Today’s words are ARENA and GLADIATOR.
ARENA – where the gladiators fought.
ARENA comes from the Greek word for SAND. In Greek it is spelled HAERENA. Sand was used in the arena to soak up the blood. When the dead body was dragged through the Death Gate, sand was sprinkled or raked over the blood. The sand provided easy maintenance. The Hollywood movie entitled “THE GLADIATOR” which many of us have seen shows the SAND in the arena.
The word GLADIATOR comes from the Latin word GLADIUS which means SWORD. The plant GLADIOLA is so called because it has leaves resembling a little sword.
From very early times gladiatorial combats were held in Italy. Wealthy and dissipated nobles made slaves fight to the death at banquets to entertain the guests. The first exhibition in Rome was given in 264 B.C. The earliest one was held as a funeral game for Brutus Pera (264 B.C.). Because of the Romans’ love of excitement, gladiatorial shows became immensely popular.
The movie “THE GLADIATOR” is part history, part fiction. Emperor Commodus was the spoiled son of Marcus Aurelius, a stoic man, and his wife Faustina the Younger. Commodus was more fond of performing in the arena and drinking wine with his friends than governing the huge Roman empire. He loved to hunt wild animals and was an expert at killing a beast with the first arrow. He referred to himself as the Roman Hercules and kept a lion skin and a replica of Hercules’ club beside his throne. He actually clubbed a few slaves to death.
He showed himself as a god to the Roman people by taking part in spectacles in the amphitheater. Not only would Commodus fight and and defeat the most skilled gladiators, he would also test his talents by encountering the most ferocious of the beasts. It is reported that in one event he killed a hundred tigers with a hundred arrows.
Early in December A.D. 192 his mistress Marcia orchestrated a plot to do away with him. She prepared a cup of poisoned wine and presented it to him after he spent an exhausting day hunting. Evidently the poison was not potent enough and Commodus was heavily drugged, but not killed. The conspirators decided to finish the job by asking one of his athlete friends, named Narcissus, a strong young wrestler to strangle him to death.