As the Roman conquests brought increasing number of slaves and captives into the city it stood to reason to use a number of these to celebrate what came to be known as the Gladiator shows or Gladiatorial offerings, the “munus gladiatorum“. The shows were generally known as “ludi” meaning “games” or “munera” meaning “offerings”. Julius Caesar, following religious tradition dedicated the games of his triumph against Pompey to persons such as his deceased father and sister. His sister had actually been married to the defeated Pompey.
As has already been mentioned the origin of Gladiatorial combat was religious and as such it embodied a number of notions which were dear to Roman culture. The Amphitheatre was the place where the leader-Emperor, who was also the head of religion as Pontifex Maximus, together with the Vestal Virgins and the people of Rome would come together as a united community and keep their minds off other problems. Eating and drinking was forbidden and everyone had to be properly dressed.
Beyond the bloody result which was certainly extremely well appreciated, the spectators were assisting or expecting to assist to those qualities which had made Rome great and that supposedly would allow them to achieve future greatness. The emperors used this as a political tool to keep people’s minds occupied and to stem criticism. This was exemplified by Juvenal’s famous phrase in his Satires:
“Panem et Circenses
” meaning “bread and circuses” – alluding to the basic needs required to keep the masses happy and quiet. It should be noted that Juvenal himself was quite a fan of the shows.
This attitude was interwoven with the general ceremonies of the shows. To commence the busts and statues of past emperors would be paraded around the arena in a religious display entering and exiting through specific gates. Following this there might be animal shows in honour of the goddess Diana. After lunch, the gladiators themselves would parade for all to see. Having paraded they would lay their weapons on display and saluting the Emperor with raised fists they would shout “Hail Caesar, the dying salute you!” Ave Caesar! Morituri te salutant!
(Suetonius). The fighting would follow. The dead would be carried out and the victors exalted.
Gladiators: |Rise and Fall of the Gladiators | The Gladiatorial shows |Ancient Roman Gladiators | Training | Gladiator fights | After the Gladiatorial fights | Types of Gladiator | More types and Classes of Gladiator | Commodus | Julius Caesar and the Gladiators | Christian martyrs and the Colosseum | Gladiators, Christians and Fish | Christians against the Circus and Colosseum | End of the Gladiators |