Ludi et Venationes

Everything related to the ludi circenses and its teams or workings, including games or contests in the Societas Via Romana. Bring on the fun!

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Venationes - Gladiatorial Fights

Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Thu Mar 09, 2006 11:25 am

Salve mi Mari,

Aldus Marius wrote:Not everything that's fun is a ludus. And some things that are ludi I don't find very entertaining at all! I like reading about the chariot-races, when they're busy and I'm relaxing; they more than justify a separate section. OTOH, I strongly object to venationes. Being who I am, I cannot, under any circumstances, take animal abuse lightheartedly. There are some things you just don't kid me about.


I totally agree with you, because I too strongly object venationes. When I was in Spain I avoided going to a corrida which is actually a left over of the venationes as I've just recently read in one of my books about munera. I can't stand cruelty against animals so we definitely should leave that out even if it would be just virtual on our board here. I definitely don't mind gladiatorial fights, though (how could I since I delved now very deeply into this topic since I decided to be a gladiatrix for reenactment).
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Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Thu Mar 09, 2006 4:25 pm

Salvete Cleopatra et Mari,

I'm struck by the fact that you both object strongly to virtual representation of cruelty to animals yet condone (and participate in) virtual representation of cruelty to humans. Both the animals in the venationes and the gladiators in the games were not (usually) there of their own free will. What's the difference?

Most people hold that a human life is worth more than an animal life. If my four-year-old son is playing in the woods and is attacked by a bear, I'm going to shoot the bear. Would you not think me justified?

Tergestus

P.S. I like animals and love dogs, so don't get the wrong idea.
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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Thu Mar 09, 2006 9:47 pm

I was talking about gladiators and not the noxii (those condemned to death). Gladiators had a chance of surviving their fights in the arena and if they fought for some years they even had the chance to buy their freedom. Not every fight of gladiators was to the death, there were many where a missio was granted. Also there were many volunteers among the gladiators and even a prisoner of war had more chance in surviving when sent to a ludus (gladiator school) than if he had to work as a slave in the mines.

The animals which appeared in the venationes were caught just for the purpose of getting killed in the arena. Therefore it is something completely different than hunting animals for getting food and their leather and fur. It is also something different if you have to shoot a bear if it attacks you, though a bear always has a reason for attacking you, e.g. you come too near to its cubs.
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Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Thu Mar 09, 2006 9:55 pm

Salve Tergeste

Well there is a difference. I'm not all that familiar with how animals were used in arena's, but I think that they weren't exhousted when they entered the arena. Spanish bulls that enter the arena are tired. They were put in a room where the floor wasn't flat, something of a 45 degrees and the animals used most of its strength to stand upright and not fall down. Basicly, when the matador enters the arena, he doesn't have that much trouble defeating the animal which is cowardly. If the animal wasn't tired before it went into the arena, I don't think many people would do it.
The example you give that if your son was attacked by a bear and you would shoot it doesn't really ad up here, Tergeste. Self defence and self preservation are different things than intentionally hurting and killing a animal. Besides, the best weapon against any animal is information. If you know what to do when you are in a immediatly vicinity of an animal, it could save your life along with that of the animal in question.
I think that there are other methods to avoid a attack of a bear, just don't pretend you're dead. That will make it worse.
Besides, animals are now the gladiators of our time. I don't aprove of a match where two humans are set up against eachother where only one can survive, but putting a bear up against a pack of dogs who can only win by biting in its nose until it collapses on the ground is disgusting. That is what they do with bears in Pakistan and don't get me started on how friendly the chinese are with bears.
vale

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Postby Aldus Marius on Fri Mar 10, 2006 1:08 am

Salve, mi Tergeste, et Salvete onmes...

I am about to prove my psychiatrist right: I *am* a mild sociopath. Maybe it's because there are six billion human beings on the planet, and hardly any left of any other species except for the ones we agree are of some economic benefit to ourselves (grasses, cattle...). You ask me, the supply of human life greatly exceeds the demand, trust me...or why are we so awful to one another?

I wouldn't mind getting mauled by a bear. I wouldn't *enjoy* it, mind you, and I would certainly fight back...but if the bear won, at least Nature would get a very little bit of Her own back. For far too long we have excused ourselves from the rules of natural selection. Thus the world is full of breeding idiots.

Two gladiators, evenly matched, are participating in something very close to natural selection. Both understand the rules of the game, both know it *is* a game, and the good ones even try to make it a good show. An animal in the arena does not have the advantage of this perspective. For a matador, pro exemplo, the corrida is a matter of "acts" and "stages", of the few dozen passes he has mastered with the cape, of technique with the sword (most of them botch the kill), of parar, mandar y templar--getting the bull in synch with the matador's sense of timing and direction. From his perspective, performance in the fight is an art.

For the fighting bull, OTOH, the experience consists only of fifteen minutes of disorientation, frustration, pain, and death. He can't know that it's a game, or even a fight; the toreros do not "fight" by any rules known to cattle. He only knows that a man on a horse has just speared him between the shoulders so he can't lift his head all the way. The horse doesn't see it as a game, either; blindfolded, padded, it doesn't see much at all before the bull disembowels it, thus saving the knacker a bit of trouble. Neither of them is a willing participant; there is no pride, no art, in what they do; their best performance is rewarded in the same way as their worst: the meat is distributed to the poor. There are kinder ways to butcher livestock if meat were the issue.

Dogfights...cockfights...bear-baiting...camel fights...fox-hunts: none of the animals in these "sports" is a willing, or even a knowing (as in, knowing it's a sport), participant. How much less so the beasts in a venatio, most of whom didn't even get to fight, but were shot or speared with impunity by men hiding in artificial landscapes?

What the Romans did with animals was normal and perfectly acceptable for their culture and time. They could enjoy a beast-hunt. (Although not all did; even Cicero had some adverse comments about them.) But we like to think we have progressed. The humane movement got off the ground a couple hundred years ago because some people had finally had enough of how others treated their cart-horses. Simply put, enough of us have decided that it isn't fun anymore. We have even largely accepted the idea that the way we treat animals is a reflection on us as a society.

I do not think most moderns would enjoy a venatio if one were held live, not even on one of those "reality" shows. I know that I certainly don't want to see another one here. I have to be careful what I feed my head; animal abuse is my one and only automatic launch, and we wouldn't want me to become a medium sociopath, now, would we? >({|:-/

(Clarification: Actually, mi Tergeste, I don't do gladiators or gladiatorial reenactments. My participation in that venatio consisted of inserting myself as a protester. Even as a Legionary I've never been in a battle. I'm not with a unit; I just kit up, go to faires and colleges and SCA events, circulate, and interact with people. I'm educational, no more, no less. I can live with that.)

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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Tue Mar 14, 2006 9:41 pm

Thomas Wiedemann wrote in his book "Emperors and Gladiators" that the venationes were a symbol for the Romans that they conquered the world. They did not only conquered its people but also the nature and that was the reason why so many exotic animals appeared in the venationes. They combined in the venationes animals which never would have met in nature, like a rhinoceros against a bear.

When emperors like Commodus appeared as bestiarii they made sure they hunted down the animals from a safe place. He shot ostriches with arrows from a safe place.

Animals were also used to kill those who were condemned to death, the noxii. Of course the set ups where that the noxii had no chance to survive, at least as long as the animals reacted the way they were supposed to.

Well, this was just a very short summary on the venationes. I have to admit, I have been distracted while writing this. Just wanted to mention some words about this hotly debated topic. The above is just a summary what they did without any judgement, I had stated my opinion to the venationes already.
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Fri Mar 17, 2006 7:45 pm

Salvete ones

In a virtual arena it wouldn't seem to make much difference at first, but I think it does send the wrong message even to pretend holding venationes.

On gladiators, those were refereed fights. The cost of training and keeping gladiators meant that it was too expensive to allow them to be killed frequently. Even their sweat was an expensive asset to waste in a mortal contest. They were not bloody contests as is usually posed, but contests of skill. Recent examination of gladiator remains show that they were not wounded in combat, but rather the loser would sometimes be executed by a swift blow to the side of the head using a special instrument. There is no way of knowing for certain, but evidence suggests that deaths among gladiators in the arena were rare.

I see no point to being cruel to any animal, humans included. I don't support "sport" killing of animals, but do support hunting where the objective is to attain food. If you don't eat the animal, then it is only an act of vain cruelty. So the fact that ours would be a virtual hunt, even though not a real act, what we would be displaying is a cruel act. OTOH virtual gladiator fights display a contest of skill, and ours do not have to be bloody contests, even in a virtual sense, or necessarily end in death. If anything, sponsoring virtual gladiatorial contests might be instructive on what they were actually like, rather than the Hollywood nonsense that so pervades the image of such contests.

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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Sat Mar 18, 2006 10:48 pm

Salve Piscine,
salvete omnes,

Horatius Piscinus wrote:Recent examination of gladiator remains show that they were not wounded in combat, but rather the loser would sometimes be executed by a swift blow to the side of the head using a special instrument. There is no way of knowing for certain, but evidence suggests that deaths among gladiators in the arena were rare.


If a gladiator dropped his weapons and knelt down holding up his hand as a sign of surrender and the editor of the games decided not to grant him the missio he was killed by his oponent who used the same weapons as in the fight. This was done either by a stab with the gladius through the shoulder blade into the heart or a stab with the gladius or pugio in the throat. This was called iugulatio and no special instrument was used for that. It was expected that the defeated gladiator accepted this without complaints and it was his last chance to show his virtus.

From inscriptions of gravestones there are some facts known concerning the age and death of gladiators of which I would like to cite the following from the exhibition catalog of the special exhibition in Selcuk/Ephesos, Turkey:

* 21 years, 4 years training, death at 5th fight
* 22 years, 13 victories
* 23 years, 8 fights survived, death at 9th fight
* 25 years, 20 fights survived, 9 victories
* 27 years, 15 fights survived, death at 16th fight
* 30 years, 34 fights, 21 victories, 9 draws, 4 lost fights (missio granted)
* 35 years, 20 victories
* 38 years, 18 victories
* 48 years, 19 victories, 20 years in service as gladiator
* 60 years, freed and retired gladiator
* 99 years, freed and retired gladiator

Generally it can be said that it was more likely for tirones to lose their fights and die. The more fights a gladiator survived the more experienced he got and the more popular he got the more likely it was that the audience wanted the editor to grant him the missio. The highest death rate was therefore among the tirones, but they could die of accidents at the training or illnesses.
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Books on Gladiators and Venationes

Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Sat Mar 18, 2006 11:00 pm

Salvete iterum,

I would like to recommend the following books which cover the topics of gladiators and venationes:

Fik Meijer: The Gladiators - History's Most Deadly Sport. Thomas Dunne Books, Nov. 2005

Thomas Wiedemann: Emperors And Gladiators. Routledge, London, 1992

Eckart Köhne and Cornelia Ewigleben (editors): Gladiators and Caesars - The Power of Spectacle in Ancient Rome. University of California Press Berkeley, 2000

Marcus Junkelmann: Das Spiel mit dem Tod - So kämpften Roms Gladiatoren, Philipp von Zabern, Mainz, 2000

Unfortunately the Junkelmann book hasn't been published in English yet, but excerpts from this book can be find in the "Gladiators and Caesars" which is actually an exhibition catalog. The Junkelmann book is really the best when it comes to detailed descriptions of the weaponry of gladiators. He had a reenactment group of gladiators with which he experimented and the results of their experiments came into his book as well.
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Tue Mar 21, 2006 9:33 am

Salvete omnes

Cleopatra Aelia wrote:From inscriptions of gravestones there are some facts known concerning the age and death of gladiators of which I would like to cite the following from the exhibition catalog of the special exhibition in Selcuk/Ephesos, Turkey:

* 21 years, 4 years training, death at 5th fight
* 22 years, 13 victories
* 23 years, 8 fights survived, death at 9th fight
* 25 years, 20 fights survived, 9 victories
* 27 years, 15 fights survived, death at 16th fight
* 30 years, 34 fights, 21 victories, 9 draws, 4 lost fights (missio granted)
* 35 years, 20 victories
* 38 years, 18 victories
* 48 years, 19 victories, 20 years in service as gladiator
* 60 years, freed and retired gladiator
* 99 years, freed and retired gladiator
.


And what does this tell us? Three deaths out of 154 fights mentioned among the first nine gladiators amounts to less than 2% of gladiatorial contests ending with a death. And the percentage would be even less so if we knew how many fights the last two had before they retired.

Then also, from what you said on the manner of death, the contests would not appear to have been very bloody. They were not butchery contests where the gladiatores were hacking up one another. In those few contests that did end with a death, the death was performed in swift, executionary fashion.

I seriously doubt that the method of executing a gladiator was with a thrust through a shoulder blade. It would be a little difficult to execute such a blow. Perhaps you mean in the area between the left shoulder blade and the spine, passing through the rib cage into the heart with a downward thrust. Likewise with the jugulatio, the blade point positioned at the base of the neck, thrust downward into the heart for a swift, almost instantaneous death. In contrast, severing the jugular results in death after several seconds, - although in about three seconds the person would probably pass out - with the blood spurting out profusely, likely resulting in a siezure before death due to lack of oxygen to the brain, and the person seen violently twitching for the last few seconds before death, in a rather undignified form of death. The methods of execution that you describe, once again, indicates a display of considerable skill instead. And I will point out that those methods you describe, you indicate, are taken from texts rather than from examination of the actual remains as was done more recently. Gladiatorial remains indicate execution by use of a round instrument, like the end of a ballpeen hammer, such as the implements shown in Roman mosaics that the referees are seen carrying. Gladiatorial contests were nothing like what Hollywood depicts.

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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Tue Mar 21, 2006 1:28 pm

Salve Piscine,

I was referring in my post to the excavation of a gladiator cemetary in Ephesos done by the Austrian Archaeological Institute who examined the bones of the buried gladiators. They have some graphics in the book demonstrating the iugulatio. Please excuse me if I'm unprecise in describing the type of iugulatio with the shoulder blade since I do not have dictionary specialized on medical terms. :(

They did not mention any special instrument to execute the iugulatio. If you have any source of this instrument I would appreciate it if you name them or have the possibility to post a link to a mosaic in question or post an image of the mosaic here. But you are not referring to the hammer a figure thought to represent the Etruscan Charun carries? :?:
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