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Virtual Brown Bag Colloquium: And Each Drew Out the Contest: Fight Choreography and Roman Gladitorial Spectacles
Dr. Adam Donaldson, Program Coordinator & Adjunct Instructor, Department of History at UArizona
February 03, 2021, at 12:30 PM
As the highlight of Roman munera (gladiatorial spectacles), single combats between professional gladiators capture the modern imagination as much as they thrilled and shocked ancient audiences. While commonly portrayed and understood as mortal duels between expendable combatants, evidence suggests a more complicated reality lurking beneath a popular façade. Using a range of evidence, including ancient literary and epigraphic sources, as well as comparative material drawn from later European fighting manuals, it can be shown that gladiatorial combats incorporated what modern readers would understand as fight choreography. Far from being unrestrained displays of carnage, the bouts of professional gladiators were “rigged” to produce a desired result, namely the larger-than-life display of martial skill subordinated to narrative public spectacle.