The Gladiators: History's Most Deadly Sport

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Overview

Meijer traces the origins of the gladiators over 2,500 years, from the initial belief that their blood spilled on a grave would sustain the dead on its journey to the underworld. Yet, as centuries passed and the Roman Empire grew, gladiators became part of vaster, more brutal entertainments staged by successive emperors eager to manipulate the public with "bread and circuses" and to exhibit their supreme power over men and animals, life and death.
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Overview

Meijer traces the origins of the gladiators over 2,500 years, from the initial belief that their blood spilled on a grave would sustain the dead on its journey to the underworld. Yet, as centuries passed and the Roman Empire grew, gladiators became part of vaster, more brutal entertainments staged by successive emperors eager to manipulate the public with "bread and circuses" and to exhibit their supreme power over men and animals, life and death.
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Editorial Reviews

William Grimes
Mr. Meijer8230;the author of Emperors Don't Die in Bed, understands exactly what readers want to know about gladiators and anticipates their every question in this admirable little study. He explains who the gladiators were; how they were trained, fed and paid; what weapons they used; and what rules governed combat in the arena.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Locked in mortal combat before 50,000 cheering spectators in the Colosseum, the two gladiators thrust and parry until the crowd gets what it came for: one dead athlete and one living, victorious athlete. While the games themselves might have been exciting for the Roman crowds, Meijer's listless prose and superficial examination of the gladiator's life and work fails to capture any of the excitement, terror and pride that the gladiators and spectators must have felt. In pedantic fashion, he provides a survey of the different types of gladiators, the kinds of animals they fought, the dimensions of the Colosseum and other amphitheaters and the daily life of a gladiator. As many other books have pointed out, the gladiators themselves were slaves or prisoners of war who were rigorously trained in the sport. Meijer (Emperors Don't Die in Bed), a professor of ancient history at the University of Amsterdam, also describes a typical day at the Colosseum that featured hunters fighting animals, followed by executions of criminals during lunch and finally human combat. Apart from a tendentious and nitpicky critique of the historical accuracy of the films Spartacus and The Gladiator, Meijer adds nothing new to our knowledge about gladiators. 55 b&w illus. (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
It is refreshing to read a work on such a significant Roman institution that does not cater completely to Hollywood. In fact, prior to addressing film's representations in his last chapter, Meijer (ancient history, Univ. of Amsterdam; Emperors Don't Die in Bed) demonstrates his comprehension of the scholarship surrounding leisure and violence in ancient Rome. He explores the roots of the gladiatorial games, surmising that the origins of Roman combat were in Campania rather than Etruria. However, he does admit the sport may have Greek roots, owing to the nature of funeral games described by Homer. Meijer's familiarity with ancient warfare shows when he describes the various weapons used by gladiators (glossary included) and how the training schools were administered. One might wish he had used his considerable skills in historiography to speculate more fully on how the games fitted into the Roman psyche and how Rome's amusements culturally evolved over the centuries. Indeed, Meijer's introduction implies that such an investigation was one of his motives for writing the book. Regardless, his topic does allow the reader to comprehend the incredible barbarity of the emperors. Recommended for all libraries.-Clay Williams, Hunter Coll., New York Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"Forget Russell Crowe in a skirt and sandals, this is the real deal if you want to know about blood and guts in the arena. The author has pieced together thousands of documents, eyewitness testimonies, and engravings to tell in vivid detail the story of the gladiators of ancient Rome."
-- The Daily Mail [UK]

"Fik Meijer, a professor of ancient history in Amsterdam, gives fascinating insight into Ancient Rome's gladiators. ... An in-depth book...." -- The Big Issue

[Meijer] has written a history that is at once interesting, informative, and fast-paced. Thumbs up or thumbs down? No contest." -- Leeds Guide

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312348748
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/29/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

FIK MEIJER is a Professor of Ancient History at the University of Amsterdam and is the author of Emperors Don't Die in Bed. His next book will be a study of Rome's charioteers.

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Table of Contents

How the gladiator games evolved 13
The gladiators 39
The scene of action 96
The animals 121
A day at the colosseum 135
Sea battles (naumachiae) 176
Dead meat 184
The end of gladiator shows 194
Gladiator films 220
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    I am a high school sophomore who had to do a research project. I

    I am a high school sophomore who had to do a research project. I enjoyed this book because it gave me an insight with elaborate details
    about the gladiators and the Coliseum. This book provides a lot of facts about the gladiator games and the background of the famous
    entertainment of Rome. I also like how in the beginning of the book there is a timeline of different events that involve the gladiators in
    Rome's history. The author organizes the book in a helpful way to understand and to make this book much more enjoyable to read. The
    author also incorporates a storyline, which gives a sense of imagination to the book along with the facts. This book also has a few
    pages dedicated to the Coliseum about it's incredible built, which helps answer some questions on my research paper. The few pictures
    in the book is helpful to me to visualize different aspects of the gladiators history and the different parts of the Coliseum. The different
    pictures of the weapons used and helmets worn by the gladiators grasped my attention even more because I became more interested
    in the book. I also like how the book was not a bore to read with paragraphs of non-useful facts; it gave intriguing details of different 
    emperors, materials used in the arena of the Coliseum, and background stories.This book provides vivid detail and visual images
     to help better the understanding of the history of the Coliseum and the gladiators.
     

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2008

    Best book

    This is one of the best books I have read in my life!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2006

    Puts the Movie to Shame.

    Fik Meijer's book is a wonderful and straightforward account of gladiators and their blood sport. The author moves smoothly through the chapters, covering the origins of the games, the backgrounds of the fighters, the Colosseum and other amphitheaters, the types of gladiators, and even illustrates a typical day at the arena. Meijer also takes time at the end to compare fact with the fiction portrayed in the movies 'Gladiator' and 'Spartacus.' This book held my attention--I was able to read it in one sitting, and I was immensely satisfied. It made a great secondary source for a term paper I wrote this semester as well. Highly recommended for anyone curious about Roman gladiators, public games, or social history.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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