After the bout,
slaves rushed in to drag away the body and to sprinkle clean sand over the
bloodied areas. In the stands other slaves flung out handfuls of free nuts,
plums, pastry and cheese. Other bouts followed—horsemen with spears against
javelin hurl-ers in two-wheeled chariots, archers on foot against swordsmen on
horseback, heavily armored gladiators fighting blindly under visored
Such was the
amazing Roman arena. The turnover in gladiators was high, but the source of
supply was nearly inexhaustible. The games, as they were called, started in 264
B.C. as a part of funeral rites. For a long time the wealthy ran their own
schools, and then in the last days of the Republic, Roman generals, consuls and
tribunes, after political power, staged great free games for the common
By the time of
Claudius (41 A.D.) there were 93 game days given at public expense each year,
most of which involved gladiatorial fights (there were also chariot races,
beast fights, burnings and the like). Mighty Trajan in 105 A.D. gave the public
123 continuous days of games to celebrate his victory in Dacia; nearly 10,000
gladiators fought during this series.
three-day spectacle given the public to honor some victory or to celebrate the
election of some ambitious man cost about $80,000, and even under the rule of
the temperate philosopher-emperor, Marcus Aurelius, total expenses for public
gladiatorial games ran $8 million a year, while private citizens hired perhaps
another $16 million worth for private parties.
seldom thought of the games as horrifying. Eloquent Cicero wrote that "no
better discipline against suffering and death can be presented to the eye."
The records leave little doubt that Marius and his cohorts would have preferred
to test the efficacy of Cicero's observation from the safety of the stands.