Sorry, but I have another question I need help with.
Does anyone know where I can get an English Translation of the Memoires of Diocles? Ap(p)uleius Diocles was a charioteer in 2nd century Rome.
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Well, as someone here pointed out, our vision of what the arena was like is heavily influenced by Hollywood, at least for the layperson who is not familiar with Rome or its culture.
Gladiators were like athletes and some of them were like the baseball heroes of our time and typically, most of them were skilled in their art and put on a good display of fighting, when called for. The typical gladiator may have fought two or three times a year, maybe more. I think the better you were, the fewer the fights.
Like the typical Roman soldier, gladiators lived on a mostly vegetarian diet and I guess meat (pork for the most part) was a luxury, probably served on special occasions.
Condemned slaves were often used in the arena as 'fodder' for skilled gladiators to despatch, as they would be poorly armed compared to the gladiators they would face. This was a form of execution and if anyone survived, it was up to the public to spare his life.
I'm familiar with the games during the Republic, when it was practically unheard of to witness combats to the death. For most owners of gladiatorial schools, it was a sheer waste of money, effort and years of training to have a gladiator fight to the death. Of course, injuries could happen and death could result from a serious wound, despite prompt treatment. This would be more of an accident than anything else.
Gladiators earned money on each fight, with the lion's share going to the owner / lanista. However, they would get to keep any personal gifts / tips from their fan base. I guess some of the tips were also in kind as there are accounts of Roman matrons seeking the company of gladiators - who knows, maybe they just wanted to see them up close. These are more in the category of rumors than actual fact. I'm sure there were affairs going on but again, we have no hard evidence in the form of an actual anecdote that has been corroborated by several sources.
Some of the gladiators were, of course, civilians and not slaves. I seriously doubt that there were any of the nobility though, as gladiators were bound to the school and although some of them may have had visiting privileges (if their families were in the city), the majority of them would have been confined to the premises of the school and would have been subject to a rigorous daily routine - wake up, eat, train, eat, train, sleep. There may have been a free period in the afternoon when they would be allowed to hang out in the courtyard or play dice or do nothing. The lanista would always be around and for all practical purposes, they were like prisoners of the school and were bound by its rules.
On the bloody aspect, I doubt we would have seen much blood, except for a few nicks and cuts as a result of the fights. Again, in later periods, things may have been different as there are accounts of mass combat and slaughter during spectacles hosted by Nero / Commodus. However, I doubt they would have used highly trained gladiators (think racehorses - would you put your prize stallion to death after one race ?. Prisoners and condemned slaves (in the case of Nero, Christians maybe ?) would have been used.