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Monday, September 30, 2013

Gladiator for a Day

The abundance and mindless display of violence, sex and gore in American drama Spartacus drew me to Rome to discover the history of the gladiators.
Beneath every inch of dust covered Rome lies history to be uncovered. Film is a very powerful medium. It is because i watched all 3 seasons of Spartacus, Gladiator and 300 that made my heart pound with excitement as i approach familiar names like Pompeii, Mt Vesuvius, Capua etc.
Without film, i would not have been able to conjour in my mind what the gladiator arena was like as the ruins of the Colosseum stand in front of me.


Captivated by the story of gladiators and unabashedly a boy at heart, i signed up for gladiator school.

I could not sleep the night before. I was worried i was going to oversleep, not find the place or be too tired for the grueling training. Gladiators were well fed with a high protein diet that consists of meat, fish, bread, cereals and vegetables. Other types of food included barley, dry fruits, cheese, goat milk, eggs and olive oil. I had to make do with a typical Italian breakfast en route to school; croissant and cappuccino.
Using the Roma pass that gives me unlimited public travel for 3 days (& jump queues at tourists sights), i managed to navigate myself and located the gladiator school in an obscure location that has nothing else around.
The name gladiator came from the sword they typically fight with, a gladius. It is as what we thought to be, that gladiators are made of slaves, criminals and prisoners of war who had no choice but to fight for the entertainment of the Republic. They were to die anyway and the enterprising Senate created a game of blood upon sand.

I greeted my lanista (owner of the school) as a new recruit, a novicius. He was dressed as a Roman solider.
As Peter gave me the lowdown of a gladiator's life, it dawned upon me what a mind play it was. For criminals, slaves or prisoners of war who were forced into this new life, to lead a gladiator's life could be more superior than the lower class of Romans and definitely better than execution with no fighting chance. If they survive 3-5 years as a gladiator fighting 2-3 bouts a year, these criminals, slaves or prisoners may walk free.
Walking away free because I won my fight.

Getting Roman citizenship.

Gladiators were given frequent massages, allowed hot and cold baths and provided with women slaves from the kitchens to satisfy sexual needs. They were treated well as they are valued commodity. 

So much of a valued commodity, that lanistas may even hang a dead gladiator like a cow, slit his throat and drain his blood to sell. Milking all of a gladiator's worth, there are Romans who would buy these veils to drink or rub on male and female private parts believing this would make them virile like a gladiator.
Men want to be like that, women want to lay with them.
Running away was not feasible as successful gladiators become famous like modern day celebrities. The fan worship, fame and glory along with rewards and purses of money also kept them from taking revenge on the Romans who forcefully raped and killed their wives and children.

I then tried on the various armors of a Roman soldier.
Working it like a top model.
Each helmet, shield and sword was a replica so i could feel the weight. I was taught to hold the shield and sword as a soldier would and explained the mechanics of holding the sword a certain way.
Dude on the left seems to say 'hey, give me back my stuff! I feel naked.'
Training for a novicius first concentrates on getting the new gladiator to the peak of fitness. A wooden training sword was handed to me. I was then taught the basics of sword fighting. 5 moves in attacking and 5 moves in defending.

As the crowd grew weary of the fights becoming predictable, the Senate had to invent new games. Thus came about the introduction of various helmets and weapons in the arena.
I had thought they were for decoration, like a costume for a better show. However, putting it on myself, i then understand it was the sick minds of the Romans to make the fight more bloody exciting.
Depending on what helmet or weapon given, your opponent will be matched equally. If you are fitted with a weapon that is light-weight, you will be fitted with a helmet that obstructs vision. Vice versa if you are handed a cumbersome weapon, you will have a light helmet with clear view.
from behind a helmet
Having had training in martial arts (with a few medals in my closet too), fighting like a gladiator wasn't too different from what i have learnt as a sport. However to feel the weight of a real gladius in my hand and sparring with it was surreal. I can only imagine it takes a certain strong wrist and arm to wield that sword to fight. 

 

Unaccustomed to the (common) overly Italian affection.
This was a LOL Kodak moment.
That sums up my history lesson, with a sword in hand under the unforgiving Roman sun. 

2 comments:

RaGe FuRy said...

You look really unhappy in the armour haha! and your instructor must be feeling sad at that rejection caught on film

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