chapter  4
54 Pages

A Brief History of Gladiator Games

After the first munus in honour of Junius Pera in 264 BC, the nextmunus mentioned in the historical record took place in 215 BC. This munus was given in connection with the funeral of M. Aemilius Lepidus, who had twice been elected consul and held the prestigious office of augur.1

Could forty-nine years actually have passed between the first and second munus at Rome? Perhaps the custom of giving a gladiator show at a funeral did not catch on immediately after its first occurrence in 264 BC and Lepidus’ family revived it. Indeed, one could argue that there might have been initial resistance to the bloody violence of gladiatorial combat, but it is doubtful that a martial people like the Romans would have had such tender sensibilities. After all, gladiator shows found acceptance rather quickly even among the Greeks, who were more culturally refined than the Romans. In 175 BC, when the Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes imported gladiator games from Rome and presented them at Antioch, his subjects were shocked at first but it did not take them long to change their minds. Soon gladiator games were all the rage.2 Another possible explanation for this