Gladiator is one of the icons of Rome. Romans’ love for sword combat was beyond our imagination. If you visit Greece and Rome, you will come across so many round stadiums there. Sword combats took place at round stadiums in every city where Romans lived. Sword combats were held not only between gladiators but also between a gladiator and a wild beast, and between animals. The outside of a stadium was almost like a zoo with so many animals inside cages every time there was a sword combat.
Sword fights have become famous because of the movies and TV dramas but a lot of it has been misleading. In movies, gladiators live in dungeons, receiving subhuman treatment. They usually fight until one of them dies. But that was not the case in reality. Star gladiators were very expensive and treated well. It might not have been the case with second-rate or third-rate gladiators but they were at least not locked up in dungeons. There were agencies for gladiators just like today and they set fight money and the cost according to gladiators’ ranking. It cost an arm and a leg to host first-rate gladiators in provincial cities. A life-and-death match was very rare. But one had to risk his life in a combat anyway.
I saw monuments for gladiators at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki the other day. There were four of them in total, and two of them had stars on them to represent the number of wins the gladiators had. One had 13 wins and the other had three. One familiar with modern sports might not be impressed by three wins but having three wins is not a joke in life-and-death combats. There is a saying, “Life is not a sport.” Having only one life to live, pulling off a win is precious and it can be everything. Life is not an experiment. I hope politicians realize it.