The tradition of gladiatorfight stems from the time when ritual fights to the death were organized to honour dead family members. These munera, or games, count as gifts to the people. The Romans notice that munera have an aura about them, and many seize upon them to increase their own prestige. With this in mind, Julius Caesar organises spectacular munera after a number of vicotrious wars, to honour his daughter, who died seven years before. His successor, Augustus, turns munera into a privilege of Emperors, with the result that ordinary citizens can longer organise them. In our region, Germanie Inferior, well-off citizens can still act as editor muneris, or giver of the games.

Gladiators were originally mainly infami, slaves with no rights who had been condemned to death, prisoners of war, and criminals. A lanista, a man in the gladiator business, bought them and trained them at his ludus, or school, in the use of a range of weapons. There are also free independent gladiators, however, who earn their living as prizefighters. The best-known weapon is the gladius, a shor sword. A lanista provides gladiators to an editor muneris.

Begore the fighting begins, a pompa, or procession, is often held. The idea is to admire the gladiators - placing bets if you want - and usually, of course, the editor muneris as the benefactor who is treating the audience to the show. After this, a priest asks the gods for permission for the fighting.

The gladiators each have their own special techniques, and are divided into standard types with weapons to match. Two gladiators of different types come face to face. The ultimate loser is killed expertly and as painlessly as possible by his opponent, an end preferable to that suffered by a person condemned to death. The body is taken away by Charun, a spirit guide for the dead, after dealing it a blow with a mighty hammer. In de spoliarium, or morgue, the armour is removed. Finally, the body is buried by relatives and co-workers. A wounded loser can beg for mercy, however, with the public being allowed to decide whether he can live. The victor receives a laurel wreath or palm branch, on rare occasions a bag of gold coins. Then he returns to the ludus. A succesful gladiator is pamperred by his lanista, as he is a good source of profit. These starts can also count on the appreciation of the public, enabling infami to reverse their fate. If a star gladiator can last five years in the arena, he receives a rudis, or woorden sword, as a sighn that he is a free man again.

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