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The Way of the Gladiator

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2001

    The Cheers of Death

    If history has taught us anything, it¿s that there are certain periods that are known for being brutal; everything from the terror tactics of the Assyrian war machine to the famous gladiatorial combats and spectacles of the great Roman Empire. The Way of The Gladiator is one piece of writing that brings perhaps the most famous aspect of the Roman Empire into focus. The beginning is a good simple solid opening with a short little note from a former editor of a book club, (which serves to whet the appetite), then smoothly works into the authors note to describe the process of describing the events, which, interestingly enough, came from a variety of sources ranging from the Annals of Tacitus to ancient graffiti from Pompeii. The author moves into the first chapter with an exciting tease by briefly talking about the revolt against Nero. As the reader progresses further, more and more detail about the history of some lesser-known Roman events before gladiatorial history takes center stage. The author gives good novel-like examples about the spectacles that took place, especially chariot racing, before working into the forms of armed combat and this helps to paint a nice picture of the following chapters rather nicely. The history of the outlined spectacles and matches themselves are every bit as brutal as the rule of many of the post-Christian Caesars themselves. Some of the early history and events are described in short, limited, but still entertaining pieces of fiction. But Mannix adds to the accuracy by including a sample program from one of the games and an illustration or two, which helps add a few brushstrokes to the picture. The spectacles themselves are described in the range of semi-focused details to the grotesquely explicit. Some of the events described are simply decadent, and the reader will probably think some of them are too ghastly to be authentic and little more than an attempt at fiction, and simply dismiss them altogether. However, for those who have a deeper knowledge of ancient history in general, or know the Roman Empire, will find them to be all too believable. If you know your Roman civilization, you¿ll find yourself sighing at the atrocities. My Ups and Downs: This is a book that any history student can get some use out of, but is not a complete history of the spectacles themselves. There isn¿t any detailed information that a thesis could be built upon for a paper as far as historical accuracy goes, but for those who aren¿t crazy about the Roman empire and find early western civilization boring, this book will definitely spark their attention and that may be all that is needed to explore the subject of history deeper. On the down side, my only serious problem with this book is that the author uses fiction in recreating some of the events that took place and even about a few famous Romans themselves. However, looking from the opposite point of view, these fictitious chunks help the reader to get a layman¿s idea of what kind of entertainment (or, more appropriately, what passed for it), occurred. If the student reader is creative, then they might be able to stick a fun fact or two, or three into a paper on Rome. For those who just want to read something about Rome and maybe learn something in the process, then this book is worth the price tag. If you¿re expecting a bio on a Caesar, or a famous gladiator, or something to supplement the movie ¿Gladiator¿ you won¿t find it here. This is an entertaining read from a historical point of view, and it gives the reader a good page turner with some flair to it. But be warned, it cuts as sharply as any Gladius and no shield can hide you from the bloodstains.

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