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Gladiators and Christian ethics

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I read somewhere online recently, that the problem that Christians had with gladiatorial combat was that the emperors have the power to redeem the gladiators, which goes against the central tenet of Christian faith that there is salvation only through Christ.  I am wondering, is it only the emperor's power to declare a gladiator a free Roman citizen that bothered early Christians or was it simply the authority to decide life or death for a defeated gladiator?


I also kind of wonder what theologians make of the presidential pardon power.  Here in the U.S., felons are denied the right to vote and the president has the power to restore it.

Edited by dnewhous
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I would be curious as to where you might have read that. I am not familiar with gladiatorial combat after Christianity reached Rome, but I might imagine that Christians would have had issues with more aspects of the combat than just that the Emperor only could redeem gladiators (I am not sure that making gladiators free citizens could be likened to redeeming them, and having power of life and death over someone is not necessarily pagan or Christian, I would have thought.


I do like your question about what theologians (assumedly of any religious affiliation) might make of presidential pardon. There are other religious venues akin to "forgiveness" of some kind, which may or may not always satisfy social mores.


But to keep this more associated with Roman history--what is the history of gladiatorial combat? When did it end? Did it die out first in any particular region or province?

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The sad truth is that most christians had no problem with gladiatorial combat. It was entertainment, however gory. It is true however that christianity was rising in popular acceptance at the same time as the arena was getting less formal and much bloodier in the search for public ratings, and less popular for it. There was however a moral minority who took christianity far more seriously than most, and they saw the arena as a venue for bloodshed, or formalised murder if you like. one monk, Telemachus, rushed into the arena to stop the fight, whereupon an frustrated gladiator slew him. Honorius was supposed to have issued a ban on gladiators as a result (such were fights were banned


An imperially sanctioned munus at some time in the 330s suggests that yet again, imperial legislation to curb the games proved ineffective, not least when Constantine defied his own law. In 365, Valentinian I (r. 364–375) threatened to fine a judge who sentenced Christians to the arena and in 384 he attempted, like most of his predecessors, to limit the expenses of munera.

In 393, Theodosius (r. 379–395) adopted Nicene Christianity as the state church of the Roman Empire and banned pagan festivals. The ludi continued, very gradually shorn of their stubbornly pagan munera. Honorius (r. 395–423) legally ended munera in 399, and again in 404, at least in the Western half of the Empire according to Theodoret, because of the martyrdom of Saint Telemachus by spectators at a munus. Valentinian III (r. 425–455) repeated the ban in 438, perhaps effectively, though venationes continued beyond 536.


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