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Superfit, muscled, and macho, gladiators were hero-worshipped for their skills and courage as they fought to the death, yet despised for their humble status. For over six cruel centuries, tens of thousands died in the blood soaked arenas of Rome and its colonies, watched by enthralled crowds screaming for violence. Professor Fik Meijer has ingeniously pieced together their true stories from contemporary evidence, describing the gladiators' origins, daily life, training, and the odds of their survival pitted against their legions of fans' lust for blood and spectacle.
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About the Author

FIK MEIJER is a Professor of Ancient History at the University of Amsterdam and is the author of Emperors Don't Die in Bed. His next book will be a study of Rome's charioteers.

Reviews

It is refreshing to read a work on such a significant Roman institution that does not cater completely to Hollywood. In fact, prior to addressing film's representations in his last chapter, Meijer (ancient history, Univ. of Amsterdam; Emperors Don't Die in Bed) demonstrates his comprehension of the scholarship surrounding leisure and violence in ancient Rome. He explores the roots of the gladiatorial games, surmising that the origins of Roman combat were in Campania rather than Etruria. However, he does admit the sport may have Greek roots, owing to the nature of funeral games described by Homer. Meijer's familiarity with ancient warfare shows when he describes the various weapons used by gladiators (glossary included) and how the training schools were administered. One might wish he had used his considerable skills in historiography to speculate more fully on how the games fitted into the Roman psyche and how Rome's amusements culturally evolved over the centuries. Indeed, Meijer's introduction implies that such an investigation was one of his motives for writing the book. Regardless, his topic does allow the reader to comprehend the incredible barbarity of the emperors. Recommended for all libraries.-Clay Williams, Hunter Coll., New York Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Locked in mortal combat before 50,000 cheering spectators in the Colosseum, the two gladiators thrust and parry until the crowd gets what it came for: one dead athlete and one living, victorious athlete. While the games themselves might have been exciting for the Roman crowds, Meijer's listless prose and superficial examination of the gladiator's life and work fails to capture any of the excitement, terror and pride that the gladiators and spectators must have felt. In pedantic fashion, he provides a survey of the different types of gladiators, the kinds of animals they fought, the dimensions of the Colosseum and other amphitheaters and the daily life of a gladiator. As many other books have pointed out, the gladiators themselves were slaves or prisoners of war who were rigorously trained in the sport. Meijer (Emperors Don't Die in Bed), a professor of ancient history at the University of Amsterdam, also describes a typical day at the Colosseum that featured hunters fighting animals, followed by executions of criminals during lunch and finally human combat. Apart from a tendentious and nitpicky critique of the historical accuracy of the films Spartacus and The Gladiator, Meijer adds nothing new to our knowledge about gladiators. 55 b&w illus. (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Forget Russell Crowe in a skirt and sandals, this is the real deal if you want to know about blood and guts in the arena. The author has pieced together thousands of documents, eyewitness testimonies, and engravings to tell in vivid detail the story of the gladiators of ancient Rome. "Forget Russell Crowe in a skirt and sandals, this is the real deal if you want to know about blood and guts in the arena. The author has pieced together thousands of documents, eyewitness testimonies, and engravings to tell in vivid detail the story of the gladiators of ancient Rome." --The Daily Mail [UK]"Fik Meijer, a professor of ancient history in Amsterdam, gives fascinating insight into Ancient Rome's gladiators. ... An in-depth book...." --The Big Issue"[Meijer] has written a history that is at once interesting, informative, and fast-paced. Thumbs up or thumbs down? No contest." --Leeds Guide Forget Russell Crowe in a skirt and sandals, this is the real deal if you want to know about blood and guts in the arena. The author has pieced together thousands of documents, eyewitness testimonies, and engravings to tell in vivid detail the story of the gladiators of ancient Rome. The Daily Mail [UK] Fik Meijer, a professor of ancient history in Amsterdam, gives fascinating insight into Ancient Rome's gladiators. ... An in-depth book.... The Big Issue [Meijer] has written a history that is at once interesting, informative, and fast-paced. Thumbs up or thumbs down? No contest. Leeds Guide" Forget Russell Crowe in a skirt and sandals, this is the real deal if you want to know about blood and guts in the arena. The author has pieced together thousands of documents, eyewitness testimonies, and engravings to tell in vivid detail the story of the gladiators of ancient Rome. "The Daily Mail [UK]" Fik Meijer, a professor of ancient history in Amsterdam, gives fascinating insight into Ancient Rome's gladiators. ... An in-depth book.... "The Big Issue" [Meijer] has written a history that is at once interesting, informative, and fast-paced. Thumbs up or thumbs down? No contest. "Leeds Guide"" "Forget Russell Crowe in a skirt and sandals, this is the real deal if you want to know about blood and guts in the arena. The author has pieced together thousands of documents, eyewitness testimonies, and engravings to tell in vivid detail the story of the gladiators of ancient Rome." -- "The Daily Mail" [UK] "Fik Meijer, a professor of ancient history in Amsterdam, gives fascinating insight into Ancient Rome's gladiators. ... An in-depth book...." -- "The Big Issue" [Meijer] has written a history that is at once interesting, informative, and fast-paced. Thumbs up or thumbs down? No contest." -- "Leeds Guide"

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