Book Review: Gladiator: The Roman Fighter's [Unofficial] Manual


by Philip Matyszak

London & New York: Thames & Hudson, 2011. Pp. 208. Illus., map, notes, biblio., index. $24.95. ISBN: 0500051674

Gladiator is an amusing, accurate look at the lives and deaths of Rome’s famous blood sport combatants.

A superb classical scholar, and author of such “serious” works as The Enemies of Rome: From Hannibal to Attila the Hun (2004), Dr. Matyszak (Cambridge) also has a wry sense of humor, which he has displayed on several occasions, such as inLegionary: The Roman Soldier's Unofficial Hand-book (2009), The Classical
(2009), and Ancient Athens on Five Drachmas a Day (2008).  In Gladiator, he gives us a detailed, yet very readable, and quite amusing account of the lives and deaths, of the gladiators, in the form of a mock handbook for prospective recruits.  Each of the nine chapters deals with some aspect of gladiatorial life; why one would chose to become a gladiator, the origins of the “games”, the arena, living conditions and training, the various types of gladiatorial fighters, “groupies,” rituals of combat, and more, such as the differences and similarities between soldiers and gladiators.  The work ends, as was the case with most gladiators, with “Death and Other Alternatives to Retirement”. 

Full of anecdotes and citations from classical literature, Gladiator will make profitable and amusing reading for anyone, but particularly for those interested in Roman life and history.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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