to leave the arena.
Close-up of Thumbs Down

Next week I will tell how a gladiator would win the mob.


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