Visum est spectaculum 

Gladiatorial games and the balance between the military and public security (Part 2)

Christoph Ebner


(Translation: Christopher Schönberger, Austrian Armed Forces Language Institute)


Part 1 dealt with the influence of gladiatorial games and their protagonists on the army reform at the turn of the first century BC, as well as on the Roman army of the Republic and the early Empire. The following will look at the connections and reciprocities between the entertainment industry, the state and the army.


Auxiliary Forces or a Danger to the State

The negative effects of the radical economic changes, especially in the shape of a growing latifundia economy requiring hosts of slaves,[1] became obvious not just in the large-scale slave uprisings at the turn of the second to the first century BC.[2] It was to be the third big conflict, the Spartacus revolt,[3] which dramatically proved to the Romans the dangers of the slave economy and especially of the inflated industry surrounding the gladiator games. Their growth had been too fast; more and more men fit for military service were in the training camps. Living conditions in the schools were poor, security lax. When the uprising finally began in Capua, it lasted from 73 to 71 BC, not least because there was a constant flow of men joining Spartacus. It was only through disproportionate effort that the Romans finally managed to force a solution.[4]

The events of those years were, however, read as a warning sign. It became clear that the enemy was virtually outside the Roman city walls, since Italy formed the geographic centre of the infrastructure required by the gladiator games. A further lesson that had to be learned from the past battles was that swordsmen from the schools could be militarily successful if they managed to force their way of fighting on to the legionaries. The consequence was that attempts were made to adapt security provisions in the cities and the countryside. Although access to weapons outside training and fighting had already been barred to the gladiators in the schools, it became obvious that earlier efforts had proved nowhere effective enough. In order to avoid similar developments in future, the first step was to monitor gladiator schools much more closely, also by employing the army.[5] Up to the days of the Empire, soldiers were thus posted near places which were critical points in that they featured a high concentration of gladiators and training centres.[6] However, even this was not deemed sufficient in times of looming crises. Rumours of an imminent slave insurgency along the lines of Spartacus’ revolt, made public feelings run high;[7] as happened in 63 BC during the Catilinarian conspiracy. The Senate feared that the insurgents would recruit gladiators if they managed, for example, to take Capua.

As reported by Sallust, the decision was taken “uti gladiatoriae familiae Capuam et in cetera municipia distribuerentur pro cuiusque opibus[8] to distribute the gladiators in the schools, on the basis of available means, among Capua and the other towns. Thus, a concentration of these dangerous fighters at specific points was to be avoided, as well as increased security guaranteed. A similar course of action was followed by Pompeii when faced with the approaching conflict with Julius Caesar, as Cicero confirmed in a letter to Atticus:[9]What I previously wrote, on the basis of a letter by Torquatus, concerning Caesar’s gladiators in Capua, is not true; Pompeii has expediently distributed them in pairs among the individual families. There were 5,000 heavily armed men in the fencing school; rumour has it that they were close to a break-out. This has done much for our fatherland.[10] This means that in Capua alone, 5,000 fighters were held,[11] among whom there must have been numerous prisoners of war, who were Caesar’s personal spoils, won in various conquests, especially those in Gaul. Cicero, but also Pompeii, must have feared that these heavily armed men, of almost legion strength, might escape and, like Spartacus’ slave army, fight their way through the peninsula, or be loyal to Caesar and, led by his followers, form an additional factor of insecurity right in the middle of Italy.[12] Guided by the example quoted by Sallust, Pompeii decided to disarm the men and to distribute them as slaves to the familiae of the environs. Military forces should not and could not be used to guard them. Gladiator slaves were integrated into the households of rich Romans, who were also tasked with guarding them. Pompeii’s intervention was also a great financial loss for Caesar, who found himself robbed of his trained gladiators. In those days of festering conflict it had thus become difficult, and for a certain time even impossible, for him to influence the people through munera

Tacitus reports that, despite all these measures, gladiators were employed in the civil war between Pompeii and Caesar.[13] This did not remain an isolated case. In in the subsequent decades and centuries, during times of crisis, men at the top of the state again and again fell back on the the services of the personnel in the gladiator schools, even if society disapproved.[14] The disapproval of such services was rooted in the social contempt for gladiators. The majority of them were slaves, whereas the legionaries who had to fight with or even against them were all Roman citizens and therefore regarded this state of affairs to be dishonourable.[15] It is here that the ambivalent relationship with the entertainment industry becomes clearly visible. On the one hand, gladiators were admired, on the other hand, however, this did not mean that Roman citizen soldiers found it easy to reconcile it with their personal pride to fight alongside them. This disdain was almost certainly also due, at least at the end of the Republic, to the recent events of the Spartacus uprisings. They were to be understood as a warning not to arm gladiators, especially large numbers of them. Military considerations, however, trumped resistance and doubt, especially in times of crisis, and thus Marc Anthony soon reinforced his forces with gladiators.[16]

Even in the days of the Empire, they were employed, against Roman legions in civil wars and uprisings[17]. For example, in 69 AD, in the struggle for power following the death of Nero, Emperor Otho employed 2,000 auxiliary troops in his desperate fight against Vitellius, a further pretender to the throne.[18] The events of these battles, which Tacitus described in great detail,[19] allow an analysis of the gladiators’ military importance and their operational capabilities. They were mainly, or exclusively, used for special operations. In the case described by Tacitus, they served as landing parties during an amphibious attack.[20] In this undertaking, they were facing a unit of Batavian mercenaries,[21] who were also special forces. The latter enjoyed a formidable reputation in the Roman army as riders and swimmers, as well as for their courage.[22] While the gladiators were taken by boats to a heavily contested island, the Batavians swam there, which gave them a decisive time advantage. They were also victorious in the subsequent battle because, as Tacitus thought, gladiators fighting from ships, as they were, did not enjoy the footing and stability they would have required for their manner of combat and therefore for victory.[23] The Batavians, however, who had reached the island first, could fight on terra firma and were thus victorious. Here, Tacitus consciously provides an insight into how Roman commanders intended to use these auxiliary forces. This correlates with statements by historians who stressed that gladiators did not display the soldiers’ mettle in open battle, and even refused to fight on a battlefield.[24] If they were used in smaller operations, however, where they could actually utilise their skills, commanders were not faced with refusals and could thus exploit their skills.

There are similar reports concerning the crises in the second half of the second century AD. Confronted with an increasing threat posed by Germanic tribes and the weakening of the military machine due to the plague spreading from the east, Emperor Marcus Aurelius brought gladiators into service.[25] Given the lack of information, the tasks they had to fulfil remain a matter of conjecture. They might, however, again have contributed to an improvement of the soldiers’ training during the campaign against the Marcomanni and Quadi. Combat against these Germanic tribes and their allies in the impenetrable Danube region posed a formidable challenge to the Roman forces. What cannot be upheld, however, is the assumption that these measures served to balance out losses suffered among the legionaries due to plague and war. There was only a limited number of gladiators available, who were certainly more expensive than recruits, as they also constituted a high economic value. They were now in short supply in another area, which, in turn, led to a price explosion and a request for help directed at the Emperor, who was forced to implement price controls.[26] Based on the evidence provided by Roman writers, the gladiators’ use in an ordered battle has to be called into question. By referring to these gladiators as obsequentes (the obedient), the Historia Augusta appears to point towards their use as bodyguards or as elite forces in the tradition of the Republic. After Marcus Aurelius there were no more reports about the use of gladiators as auxiliary forces. The reason, however, was not the realisation that their services were no longer required but the Empire’s economic weakness in the third century. This by necessity left its mark on the entertainment industry. The bloated organisation of imperial gladiator schools was curtailed, as was the frequency and extravagance of provincial events.[27] This way, the military potential of gladiators only persisted where the ‘industry’ could ignore economic problems as well as any criticism raised by Christianity, above all in the old capital, Rome.

In 350 AD, the city was taken by the usurper Nepotianus,[28] who, in this military action, only relied on gladiators[29] and mercenaries. It must, however, be noted that in the Rome of late antiquity there was a constant paucity of law enforcement forces. At a time when the Emperor no longer resided in Rome and a period marked by bloody power struggles, the respective incumbents on the imperial throne did on no account want to provide a possible usurper with military means. Thus, the city of Rome, which was still a powerful symbol as regards dominion, was not to become the centre of a revolution. At the same time, this measure also contributed to a strengthening of the civil administration, as exercised by the city prefect.[30] As reported by the historian Aurelius Victor,[31] Nepotianus defeated the contingent with which the city prefect met the usurper and thus, by means of the hands and the weapons of the gladiators, became Emperor for a short time. With the striking words “armataque gladiatorum manu“ the historian describes that Nepotianus first had to arm this rabble before he could make himself Emperor, shored up by their fighting prowess. Given the reactions to the usurpation to be expected from the ruling Emperor, it seems plausible and even realistic that he, having arrived victorious in Rome, took the gladiators out of the extant schools and armed them in order to create a force that enabled him to defend his newly found power until the situation and thus his position had stabilised. However, support from the populace as well as from the military, which he must have expected, never came. When regular forces approached, his supporters, clearly inferior in number, could not put up any meaningful resistance.[32]

Another example of civil unrest aided and abetted by the employment of gladiators was the so-called Damasus crisis. After the death of Pope Liberius in 366 AD, Damasus was elected Pope by a great majority. He could, however, only assert himself through the use of violence. In this he used the armed rabble, the quadrigarii and the imperita multitudo, as well as the periuri and the arenarii.[33] As was the case with Nepotianus’ usurpation, vagrants, vagabonds and gangs were the agents of brutal conflict. If the reports are to be trusted, unemployed arena fighters and charioteers were also among them, flogging their services to the highest bidder, to make a living or to come into extra money. The persons described in both cases moved on the fringes of society and offered their services to anybody willing to pay. They thus constituted a not to be underestimated danger to public safety, especially in fourth century Rome, which was often plagued by supply crises, which, in turn, led to the civil authorities being confronted with social friction and unrest. This is why the city prefect most times did not have the necessary tools to face such crises. Legal measures, the text of which is still available today, show that it was only Emperor Honorius who tried to combat these problems in a sustainable manner.[34]

These two examples illustrate a development which again proves the special relationship between gladiatorial games and the military at the end of the fourth century AD. It became obvious during this century that the economic weakness of the Empire, and thus of the upper class, as well as the growth of Christianity together with its critical view of gladiatorial games,[35] wrought permanent damage on the entertainment industry. As is illustrated by the details of the Damasus crisis, there were, as a result of economic problems as well as of issues of supply and demand, fewer and fewer professional, and thus expensive, gladiators to be found in the arenas of the day. The gaps that had developed were filled with persons who sold both themselves and their services to anybody willing to pay. The violence and mercenary attitude of these harenarii, which was one of the terms for them in contemporary sources, made them a danger to public security. Not without reason were they mentioned in one breath with outlaws. For the organisers from the nobility who were still staging games in Rome, these men therefore represented no real alternative. In order to keep expenditures at a manageable level, while at the same time still offering the public the best possible entertainment, the anxious organisers relied on soldiers as protagonists.[36] One therefore must assume that, at least in the old capital, Roman soldiers took on the role of gladiators with a certain regularity and were paid privately for their efforts.

This practice, however, soon met with imperial disapproval. Apart from disciplinary imponderables, the rulers, who were already followers of Christianity, did not - via members of the army, who were at least symbolically equal to them - want to be linked to a traditionally heathen institution and thus exposed to criticism levelled at them by Christian elites. Thus, the use of soldiers in arenas was threatened with punishment; it was not the combatants, however, who were to be penalized for disciplinary infractions, but the organisers, quite likely for having corrupted the soldiers.

These descriptions allow a rudimentary assessment of the Roman army of late antiquity: there was a great reliance on mercenaries of mostly Germanic descent, whose recruitment as arena fighters bespoke their individual skills. At the same time, it became clear (at least indirectly) that, following Diocletian and his reforms, as well as the increased recruitment of said forces from outside of the Roman Empire, formation-style combat and the concomitant training in the legions lost more and more ground to single combat and its respective tactics.


The Soldier’s Oath of Allegiance and the auctoramentum

The interrelationship between entertainment industry and legions must also be looked at in an area which is regarded as relevant even to modern armies: the oath of allegiance. On the origin of the Roman oath of allegiance, Livy[37] writes that it was changed in 216 BC, already before the battle at Cannae (probably due to the threat of Hannibal and the defeats in the second Punic War).[38] The (voluntary) declaration not to flee the battlefield, used before this point in time, became legally binding: an oath.[39] It was the basis for courts martial as well as summary justice for deserters[40] or insubordinate soldiers.[41]

To illustrate the binding character, the oath of allegiance was to be sworn in front of the tribunus militum, the military tribune.[42] The underlying reason was a special protective function. The tribunus militum had, as Livy relates, to check the future legionary’s fitness, whether he was both physically and mentally capable of entering such a commitment. He also had to check whether the applicant was really a Roman citizen[43] and not a slave.

This wording of the oath of allegiance also influenced the gladiature. Gladiators were slaves, at least during the Republic. This means that they were either sold by their masters to the gladiator schools, or were bought by a lanista on the market. They were thus completely at the mercy of their (new) master. This relationship of subordination was accepted in a society which kept slaves, and thus did not require special regulations. Already by the end of the Republic, however, free men and even Roman citizens increasingly joined the schools and the arenas. They shared table, bed, and the arduousness of training with the gladiator slaves, received the same treatment and had the same corporal punishment meted out to them. Last but not least, death loomed over them in training as well as in their appearances in the arena. However, since Roman citizens could not, in criminal law, be subjected to corporal or capital punishment without the possibility of appeal to the popular assembly, a legal guideline had to be found in order to create a contractual relationship between the gladiator applicant and the owner of the gladiator school, which reflected the actual situation.[44] Entering into the gladiator’s so-called auctoramentum,[45] a legal relationship similar to mancipatio and the late Roman nexum,[46] had to be done in the public eye, with this act bearing parallels to the military swearing-in ceremony and thus to the soldier’s act of commitment.

The gladiator’s oath can now, at least in a rudimentary fashion, be reconstructed from literary sources:[47]The same are the words of this most respectable and that most reprehensible contract, namely to have oneself burned, bound, and killed with the sword.” There is not enough evidence to support the assumption that the term auctoramentum is originally derived from military terminology. It seems, however, that just as was the case with gladiator recruitment and training, the oath of allegiance was based on that of the soldiers. It had, for example, to be sworn in front of the people’s tribune,[48] who had a duty to warn and a function to protect, just as with the auctoramentum. He had to decide whether the future gladiator was mentally and physically fit enough to enter into such a commitment, and whether he was a Roman citizen and not a minor. The underlying reasoning was to make it impossible for slaves to escape their masters by joining a gladiator school. Lastly, the free gladiator submitted to the lanista, just as the legionary subordinated himself to his superiors’ and instructors’ disciplinary authority.[49]

A text by Symmachus, a high-ranking senator in Rome at the turn of the fifth century AD, shows that the contemporaries took a similar view of this link between the gladiature and the military sphere. He expressed respect for the auctorati by rhetorically raising them almost to the level of the old Roman legions. Similar to these, they would have been chosen by means of the oath described, as had been customary for a long time: “ut auctoramento lectos longus usus instituat“.[50] The term lectus is used here with good reason, as the selection of the best men suitable for military service in a legio is to correlate with the selection of auctorati, the professional, voluntary gladiators - the absolute elite of arena fighters. Also, or especially, in late antiquity, a time when Rome was no longer the capital of the Empire and traditions had to be kept alive even more fervently, reminiscences of a glorious past were thus evoked, among them also those of the close link between the gladiature and Rome’s old legions.


Military Displays and the Games Economy

In the Republic, military displays mostly went hand in hand with political displays, especially as they served the same career path. Gladiatorial games staged in the course of this pursuit were exclusively financed by the organisers themselves. Soon, however, successful commanders made circuitous attempts to have these private displays financed with public money. Livy reports that Publius Scipio was allowed to pay for the games he had vowed to organise as a reaction to his soldiers’ revolt in Carthago Nova[51] by falling back on campaign spoils.[52] Just as with Scipio, one should not (only) insinuate that the victorious commanders wanted to use public funds from the campaign loot[53] for personal gain; they also saw a possibility to bypass the necessary approval by the senate, required for triumphal processions and games in Rome, by simply justifying these with a vow to the gods.[54] Their peers found it unacceptable that militarily successful commanders presented themselves to the people with unfettered munificence, thereby significantly increasing their chances to be elected to the highest political offices. Apart from the principle of requiring permission, the highest body also regulated the budgets for the planned expenditures.[55] A classic example of conflicts in connection with a triumphal procession was the case of L. Postumius Megellus. Personal enmities prompted senate members to vote against his procession. The fact that Megellus finally got his way was due to the public’s greed for entertainment. His procession was therefore the first to be celebrated following a popular decision and against a vote by the senate.[56]

Triumphal processions were the most impressive means at the disposal of generals from the senatorial ranks to openly flaunt Rome’s conquests and victories in front of an unsophisticated public. Thus, in the Republic at least, they resembled modern military parades. Contrary to today, however, spoils and prisoners of war also were paraded; the final act was a sacrifice to the gods. The display of members of strange races, as well as animals or treasures, of course, served to illustrate individual achievements. Towards the end of the Republic another dimension was added by re-enacting battles.[57] The special importance of this military display of military prowess lay in the fact that as the Empire grew, fewer and fewer people were actually entrusted with, and thus connected to, military tasks and challenges. More and more people thus shared the fascination for displays of the traditional military values of gravitas and disciplina, as well as for an authentic depiction of soldierly heroism.[58] These displays, as part of games, were to transport the public into an idealised military adventure world.

Only over time did they become ever more elaborate due to all manners of displays, as well as the concomitant intensification of the triumphator’s personal representation. The military image thus increasingly served politics and certain zeitgeist tendencies which clamoured for entertainment and pomp. The staging of gladiatorial games as part of triumphs, which sometimes also included prisoners of war with their typical weapons and suits of armour, not only illustrated the military tasks and challenges. This fight to the death could also help to overcome the respect for, and also the fear of, the enemy.[59] So, these games served as a basis for the creation of a Roman feeling of superiority. At the same time, they stressed the munificence of the commanders, who had to make sure that stands and a wooden amphitheatre were constructed. Only by paying for these did they finally become popular and thus promising candidates for the highest political positions. Stressing the commander’s generosity and his concern for the common weal was important in that it would motivate citizens to join the legions. The perspective of having a commander who made it possible for the soldiers under him to plunder, certainly was a motive for some Romans to do military service.

Just as commanders observed their legionaries and promoted them on the basis of merit,[60] the games, apart from satisfying the people’s curiosity, also served to reward the legionaries,[61] to spur them on; especially, however, to deepen the personal relationship with the commander. Only selected soldiers were allowed to accompany their commander to Rome in his moment of triumph.[62] When he, to receive the people’s homage, entered the capital with his soldiers, the legionaries’ bond to their commander became evident. During the Republic, the soldiers’ personal dependence on their commanders had become stronger. This, as well as a certain familiarity, now came to the fore and showed itself in the legionaries’ (taunting) chants. What in earlier times had been paeans,[63] now changed into taunts,[64] starting with Caesar, who enjoyed a special relationship with his soldiers.

Not least because of this special relationship between legionaries and the triumphator, Augustus limited the number of triumphs,[65] which, in the end, required the permission by the princeps himself and /were open to trustworthy individuals only. Actually, Augustus was a beneficiary of the situation in the late Republic and its Condottieri-style civil wars. He was acutely aware of the dangers, especially to his own position, a position he now had to consolidate.


A Short Résumé

For centuries, the entertainment industry in the shape of gladiatorial games exerted a decisive influence on the legions as well as on Roman security policy. Only through this link, by abandoning certain reservations, and as a consequence of certain commanders’ willingness to innovate, did the Roman war machine receive its final polish. The interplay between these two areas is, however, not at all surprising, as there had been, since the time of the Republic, a close connection between the conduct of war and the mentality which manifested itself in the gladiatorial games. Even in the tidays of the Emperors, when the vast majority of the population was no longer involved in military campaigns at the borders or even in the centre of the Empire, the ideology of ancient Rome was kept alive by staging munera in Rome and the provinces.[66] The population was constantly to be reminded that Rome’s power was founded on the sword and still protected by it. It was therefore the rudis, the wooden sword, which was used by the legionaries for training purposes, and which had special symbolic meaning in the field of arena combat: the presentation of this wooden sword signified the act of releasing a gladiator, or of discharging him from arena service.

In the military sphere, the games were mainly used to stress the analogous virtutes of soldiers and gladiators. The fencing games thus contributed considerably to educating the public militarily.[67] If it was the slave uprisings - especially the one led by Spartacus - that made clear the dangers inherent in this excessive industry, it was the arena and its infrastructure which were to produce exactly the opposite effect in the subsequent centuries and help prevent similar insurgencies. As was stated in the panegyricus on Emperor Constantine in 310 AD, it was especially prisoners of war, whose ‘wildness’ made them unfit for slavery, who found death in this manner.[68]

If, by way of a summary, one looks for parallels to today, it is political and military displays which shaped the twentieth century more than any other before. The direct link between the power elite and the military, exemplified in antiquity by the interdependence between legions and games, characterised totalitarian rule in the past century. Maintaining a good public image is still of the essence, not only for a political career, the greatest difference to Roman times being that today the costs of such (personal) PR, undertaken to attain public office, are borne either by the public purse or by organisations and associations which move at least in the semi-public sphere. Sports events could serve as cases in point, where politicians and public dignitaries demonstrate their common touch by prominently sitting in arenas, just like in Roman times. Similarly, the annual exhibition organised by the Austrian Armed Forces in Vienna’s Heldenplatz is a throwback to events in antiquity. Fewer and fewer people in 21st-century Austria are entrusted with military tasks or are emotionally connected to them - reminiscent of the situation in imperial Rome. Such institutions are all too often regarded as useless and obsolete. In this context, Roman customs could serve as a useful paradigm. By means of demonstrating future tasks as well as presenting traditional and modern military values, an attempt should be made to produce a real-life and hence up-to-date image of a soldier in order to take the public, just as in a Roman triumphal procession, into a, quite possibly idealised, adventure world. Military representation must therefore be a hands-on experience, stressing the specific accomplishments of individual institutions, also in the field of research.

The history of gladiature should also create the awareness in the reader that many phenomena regarded as typical of the twentieth or twenty-first centuries already existed in earlier times. The function of swordsmen - especially in the Republic, but also later on in the Empire - as commercially organised, private players in the security field, is today performed by private security companies, who hire the ‘best fighters’ and fulfil semi-governmental functions.

Questions pertaining to a soldier’s motivation, his personal link to the respective commander and also to the country, have not become any less relevant. They have to be raised again and again, especially in times of great upheavals. Whereas the importance of discipline, as already described by Frontinus, has not changed much until today, trust in superiors to come up with decisive innovations, a point that galvanised e.g. Rutilius, cannot be taken for granted to the same extent in modern times. Maybe governments simply place too little value on a personal link between commanders and soldiers.



[1] cf. Géza Alföldy, Römische Sozialgeschichte, 4th ed., Stuttgart, 2011, p.85-95.

[2] The first slave war took place between 136 and 132 BC in Sicily (Diod. 34,2), in 104 BC the second great uprising followed there (Diod. 34,2-3).

[3] Plut. Crass. 8-11; App. civ. 1,116-121; Flor. epit. 2,8.

[4] Plut. Crass. 10,1.

[5] Fik Meijer, Gladiatoren. Das Spiel um Leben und Tod, Zurich, 2004, p.37

[6] Tac. ann. 15,46: Gladiators in Praeneste attempted an escape, which, however, was frustrated by the guards.

[7] Social upheavals in Italy and the cultivation of the - sometimes enormous - latifundia requiring armies of slaves abetted this. cf. Hopkins, l.c., p.8-25.

[8] Sall. Catil. 30.

[9] Cic. Att. 7,14: Gladiatores Caesaris qui Capuae sunt, de quibus ante ad te falsum ex A. Torquati litteris scripseram, sane commode Pompeius distribuit binos singulis patribus familiarum. Scutorum in ludo I[c][c] fuerunt. eruptionem facturi fuisse dicebantur. Sane multum in eo rei publicae provisum est.

[10] Translation based on: Helmut Kasten, ed., Atticus-Briefe, 5th ed., Munich, 1998, p.437.

[11] This enormous number shows the importance Caesar attached to the games. At the same time, he most likely used them to make money from hiring them out.

[12] An impression can be gleaned from similar attempts during the civil war, as described by Lentulus (Caes. civ. 1,14): Capuae primum se confirmant et colligunt delectumque colonorum, qui lege Iulia Capuam deducti erant, habere instituunt; gladiatoresque, quos ibi Caesar in ludo habebat, ad forum productos Lentulus spe libertatis confirmat atque iis equos attribuit et se sequi iussit; quos postea monitus ab suis, quod ea res omnium iudicio reprehendebatur, circum familias conventus Campani custodiae causa distribuit.

[13] Tac. hist. 2,11.

[14] Caes. civ. 1,14; cf. above Anm.118.

[15] The report by Tacitus has to be interpreted in such a manner (Tac. hist. 2,11,2).

[16] Cass. Dio 51,7.

[17] Tac. ann. 3,43,4; 3,46,6; Suet. Aug. 14,3. Especially Tacitus refers to the combat value and equipment of the gladiatorial slaves, in this case from the Aedui.  “To this end, one added those from the gaggle of slaves who were destined for gladiatorial combat, and were covered, according to their tribal custom, in a coat of iron: called crupellarii, they are incapable of dealing blows, but invulnerable to cuts and thrusts.” Translation based on Heller, l.c., p. 251.

[18] Suet. Otho 15,4.

[19] Tac. hist. 2,11; 2,23-24; 2,35; 2,43; 3,57,4; 3,76,1-2; 3,77,3.

[20] Tac. hist. 2,23,3 und 2,35,1.

[21] This German tribe lived at the Rhine estuary.

[22] During the so-called Revolt of the Batavi under Iulius Civilis in 69, they managed to gain an important victory against the Roman Rhine army; they even managed to capture the Vetera fortress, close to what today is Xanten (Tac. hist. 1,8,51-59; 2,66,69; 4,12-37,54-79; 4,14-26 and Flav. Ios. .bell. Iud. 7,4,2). They must therefore have had great military clout.

[23] Tac. hist. 2,43,2.

[24] Tac. hist. 3,76,1.

[25] HA Marc. Aurel. 21,7: “Armavit etiam gladiatores, quos obsequentes appellavit.” “He also armed gladiators whom he called the ‘obedient‘.“ cf. Jörg Fündling, Marc Aurel, Darmstadt, 2008, p.110. They most likely also came from imperial schools.

[26] cf. Ebner, Die Gladiatorenspiele als Wirtschaftsfaktor, p. 75-82. As a result, there was a noticeable weakening of the entertainment industry, especially in the provinces, which was to have a negative effect on the organisers‘ wealth. The Emperor was thus forced to regulate the market prices of gladiators, by means of the so-called Senatus Consultum de pretiis gladiatorum minuendis, quoted in CIL II 6278.

[27] Ebner, Die Gladiatorenspiele als Wirtschaftsfaktor, p. 114-117.

[28] Kay Ehling, ‘Die Erhebung des Nepotianus in Rom im Juni 350 n. Chr. und sein Programm der urbs Roma christiana‘, in, Göttinger Forum für Altertumswissenschaft, vol. 4, 2001, p. 141-158.

[29] Orosius (Oros. hist. 7,29,11) talks of gladiators, Zosimos (Zos. 2,43,2), however, of men, dedicated to a debauched life of robbery, who Nepotianus surrounded himself with.

[30] Especially as regards the difficult situation of the city’s food supply, such contingents could have created problems.

[31] Aur. Vict. Caes. 42,6-7.

[32] The concomitant bloodletting (especially among gladiators) was, together with religious and economic factors, a reason why gladiature lost in relevance from the end of the fourth century AD onwards. cf. Ebner, Die Gladiatorenspiele als Wirtschaftsfaktor, p. 109-121. The institution of gladiature, however, continued into the fifth century. cf Chr. Ebner, ‘Das Ende der heidnischen Gladiatorenspiele‘, in, Kaja Harter-Uibopuu, Thomas Kruse, ed., Sport und Recht in der Antike (Wiener Kolloquien zur Antiken Rechtsgeschichte 2), Vienna, 2014, p 349-376.

[33] cf. Otto Günther, Epistulae Imperatorum Pontificum Aliorum Avellana quae dicitur collectio, Vienna, 1895-1898, ep. 1,5-7.

[34] CTh 14,14,1.

[35] cf. Aug. conf. 6,8,13.

[36] CTh 15,12,2.

[37] A later version is reported by Vegetius (Veg. mil. 2,5). Frontinus (4,1,4) also refers to the time before Cannae, however, does not mention any changes.

[38] Liv. 22,38,1-5.

[39] cf. George R. Watson, The Roman Soldier, London, 1969, p. 49-50.

[40] To guard against desertions, soldiers were branded (cf. Watson, l.c., p. 51).

[41] Dion. Hal. 10,18,2 and 11,43: The oath would be a pledge vis-à-vis the commander and his power to award capital punishments against deserters or in cases of insubordination, also without a trial. Watson, l.c., p.49 thinks the oath had to be renewed annually.

[42] Liv. 22,38,2.

[43] Citizenship was a prerequisite for entering the Roman legions.

[44] An actio iniuriarum, possible for all personae in mancipio (according to Gai. inst. 1,141), would be unthinkable.

[45] Freie Gladiatoren wurden dementsprechend auch als auctorati bezeichnet.

[46] cf. Wolfgang Kunkel, ‘Auctoratus‘, in, Symbolae Raphaeli Taubenschlag dedicatae, vol. 3, Warsaw, 1957, p. 207-226.

[47] Sen. ep. 37,1-2: Eadem honestissimi huius et illius turpissimi auctoramenti verba sunt: 'uri, vinciri ferroque necari'. The same oath is reported by Petronius (Petron 117) and Horace (cf. Heindorf, Des Q. Horatius Flaccus Satiren, 60). Kunkel, however, thinks such an oath implausible (l.c., p. 222, ref. 27).

[48] CIL II 6278.

[49] cf. Donald G. Kyle, Spectacles of Death in Ancient Rome, London/New York, 1998, p. 48. Watson, l.c., p. 44 and 49-50. Theodor Mommsen, Gesammelte Schriften, vol III, p.9 ref.3.

[50] Symm. ep. 2,46.

[51] Liv. 28,24-26;29;31;36.

[52] Liv. 28,38,14.

[53] Of course, campaigns entailed a financial factor for the state as well as for the commander. Aemilius Paullus garnered admiration when, following the successful campaign against Perseus, the Macedonian King, he only laid claim to the King’s library, for his sons’ education (Plut. Aem. 28,6). Julius Caesar, hugely in debt at the beginning of his career, not only managed to build a new Forum in Rome following the conquest of Gaul, he also owned a large number of gladiator schools and swordsmen. It was only the fortune he left Octavian, which made it possible for the latter (together with the Caesar’s large clientele) to win against Marc Anthony, marry into the highest echelons of nobility, and make himself Augustus und Princeps.

[54] Pompeius, for eaxample, staged ludi votivi, as he had sworn to do in Spain (Cic. Verr. 1,31).

[55] Ernst Künzl, Der römische Triumph, Munich, 1988, p. 30-31.

[56] Liv. 10,37,6. Vgl. auch Künzl, l.c., p. 43-44.

[57] Suet. Claud. 21; Suet. Iul. 39,13: Julius Caesar a battle re-enacted.

[58] Kyle, l.c., p.80 Anm.30.

[59] Discernible in the following episode: Following the victory against Carthage, Caecilius Metellus staged circus games as part of his triumph, with Pliny reporting that elephants were set against each other and then killed with spears. Other sources state that they had only been chased around the circus, so that the soldiers and the public would finally lose (or at least reduce) their respect for the animals.

[60] A general who observed his soldiers in battle and rewarded bravery and other merits was shown great respect by his legionaries. Especially during the Republic the army (and therefore the commander) depended on such meritorious legionaries, who volunteered for longer and numerous campaigns, as the typical soldier of the third and second century still hailed from a peasant milieu.

[61] Such as games in camps, e.g. those of Scipio in Spain. cf. Val. Max. 9,11,1 and Liv. 42,34,5-11.

[62] Liv. 42,34,10: Quintus Fulvius Flaccus invited especially meritorious soldiers to his triumphal procession following the successful campaigns in Spain; obviously a special reward system.

[63] In the triumphal procession for Quintus Fabius Maximus the soldiers also celebrated Publius Decius Mus in their songs (Liv. 10,30,9).

[64] Plin. nat. 19,144. Suet. Caes. 51: Urbani, servate uxores: moechum calvum adducimus.Romans, protect your women; we bring the bald adulterer.

[65] Künzl, l.c., p. 32.

[66] Simon James, Rom und das Schwert, Darmstadt, 2013, p. 154.

[67] cf. Kyle, l.c., p.80: Militärische Erziehung im Töten von Männern, die sie verachten.

[68] Brigitte Müller-Rettig, Der Panegyricus des Jahres 310 auf Konstantin den Großen, Darmstadt, 2008, para. 12,3.