The following article, translated from the Italian, was reported in La Repubblica.it in January 2005.
“The Gladiators faked fighting”
New theory of an archaeologist
To die at the Colosseum? For a gladiator it would be much more likely to be killed in Hollywood. According to Steve Tuck, an American archaeologist who, examining a series of finds from ancient Rome, was convinced that the gladiator fights were staged, comparable to modern wrestling matches, in which no one really gets hurt. They have nothing to do, therefore, with the bloody scenes of certain Hollywood colossal, such as Quo Vadis or the Gladiator.
“The gladiatorial fight has always been associated with killing and bloodshed,” Tuck explained in an article published by New Scientist magazine, “but I actually think it was a martial art purely for diversion, to entertain the audience. ”
For some 800 years, criminals, prisoners of war and slaves were bought by wealthy Romans to be trained to fight in gladiatorial games. They were fighting among themselves or against professional gladiators, who were free men, in amphitheaters like the Colosseum using swords, harpoons and spears. They generally had to perform two or three fights a year, and if they could survive five years of fighting, they could gain their freedom. But according to Tuck, who analyzed 158 images from that period depicting the games, the risk for a gladiator to be killed was almost non-existent. The scholar based his thesis on a comparison of images on lamps and wall paintings with manuals on martial arts produced in Germany and Italy during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. From this comparison emerge a series of similarities, from which it appears that the purpose of the gladiator was simply to defeat the opponent, not to kill him.