GLADIATORIAL COMBAT-THE REAL STORY
The movies such as Ridley Scott's film "Gladiator" have misled us again! That film depicted an arena where savage violence took place and the defeated gladiator was slain after being condemned to death by a blood-thirsty crowd.
Recently Austrian experts carried out a painstaking forensic analysis of 67 gladiators whose remains were found in a cemetery at Ephesus in Turkey, the Roman empire's hub of power in western Asia.
They found that the gladiators had a remarkable lack of multiple injuries and mutilation, which suggests the fighters were restricted to only one type of weapon per one-on-one bout and were barred from savaging their wounded opponent. Even though most gladiators wore helmets, 10 of the 67 had died from a squarish hammer-like injury to the side of the head -- a blow that appears to have been inflicted by a back-stage executioner. Evidently mortally wounded gladiators were still alive when taken from the arena and were put out of their agony by that massive blow to the skull.
If you would like to indulge in fiction about Rome with a very authentic ring to it, try White Murder, a Marcus Corvinus Mystery by David Wishart, a Scots classic professor. The focus is on charioteers not gladiators. But you get a very good idea of the sports of Rome in the 1st century AD and its street life, wine bars, corruption and intrigues.