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GLADIATORS (PENGUIN HISTORY) Paperback – Import, 2000

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin history
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: PENGUIN BOOKS LTD; New Ed edition (2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140299343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140299342
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 0.4 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,111,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Yoda on January 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book provides a very good short introduction that covers the topic in about 160 pages (about 2 and a half to three hours of reading). Despite its short length it answers all the major questions surrounding the topic. This includes the typical backgrounds of these men, training, how they were viewed by Roman society (same status as actors and prostitutes), Roman cultural and historical roots of the institution, the historical development of the institution, how these events were typically held and Roman fears (and the actual dangers) surrounding the gladiators. All these topics are covered by a leading professor of Roman history who adds his considerable knowledge of the subject and sources of antiquity to the subject. There are recent books on the topic (i.e., "Gladiators and Caesars: The Power of Spectacle in Ancient Rome") but few cover the institution from as many angles and as well as Dr. Grant's book does.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By doc peterson VINE VOICE on May 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gladiators have captured the modern imagination, but there are comparitvely few historical accounts of who the gladiators were. Grant explores who these ancient athletes were in a short history that broadly explores where the gladiatorial games originated, their training and life in the ring, as well as their place in Roman society. The book was originally published in 1967, so as one would expect, the information and conclusions are a bit dated, and some of the conclusions are simply wrong.

The first 50 pages are interesting, outlining the Etruscan origins of gladiatorial combat and the growth in popularity of the sport in the Roman republic and early empire. The last half of the book was less engaging - the discussion of the various types of gladiators (their weapons, training and styles of fighting) read more like a laundry list than a history, and Grant restates the oft cited belief that the "thumbs up" was an indication that the defeated gladiator should live, while the "thumbs down" indicated death. Rather, the opposite is the case: the thumb down was to indicate the weapon should be dropped, while the "thumb up" was made in a stabbing motion towards the throat, a sign that the victorious gladiator should execute his vanquished foe. The concluding chapter on the place of gladiators in Roman society was, on the other hand, very good - the Romans having a "love/hate" relationship with the gladiators: they were celebrated and popular, but since the Sparticist revolt they were also feared and reviled.

While it is a quick read (the entire book is scarcely over 120 pages), much of the information here could be found in any solid text on Roman society. Because the book is not a total stinker and it has its redeeming qualities, I give it an ambivalent 3 stars.
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