Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Rise of the Gladiators and Their Athletic Training

Posted on 3rd February, by admin in General Fitness, Inspiration, Wisdom. No Comments

From the Kubrick's thoughtful 1960 film "Spartacus," to Russell Crowe's brooding performance in "Gladiator," to the sexy gore-fest otherwise known as the Starz drama "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," gladiators have long been a favorite subject in popular culture.

Though the reality of gladiatorial life may have differed significantly from that of the oiled-up poster boys featured in many modern portrayals, several facets of gladiators' athletic training have survived the test of time. In fact, many of today's professional athletes follow training regimens that mimic those common in ancient Rome.

But the similarities don't stop there; in addition to intense, regimented training, gladiators also followed certain nutritional guidelines and enjoyed public adulation — much like modern athletes.

The first gladiatorial events were performed to honor the dead; games were called "munera," a term that connotes duties paid to deceased ancestors. The first recorded gladiatorial event took place in 264 BC, a funeral rite in which three pairs of gladiators fought to the death.

Early matches had great religious significance. The gladiators were believed to act as armed attendants, accompanying the dead to the next world and appeasing the spirits of the dead with their blood.

The real fun — for the spectators, anyway — didn't start until the munera's religious significance was replaced by political influence. Once a rite performed to honor the passing of important men, gladiatorial combat became a spectacle designed increase the power of the ruling class. The Carthaginian theologian Tertullian described this phenomenon as "public entertainment [that] has passed from being a compliment to the dead to being a compliment to the living."

The gladiators themselves were mostly drawn from the lower classes; their ranks were filled with slaves, captured fugitives, criminals, prisoners of war and others who had no choice in the matter. However, some free men — known as "auctorati" — actually volunteered; by the fall of the Roman Empire, as many as half of all gladiators joined voluntarily.

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