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.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Are You Entertained?- Part 1

"Are You Entertained?" is the famous line spoken by Russel Crowe when he played Maximus in the Gladiator, the story of a general turned gladiator. The sad thing about this movie is that it is a great portrayal of the gladiator games in Rome.

Gladiator games were the Roman version of Reality TV for most people. Admission was free unless one wanted the best seats and they went all day long, often for a whole week at a time. Entertainment was not their only function, though, they had a political means behind them.

The games were always funded by politicians looking to be elected to a higher office. A politician looking to get his name out there would convince the wealthy to give money in return for favors. Then he would turn around and use the money to either host a game in his honor or fund some other public function such as the Olympics or repair of the Baths. Same as now, it was usually the man who spent the most money who was elected.

Advertisement fresco
Leading up to the games, in order that people would know who had paid for them, frescoes and other advertisements would be plastered all over the city.

Animal fight in the arena
Obviously, the Roman Games usually bring to mind gladiators, but that is not all that they were. The games were split into three parts. In the morning their would be races and comedians and other forms of what we would call family entertainment. Then around noon, they would start the animal fights and criminal executions. These could range from burning at the stake to attacks by animals. Many Christians found themselves among those killed during this part of the games.

My favorite artist is Jean Leon Gerome. He painted many pictures of the Roman era and specify the games. My favorite piece of his is the one below of Christian's praying before they are to be eaten by lions. If you want to see others of his works, go to this link. Remember that many may be graphic to some eyes.

The Christian Martyr's Last Prayer

Next week I will speak on the gladiators themselves.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wielded Weaponry- Part 3

Do to some internet issues, today's post will be brief. Sorry.

Barbed wire is used an a lot of modern warfare. Originally, like most things, it was not invented for war.

In 1873, Joseph Glidden invented it to keep in cattle. At one point in time, cattle were allowed to roam free, without fences or people watching them. Because the cattle went were they wanted, they grazed on anyone's property and drank from any water source. This was fine so long as there were only ranches in the area and there had not been a recent drought.

Once farmers began moving into the areas known for ranches (drawn by the fertile soil made by the cattle droppings), they began to put up fences to keep cows out of their crops. Often, the ranchers would come in and cut through the fences so that the cows could keep getting to the water. This caused problems since they were messing with someone else's property.

Then, when droughts set in, ranchers began to need to keep their cattle on their own land, near the water source they owned. Now they were putting up fences to keep other ranchers' cattle out.

The size of cattle made it so that often they would just tear through the fences or knock them over. Barbed wire solved this problem in that the cattle would be hurt if they came too close, so they stayed away.

During WWII, the military realized that barbed wire could be used in trench warfare. When laid out in No Man's Land between the trenches, it made any charge across the field so slow that the enemy could be easily picked off before they got through. Barbed wire coupled with the machine gun completely changed warfare as it would now be complete suicide to have armies line up and charge each other as they did in previous wars.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Wielded Weaponry- Part 2

 Blades come in many shapes, sizes, and make. The vary first were made of stone. Even the evolution of stone tools can be broken into stages.

Oldowan tool
Oldowan stone tools were the vary first. They were made by finding a core stone and then hitting it with a hammer stone until flakes came off. They were not vary sharp or wieldable for fighting so they were mostly used for butchering animals already caught.

How to make Oldowan tools.
Acheulean blades had far more cutting surface but were still large and dull, making them an unlikely choice for hunting or war. Their wedge like shape and heft made them better for felling trees.
How to make Acheulean tools.

Mousterian were far smaller, thinner, and sharper. They worked well as knives and hide scrappers.

Mousterian tools
It was not until the Neolithic period that we see blades sharpened on a grind stone.

Metallurgy did not spread everywhere at the same time. When one kingdom gained knowledge a smelted metal, they would guard it well so that they would have an advantage in battle. On top of that, there were also geographic boundaries to how far metal weapons spread. Up until the Age of Exploration, natives in North America, South America, and Australia, as well as many islands still used stone weapons.

Neolithic tools
When one is working with stone, the only sharp weapons that can be made are: arrowheads, spearheads, axeheads, and knives. Obviously, by the fact that they are made of stone, such weapons were not favored. They broke easily, took a lot of time to make (striking rock on rock), required a lot of force to cut anything, and were far from aerodynamic.

Add caption
All these weapons were most prominent during the Stone Age (before the Bronze and Iron ages). Usually this age carries with it the connotation of cavemen and Neanderthals (I don't believe that such existed) and because of this many people view the time as a sort of Myth (though they may not say so). As technology was so rudimentary there no written records and so cave paintings are all we have beside the stone tools to tell of human culture during the Stone Age.