spectacle_lecture_12_8_09 - Lecture notes gladiators and...

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Lecture notes 12/8/09: gladiators and spectators first we’ll watch the film clip from “Spartacus” that I meant to show you a week ago, where there’s a fight to the death in the training ludus Gladiators’ status --gladiators legally belonged to a very low status category called infamis , “unspeakable,” by Roman law (this is where we get the word “infamous”) --other people in this category included actors, prostitutes, lanistas , and pimps: i.e. people who made a living by making their (or someone else’s) body available for public display and use --people in this status category weren’t allowed to make wills or marry Roman citizens, to run for office, to testify in court; even if they were not technically slaves, they were considered slave-like, servile --this status distinction is one reason why Roman spectators despised gladiators, at least officially: they were no better than prostitutes, and in ways rather similar to prostitutes --it’s also one reason, of course, why Romans found gladiators fascinating, enthralling, even sexy… --we’re going to talk today about the appeal of gladiators to spectators: first we’ll talk about how their very low status paradoxically made them attractive then we’ll talk about ways they resembled idealized soldiers and thus tapped into appealing Roman nostalgia finally we’ll talk about how a few elite men and even women spectators found gladiators so appealing that they volunteered to fight as gladiators themselves! Gladiators and slaves --most gladiators were slaves; others were criminals, and a few were free volunteers --the fact that the vast majority of gladiators were slaves (and/or criminals) might make it sound like gladiators were considered nonpersons, disposable, and cheap; some of them were treated this way, but as we’ve talked about, skilled gladiators were seen as considerable investments and were treated carefully, after a fashion --this points to the wide spectrum of slavery that existed in ancient Rome, something that your reading today and in general from WoR does a good job of illuminating: on the one end of the spectrum would be someone made to do crushing manual labor o examples of these sorts of slaves include those who worked in the mines or the quarries (which was also something you could sentence a criminal to, with the expectation they’d die quickly doing that kind of hard labor) o life expectancy was very low; skeletons of slaves from Pompeii show abnormally early arthritis and bone degeneration o slaves would be considered interchangeable, short-lived machine parts at the other end of the spectrum were slaves with particular, valued skills, who would be taught those skills, fed, clothed, and housed relatively well, and treated
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This note was uploaded on 11/30/2010 for the course BIOS 101 taught by Professor Plantz during the Spring '08 term at UNL.

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spectacle_lecture_12_8_09 - Lecture notes gladiators and...

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