notes on dutch literature

History’s most dangerous sport

In Non-Fiction, Pick of the Week on July 20, 2013 at 2:39 PM

In The Gladiators; History’s Most Deadly Sport traces Fik Meijer, professor of Ancient History at the University of Amsterdam from 1992 to 2007, the origins of the gladiators over 2,500 years, from the initial belief that their blood spilled on a grave would sustain the dead on its journey to the underworld. Yet, as centuries passed and the Roman Empire grew, gladiators became part of vaster, more brutal entertainments staged by successive emperors eager to manipulate the public with “bread and circuses” and to exhibit their supreme power over men and animals, life and death. Meijer has pieced together true stories from contemporary evidence, describing the gladiators’ origin, daily life, training and the odds of their survival pitted against there legions of fans’ lust for blood and spectacle.

New York Times: Mr. Meijer understands exactly what readers want to know about gladiators and anticipates their every question in this admirable little study. He explains who the gladiators were; how they were trained, fed and paid; what weapons they used; and what rules governed combat in the arena. One chapter reconstructs a full day’s program at the Roman Colosseum and, as a bonus, Mr. Meijer looks at two films, Spartacus and Gladiator to see just how well Hollywood captured the flavor and the period detail of Rome’s most popular sport.

The Daily Mail: Forget Russell Crowe in a skirt and sandals, this is the real deal if you want to know about blood and guts in the arena.

The Gladiators : History’s Most Deadly Sport was published by St. Martin’s Griffin/Thomas Dunne Books in 2007. Earlier editions were published in 2004 and 2005. Translation by Liz Waters.


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