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gladiators

gladiators [Lat.,=swordsmen], in ancient Rome, class of professional fighters, who performed for exhibition. Gladiatorial combats usually took place in amphitheaters. They probably were introduced from Etruria and originally were funeral games. Gladitorial combats, which took place in the Colosseum and in hundreds of other ampitheaters throughout the Roman world, reached their height in the 1st and 2d cent. AD

The gladiators were paired off to fight each other, usually to the number of about 100 couples, although in the imperial shows there were sometimes as many as 5,000 pairs. There were various types of gladiators, armed and armored differently. Thus a heavily armored man, a Mirmillo or Samnite, might be opposed to a Retiarius, who fought almost naked, with a net and a trident as his only weapons. He also might be pitted against a Thracian, who fought with a dagger and a small round shield. Often gladiators were made to fight wild beasts. A defeated gladiator was usually killed by the victor unless the people expressed their desire that he be spared.

At first, gladiators were invariably slaves or prisoners, including Christians. They normally underwent rigid training, and some gained immense popularity. Later, impoverished freedmen also sought a living as gladiators, and finally even members of the ruling classes took part in gladiatorial combats on an amateur basis. Some gladiators, led by Spartacus, took part in the third of the Servile Wars (73 BC–71 BC). Constantine I forbade gladiatorial games, but they nonetheless continued until AD 405.

See studies by M. Grant (1968), E. Kohne, ed. (2000), A. Futrell (2001), and F. Meijer (2005).

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gladiator

glad·i·a·tor / ˈgladēˌātər/ • n. 1. (in ancient Rome) a man trained to fight with weapons against other men or wild animals in an arena. 2. a person defending or opposing a cause; a controversialist: he chose not to be a gladiator in the presidential arena. DERIVATIVES: glad·i·a·to·ri·al / ˌgladēəˈtôrēəl/ adj.

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gladiator

gladiator in ancient Rome, a man trained to fight with weapons against other men or wild animals in an arena; usually a slave or prisoner trained for the purpose. The word is Latin, and comes from gladius ‘sword’; it was used by Cicero as a term of abuse in his denunciation of Catiline.

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gladiator

gladiator In ancient Rome, volunteer, prisoner of war, slave or condemned convict trained to fight humans or wild animals in public arenas. Gladiatorial contests were officially abolished by Constantine I in ad 325, but persisted into the 5th century.

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gladiator

gladiator XV. — L. gladiātor, f. gladius sword; see -ATOR.
So gladiatorial XVIII. f. L. gladiātōrius.

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Gladiator

GLADIATOR

GLADIATOR , professional fighter in Roman public games. Little information is available about the gladiatorial contests held in the Middle East under Roman imperial rule. The performances were arranged by the authorities of cities with a predominantly Hellenistic culture; in Judea, for instance, they were sponsored by *Herod in *Caesarea. The Jewish sources make mention of Jews in this connection, and it was common knowledge that gladiators were bought for "large sums" (tj, Git. 4:9, 46a–b). Rabbinical opinion was in general opposed to providing a ransom for a man who had sold himself as a gladiator, although an opinion is expressed that he should be ransomed since his life was in danger (Git. 46b–47a). "It is the accepted custom that a gladiator does not make a will," since he might be killed at any moment (Gen. R. 49:1, ed. by Theodor and Albeck, 1200). Some Jewish gladiators deliberately infringed the dietary laws to annoy their coreligionists and lived in Roman style (Git., loc. cit.). Others, however, were obliged to sell themselves out of financial stress "in order to exist" (tj, loc. cit.). The expression "meal for gladiators" denoted an early repast consisting of an enriched diet (Pes. 12b; Shab. 10a). It is related of the amora Resh Lakish (see *Simeon b. Lakish) that he sold himself as a gladiator but that by combining courage with guile he managed to outwit the promoters of the contest and kill them all (Git. 47a). The rabbinical attitude toward the gladiatorial contests is clear from their association in the Midrash with brothels, gaming, and sorcery (Tanh. B., Gen. 24).

bibliography:

Schuerer, Gesch, 2 (19074), 60f.; Krauss, Tal Arch, 3 (1912), 114f.; S. Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine (1942), 148f.

[Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson]

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