Over the August Bank Holiday, Wroxeter Roman City were holding a Gladiatorial Re-enactment event. Ever since the villa was built for the excellent �Rome Wasn�t Built in a Day�, I�ve been promising myself a re-visit, so Mrs. OfClayton and myself (recent English Heritage members) decided to take the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. How glad we were that we did!
Despite a tiny bit of early drizzle, the weather cheered up leaving a dry afternoon for the fighting. I�d managed to squeeze in the audio tour in the morning, leaving the afternoon free to watch the games and visit the villa. A good crowd had built up by the time we reach the roped off area that was to act as the arena, and we found the best spot left was in that area of the onlookers that had been asked to support Londinium (in red) as opposed to the local boys from Viroconium (Wroxeter�s Roman name � playing in yellow).
The head gladiator from Londinium took on the role as Master of Ceremonies. After a brief explanation of Gladiatorial Combat, and a word about his �troupe�, he taught the crowd how to appeal for clemency, and how to demand execution. He then introduced the Emperor Domitian and his party, the other gladiators, the Summa Rudis (referee), and finally the arena helpers (they had a Latin name, but it escapes me). However, just as the MC was about to announce the start of proceedings, there was a heckle from the crowd: �GET ON WITH IT�. The Gladiator was startled. Domitian�s Praetorian Guard rushed over. There was an angry exchange between him and the heckler; �ARE YOU AN ENGLISH HERITAGE MEMBER?� was heard, and �DO YOU WANNA MAKE SOMETHING OF IT?�. This resulted in the heckler climbing over the outer rope, and coming to the inner rope, eyeball-to-eyeball with the Praetorian Guard. We now saw he was a rough-looking youth, mouthing off at the Gladiator MC. The Praetorian finally snapped, dragged him over the inner rope, and to the floor, where him and MC Spartacus proceeded to give the youth a bloody good kicking, before dragging him over to Domitian to be �judged�.
For the twin crimes of incitement to riot, and letting his English Heritage membership lapse, the youth (who by now had had the epithet �Chavicus� bestowed upon him) was sentenced to fight in the arena as a Damnatio. He was dragged away, still mouthing abuse.
Back to the action. which kicked off with various one-on-one Gladiatorial combat (for those keeping score, Londinium were two up at the end of these). This was followed by a couple of runaway slaves having a go at each other. All were masterfully choreographed (plenty of Spartacus-style shield jumping), with some suitably gory make up, and concluded with one of the combatants getting their throats cut (resulting in a good spray of blood). The climax of the one-on-one combats was the bout between the two Gladiatrixes (Gladiatrices?) who were predictably known as "Amazon" and "Achillia".
This was followed by a reenactment of the Battle of Philippi (though it was really just a gladiatorial two-on-two). Following the victory of the reds (Mark Anthony and Octavian), they subsequently went mano-a-mano with each other (reenacting the Battle of Actium, apparently). The result went the way of the historical record, and the �Mark Anthony� ended up with his throat cut.
To end with, joy of joys, who should be lead trembling into the arena, but Chavicus. All defiance gone, he now just looked like a pathetic, knock-kneed and gangly adolescent in a tunic. He was given a spear (spiculum?), and faced his gladiatorial adversary, a sturdy looking fighter in a leather cuirass. At this point, he promptly wet himself, a yellow stream running down from his tunic between his legs. The effects team were to be applauded. To cut a long story short, Chavicus didn�t put up much of a fight, before ending up on his back. The gladiator promptly gouged his eyes out with a sword, and paraded them before the baying crowd. Domitian indicated that his time was up, and the now blinded and whimpering Chavicus had his throat cut, blood sprayed, and the crowd laughed themselves hoarse. Let that stand as a warning to any others with lapsed English Heritage membership!
And yes, like every man in the place, I did consider signing up for gladiatorial reenactment. The swords . . . the glory . . . what a life! Sadly, there is now a damp smell coming from the guest wing at OfClayton Towers, and I can�t locate the source, so my life and resources for the near future will probably be used up in getting that sorted out.
�Plumbituri te salutant!�
PS There are many more photos of the day on the gallery.