The Roman Perspective of the Gladiator Essay

The Roman Perspective of the Gladiator Essay

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Is there a more polarizing symbol of the ancient Romans than the gladiator to scholars today? Probably not, but the ancient Romans also held a dichotomous opinion of the famous warriors of the arena. Today, the gladiators represent the opulence and moral depravity of the Roman culture as well as the power and innovation of the Roman society. The contrasting views that the Republican and Imperial Romans had was that those who participated in the gladiatorial games were debased and stripped of status during the times they spent participating, but they could also attain greater honor, glory, and respect than they could or would have gained in their regular life by bravely fighting in the arena. Winning was not the determining factor if respect was given to the gladiator by the audience. Rather it was the zeal, conviction, heart that the contestants fought with in the arena. A clear example of how much popularity and glory a gladiator could received can be seen by the number of free men and women who volunteered to participate in the games. Carlin A. Barton discusses the contrasting opinions and the fascination that people had about the gladiators and where those opinions arose from in his article “The Scandal of the Arena.” He discusses the importance of the gladiator to the citizens, those who participated, and the history that led to the exorbitant numbers of gladiatorial participants in the Imperial period of the Roman Empire.
Barton begins his detailed look at the Roman culture surrounding gladiators by portraying the gladiators themselves through the eyes of the scholars. He sets the view very low to begin. The Roman people seemed to really look down upon the gladiators, viewing them as the lowest of the low in the social ladd...


... middle of paper ...


...iators were a contradictory figure in society. They were a positive image for the meager people in society. They were a signal of hope that glory can be attained by anyone who is brave enough to risk their life for it. They were also looked upon as degenerates, scum, and low lives that were not worth much in Roman society. They were stripped of land, title, and honor once they took the oath of the gladiator. Most of all, the gladiator was a harsh competitor in an even harsher contest that’s goal was to break the will of the gladiator. The gladiator represented redemption to the Romans of all social statuses. He could be honorable in his life before being a gladiator, lose it all becoming a gladiator, and then become a legend as a successful gladiator.



Works Cited

Barton, Carlin A. “The Scandal of the Arena.” Representations No. 27 (Summer, 1989):

1-36. Print.

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