Book Details

Author  Konstantin Nossov
Publisher  Osprey
Publication Date   December 31, 2005
ISBN  1846034728
Pages  208

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From the author of Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons (Lyons Press), Konstantin Nossov, comes this eye-opening new study of one of the most popular pastimes of ancient Rome. This detailed, highly readable guide introduces readers to every aspect of the gladiator phenomenon: from the types of equipment the different classes of gladiator used-to the high place these sportsman came to occupy with the popular culture of the time.

Nossov provides readers with a breathtaking tour of Gladiator customs. At the beginning of their 800-year existence in the 4th century BC, gladiatorial games served as a solemn funeral rite to honor high-born citizens. From the height of their popularity to their decline, they were the equivalent of a multi-billion dollar industry--run by entrepreneurs and highly regulated by the government. Nossov shows how, with few exceptions, Roman leaders embraced the spectacle and how over the centuries new events such as mortal combat with animals and full-scale naval battles were added to the games.

Using updated research that has never before appeared in English, Nossov's chapter on the everyday life and social status of gladiators will surprise many readers. Despite the persistent myth that Gladiators were treated as expendable refuse by their Roman handlers, Nossov demonstrates that the reality was much more nuanced. The professional gladiator pool was comprised primarily of highly-trained men (and, for a time, women) who volunteered for the arena. In return for a long-term contract with a local games master, these athletes would earn an annual salary hundreds of times greater than an ordinary person. And slaves who were willing to become gladiators could earn their freedom with as few as four wins. These athletes lived communal lives together and trained year round for events that occurred no more than seasonally. As Nossov shows, being a professional gladiator was not much different from the lifestyle of a modern professional football player or boxer.

Since the advent of the 2000 film, Gladiator, and the HBO series, Rome, interest in gladiators is running at an all-time high. Nossov's comprehensive treatment of this enigmatic yet persistently popular phenomenon is sure to delight and enlighten readers everywhere.

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