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Gladiators’ graveyard discovered

May 2, 2007

BBC News reports:

Scientists believe they have for the first time identified an ancient graveyard for gladiators. Analysis of their bones and injuries has given new insight into how they lived, fought and died. [More here]

While I am not a classics scholar and the time of the gladiators is outside my personal field of study, this is none the less an interesting piece and an interesting find. The gladiators of the Roman Hellenistic world are the best understood example of ceremonial fighting we have from early Western Civilization.The idea of bread-and-circus, the creation of ritual spectacle for the aggrandizement of the elites is of course as real today as it was in the classical world or the ancient Near East.

The strict rules of ritual killing attested in the mortal wounds of the gladiator graves may provide better anthropological model for other forms of ritual killing in contiguous cultures. I have often wondered if there was some ritual component to the Assyrian’s brutality as attested in both reliefs and texts from ancient Mesopotamia and beyond. If only such a find could be made in one of the towns that Tiglath Pileser III destroyed! Some times I envy my classicist colleagues.

As a parting thought: while the article doesn’t provide firm dates, the graveyard was discovered in Ephesus. There’s surely a paper here examining Paul’s letter to Ephesus in light of this new archaeological discovery.

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