Book Review: Gladiators

Written by Katherine Frew

reviewed by Joselyn Zuniga, age 13

Ancient Rome was not only a place of power and wealth, but also home to a unique form of entertainment. In Gladiators Battling in the Arena , Katherine Frew introduces us to the history of gladiators and their importance in Roman entertainment.

In Latin the word gladiator means “sword bearer.” They were Roman warriors who fought for their lives every time they entered an arena. The Colosseum, Ancient Rome's biggest and most famous arena, still exists today. During the venatio games gladiators were pitted against deadly animals like lions and bears. In some games, as many as nine thousand animals were killed.

Although this sport tended to be incredible violent anyone could participate. Even women were allowed to battle. Free citizens sometimes volunteered, but most participants were criminals, prisoners of war, or slaves who wanted to obtain their freedom.

In order for a gladiator to perform in a fight, he had to train at his best. The training took place in a school called a ludi . A lanista , or owner of a gladiator troupe, would rent the gladiator from whomever was in charge of the circus' entertainers. The goal of training was not only based on fighting well, but also killing opponents quickly and efficiently.

There were three many types of gladiators. The two I found most interesting were the hoplomachus and the essedarri . The hoplomachus were well protected with a helmet, a round shield and a complete suit of armor. The essedarri had a unique way of fighting. They fought from chariots, a very ancient Britannic way of fighting.

There are many factors that led to the end of this Roman sport. Over time the circuses became too costly to run, and the death toll was too high. The rise of Christianity religion influenced emperors to end the games. Finally in 405, Emperor Honorious outlawed gladiator fights for good.

I would strongly recommend this book to any middle schooler who enjoys learning about history, I recommend it because it gives you the chance to dig deep to the beginning of sports!