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How the Gladiators were trained...

How the Roman Gladiators were trained...
While the prospect of taking the gladiator's oath no doubt horrifies us, relative to the life Romans at the economic margin enjoyed, conditions in gladiatorial schools were not that bad. It is true that the conditions in the school where Spartacus trained were bad enough to spark the worst slave revolt in Roman history. However, this school was an anomaly. Owners and trainers conceived of gladiators as an investment. Skimping on the schools simply didn't make sense. Gladiators received a reasonable diet (a high protein/fat diet in training) and good (for the day) medical care. They formed enduring relationships with women that resulted in children, and if they survived to freedom, legally recognized marriages and families. Within the community of gladiators they, like all Romans, formed collegia and shared a cult worship of the god Hercules. In fact, in a bizarre way, the gladiatorial schools seem to have provided their inhabitants with a vital, united and committed community (admittedly predicated on the possibility that one might have to kill another). Gladiators were trained not merely how to fight well, but how to make an efficient killing blow and, if defeated, how to offer one's body for the most effective coup de grace. In cases where gladiators or bestarii were mortally wounded in the arena, the accepted practice seems to have been to remove them from public view before executing the killing blow. Typically gladiators fought a handful of matches a year, and would, if they survived, win there freedom after a number (which varied widely depending on time and place) their freedom. Even gladiators who lost a match could survive if the audience pleaded their case to the editor.

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