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What Was It ACTUALLY Like To Watch Roman Gladiators Fight Live At The Coliseum

What Was It ACTUALLY Like To Watch Roman Gladiators Fight Live At The Coliseum

You’ve heard the legendary stories of Roman
Gladiators like Spartacus, but have you ever wondered what it would be like to actually
be at the Colosseum for a gladiator fight? An ancient Roman’s experience of a gladiator
fight, from the location of their seats to their reason for attending, would depend a
lot on their place on the Roman social ladder. Why did Roman rulers put on gladiator fights? What would it have been like to be a citizen
witnessing the spectacle? How would it have felt to be a gladiator preparing
to fight for your life? Today on the Infographics Show we’ll experience
a gladiator fight at the Colosseum through the eyes of an ordinary Roman citizen, an
influential politician, and a popular gladiator, to learn what it would be like to be at the
Colosseum for a gladiator fight for different classes of Romans. You probably recognize the crumbling facade
of the Roman Colosseum. After centuries of earthquakes, neglect and
even stone thieves, the impressive stone arches are still an iconic symbol of the Roman Empire
at the height of its power. Emperor Vespasian began construction of the
Colosseum around 72 CE, and it was completed in 80 CE by his successor Emperor Titus. At the time of the Colosseum’s completion,
Emperor Titus’ reign was in trouble – crisis after crisis, including the destruction of
Pompeii, had his people wondering if the gods were displeased by their emperor. In an extravagant and expensive effort to
regain public favour and pacify the masses, he celebrated the opening of the Roman Colosseum
with 100 days of games. This was a classic example of what the Roman
poet Juvenal called the “bread and circuses” program – distracting the public from their
troubles and the corruption of the ruling class with free entertainment. Important men throughout history sponsored
gladiator contests to display their wealth and power, and attempt to increase their popularity
with the masses. The more gladiators they sponsored, the more
expensive and therefore impressive the contest. Since they were so expensive to train, the
sponsor could be charged up to 100 times the regular fee if a gladiator died, so a sponsor
who allowed a gladiator to be killed during a fight would have been showing off his wealth
and generosity. By the early 5th century, the popularity of
gladiator fights was fading with the rise of Christianity. In 404 CE, Emperor Honorius officially ended
gladiator fights after a Christian monk was stoned to death in the arena by an angry crowd
for stepping between two fighting gladiators. Just six years later the Roman Empire would
fall in the infamous Sack of Rome. During its heyday though, the Roman Colosseum
was the largest arena of its time, covering more than 6 acres. The arena floor was made of wood and covered
with sand and the arena was surrounded by a 15 foot high wall- fun fact: the latin word
for sand is actually ‘harena’. In a design that would feel familiar to modern
sports fans and concert-goers, the arena was surrounded by a series of tiered seating areas
that could fit more than 50,000 spectators. This tiered seating was a hallmark of the
Roman Colosseum, and was fitting of Rome’s strict social hierarchy. The poorest, most unimportant people were
relegated to the nosebleeds. As you increased in social importance, you
moved closer to the action on the arena floor. Each tier was divided into sections, and all
sections, rows and stairways were numbered to correspond with the numbers on the shards
of pottery that served as tickets. Seats were accessed through one of 80 entrance
gates leading to a passageway behind each section, which allowed for quick evacuation
in emergencies. The passageways were called “vomitaria”,
meaning “to discharge quickly” – fun fact, this is the root of the word “vomit”. A day at the gladiator games for the ruling
class was all about strategy – forging alliances and gathering information, undermining enemies
and currying favour. As an influential senator, you would arrive
at the games through one of the four richly decorated grand entrance gates and make your
way to your seat on the Podium. The Podium, or “place of honour” was a
15-foot wide marble platform that made up the first tier of seating, and offered the
best view of the arena floor below. It was reserved for the most important Romans,
like nobles, priests, and politicians like yourself. The Emperor had his own Imperial Box on the
Podium, which he could access through a lavish tunnel directly from the Imperial Palace. Less important Romans from the “Patrician”
or ruling class would sit in the second tier just behind the Podium. Because of your power and influence, you would
have been able to reserve a prominent space for yourself quite close to the Imperial Box
by carving your name in the stone. As you settled in to the stool and cushions
you brought with you to await the start of the show, you’d be talking with your important
neighbors and keeping your ears open for any useful gossip that might win you favor with
the emperor. In his book Gladiator: The Roman Fighter’s
(Unofficial) Manual, author Philip Matyszak explains that although betting was technically
illegal, wagers on gladiator fights were extremely common, especially among the ruling class. Even gladiators were known to place bets! As a wealthy Roman, you would likely have
some money riding on your favorite fighter, if only to pass the time and hear more gossip. For the common Roman citizen, a gladiator
fight would mean a much-needed day off and a rare chance for some entertainment. As a hard-working laborer and a member of
the “Plebian” class, you’d be entitled to a seat in the upper sections of the third
tier. Although tickets were free for citizens, if
your favorite Gladiator was scheduled to fight today, you might pay a scalper for a better
ticket, closer to the action in the lower third-tier seats, where your boss would sit
with the wealthier businessmen and merchants. On the day of the games you would check your
ticket for your section and row number, and enter the Colosseum through the numbered gate
closest to your section. When you reach your seat high up in the third
tier, you would say “Goodbye” to your wife, who would continue on up to the gallery
where steep wooden seats in the fourth tier were reserved for common women. This may seem unfair, but some groups, like
slaves, artists, grave diggers and ex-Gladiators, were not allowed to enter the Colosseum at
all. You would have brought your own wooden plank
to make the marble benches more comfortable, and possibly even a picnic lunch. That may seem gruesome, but as a city-dweller
in the days before YouTube, you took what you could get as far as entertainment went. Gladiator fights were a chance to see what
battle looked like, and ancient people were no stranger to death and violence in their
daily lives. Plus, gladiators were not really considered
human in ancient Rome, anyways. For the average Roman citizen, a day at the
Colosseum was all about entertainment, and was a welcome opportunity for a break from
the daily grind of life in ancient Rome. Although technically frowned upon by authorities,
you’d have no trouble finding someone to place a bet with if you had a little money
to spare. A gladiator fight also offered a rare chance
for an ordinary Roman Plebian to wield some power – the power of life and death over the
gladiators. During one of the first gladiator battles
of the day between two popular gladiators, one of the gladiators was severely wounded
early in the fight. He kneels down and raises his arm to the emperor,
signalling that he cannot fight on. The emperor must now decide – let him live,
or have the other gladiator kill him. In theory, it’s the emperor’s decision,
but in reality, he always does what the crowd wants. He looks around at the cheering masses, sees
many “thumbs-up” for “let him live”, but many more “thumbs-down” for “kill
him”. The crowd does not think the gladiator fought
well today, and so his fate is sealed. If you were unfortunate enough to be a criminal
in ancient Rome, then a day at the Colosseum would be your worst nightmare. Before the main event of the gladiator fights
and during intermissions, emperors took the opportunity to perform gruesome public executions,
as a display of power and to dissuade the public from revolting. Criminals would be fed to wild beasts, forced
to fight each other, or made to participate in dramatic executions based on Roman myths. As a runaway slave, you’d be spending the
day of a gladiator fight in a cage somewhere in the maze of the Hypogeum, two stories of
tunnels under the arena floor where people and animals awaited their turn in the arena. Much too soon, your time would come, and an
impressive series of machinery would come to life – with the help of pulleys, elevators
and trap doors, you would be raised from the Hypogeum and be deposited on the arena floor
to face your fate. Gladiators were the sports superstars of ancient
Rome. They were highly trained, received excellent
medical care (for the time…) and were fed an expensive, high-energy diet, making them
a big investment for the owners of gladiator schools and the sponsors of gladiator fights. Despite their high status and skill, gladiators
were treated like slaves or property and lived a brutal life. What if you were a gladiator in ancient rome
though? Most of your fellow gladiators would be slaves
and captured prisoners of war, but you might have been sold to a gladiator school as a
young man to cover some family debt. Despite the hard life you live and the fact
that you are now a slave, you are proud of your role as a gladiator, and are renowned
for your strength and your fighting skills. After travelling from your training school
south of Rome, you’d arrive at the Colosseum on the day of the fights through a tunnel
from the gladiator’s barracks just outside the walls. You would await your turn in the arena with
the criminals and animals down in the Hypogeum. Your wait is a long one – as one of the most
popular gladiators, your fight is one of the final events of the day. If you’re lucky, you may get a chance to
speak to your family briefly before your fight, and have them place your bets for you. After many hours, you would enter the arena
to the roaring cheers of the crowd, and face your opponent. After a short fight you severely wound him,
and the crowd, feeling deprived of a longer, more drawn out battle, cries for his death. The emperor complies, and you are required
to end the life of your fellow gladiator. Although you aren’t happy to have to do
it, you can’t help but be grateful that you’ll live to fight another day – and maybe,
just maybe, you’ll be able to earn enough money to one day buy your freedom. For more than 300 years, the Colosseum was
the site of countless gladiator fights and other spectacles designed to show off the
power and wealth of the emperor and distract the public from their troubles. More than half a million people and tens of
thousands of animals met a violent and bloody end on the sands of the arena. Although gladiator fights ended hundreds of
years ago, they continue to capture our imaginations and inspire everything from the chivalric
tournaments of medieval knights, to the Olympic games, to modern Hollywood movies. So, how do you think it would have felt to
be at a gladiator fight at the Colosseum? Do you think you could stomach the action
from the Podium? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our other episode,
“The Worst Things That Happened in the Roman Colosseum”. Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t
forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time!

Reader Comments

  1. Can we have more ancient AFRICAN history like you do with Asia, Rome, Greece…. I’m Ethiopian and we have very interesting and VERY VERY OLD HISTORY.

    And no African American history but cowboys and etc.

    Not even a basic MLK Jr video.

    Shame smh please do better

  2. I still think we ought to bring it back. Just like dueling. If two consenting adults want to fight to the death, who are we to tell them no?

  3. It's spelt "Colosseum" and it wasn't 15 ft high it was 157 ft high! ffs, you have nearly 8 million subs and you can't even do basic research

  4. Stopped watching ever since you’ve implemented 3-4 ads per video. Completely alienating your core that’s been with you for years

  5. Most gladiators were glory seeking athletes who went to gladiator school
    There were some slaves but not all of them since gladiators were like modern day Hollywood stars in the eye of the masses loved and cherished by them sponsored and some gladiators done the ancient Rome equivalent of ads

  6. I love this channel but he didnt really explained what it was like for citizens to watch the fight. He just explained the seatings and bettings and etc.

  7. “Even” stonethieves… not like the vatican taking all the marble from Roman buildings for their churches is the prime reason.

  8. I heard about the fact that a thumb up meant death cause it symbolizes the rised sword the thumb down or in your hand the sword in the sword sheath

  9. I feel like 50 videos have been made on this topic. It’s beaten to death. Take a gamble do an infographics on less generic topics. Talk about the atrocities committed in Africa during colonization. King Leopoldo the unspoken genocide in the Congo. African dictatorships their rise and fall. Etc

  10. How do they not know thumbs up probably meant death (sword pointing to the losers neck instead of thumbs down indicating put your sword in the ground and let him live)?

  11. I love how the introduction of Christianity marks the downfall of every great empire…. And yet we still have believers today 😂😂

  12. Waiting for the "and here we're going to use infographics favorite writer to see what it is like to fight as a gladiator"

    I'm so disappointed now!

  13. It was more like a boxing match. People would cheer them on and gladiators rarely died as it was way too expensive. If it got too brutal, the referee would step between them and stop them.

  14. Hey could you do a video about wrinkles the clown I looked him up it seems like something interesting you could put on your channel just a thought


  16. I’m just gonna say that almost all of the stories you hear off to the death gladiator fights weren’t actually gladiators, but criminals forced to fight as punishment, where they would fight and fight until they died or became so popular with the crowd they were spared. Gladiators would stop fighting when the other was knocked out or too injured to carry on, not when the other was dead. It was more like a boxing fight with weapons.

  17. Did he just say that gladiator fights inspired the Olympic Games because the first Olympic Games were in 700s BCE sooooooo……

  18. Do they really worship roman god's though? (I mean the Greek gods that they renamed).Like Jupiter and Pluto and Neptune?

  19. When I was at the Colosseum last year, all I could think about was what it must have been like to be there back then!!

  20. sigh

    Thumbs down meant live.
    Thumbs up meant die…

    Minus that, you've helpede get through many hours of dour work shifts

  21. Fun fact most of the time gladiators did not fight to the death because of there expenses and there were rules to fighting 😂😂

  22. This whole video: exists
    Me, after watching an Adam ruins everything episode on this topic and knowing that gladiators pnly jad a one in ten chansei of dying in a match: "you triggered my trap card!"

  23. They had impressively seemingly modern technology like the elevator and ways like the seating and tickets

  24. So gladiator fights are organised group of people watching unorganized people fighting each other and animals

  25. Nothing has changed from 2000 years ago… We are still doing the exact same things they are doing. With USA being the number 1 fanboy of Roman stuff, you can see it in every single aspect of American life and politics. Remember how Roman politicians borrow a fortune from the banks for election campaign only so if they win they can corrupt and make money back 10 fold what they borrowed? Yeah… We're still doing that too.

  26. Fact: C.E. Is used in place of A.D. when fear of acknowledging Christian eminence influence on time and history.

  27. it was illegal to be christian in the roman empire so how would it get more popular without the roman empire getting mad

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