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The Gladiator Hardcover – Import, 2000

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Book by Alan Baker

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury (2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091878802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091878801
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,941,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Maximiliano F Yofre on February 11, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Since I was in my teens, movie pictures like "Spartacus", "Demetrius the gladiator" and "Quo Vadis?" inspired me with an inextinguishable thirst to know facts about Gladiators & Roman Circus. I was able to find more than one book about Spartacus and his revolt, but on gladiator's everyday life, origins, evolution among other issues, I was unsuccessful. Worst of all, the recent movie "Gladiator", renew my interest.

Finally I found this book at Amazon's Store (where else?).

It is at the same time an oasis for my thirst and a let down in some aspects.

First the bright side: Mr. Baker has done a very interesting research and show his findings in a very amenable way.

All the main issues are addressed: origin of gladiatorial institution, organization, evolution and extinction. Weaponry, different kinds of fights, ceremonies, circus emplacement, glossary of terms. A vivid reconstruction of "A day at the Circus" and some other interesting items about these ancient warriors.

The shadowy side: the edition and typography of the book is poor, it looks as it was given to press in a hurry (trying to catch with film success?). Some side stories are well known, other are not directly related with the main object of the book. Bibliography is scarce and no reproductions are shown.

Balancing pros & cons the book is fairly good read for anyone interested in this particular subject.

Reviewed by Max Yofre.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Cheshire Cat on January 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
I was really disappointed by this book. I confess to being something of a classics nerd, so I was hoping for a proper historical look at the gladiatorial games. And while it's true that Baker does look at most aspects of the phenomenon, he doesn't do so with a good historian's perspective.

Early in the book, he warns against applying modern sensibilities to ancient intitutions. This is a wise and reasonable approach. It is therefore a pity that he utterly abondons it, making countless judgements throughout the book. Some of these are explicit, but most are implicit in his choice of phrasing and other subtler aspects of his writing. While I agree that, to my modern morals, these games were barbaric, I find his judgements annoying and out of place in a historical work.

Another great flaw of this book is that the author takes every historical account as true. Seutonius, for example, is full of racey tales of the dark sides of the early emperors. (Plus Caesar who, despite Baker's assertions, is not considered an emporor. This isn't the only minor inaccuracy I noticed, incidentally.) However, it's doubtful that all of it, or even necessarily most of it is true. But Baker relies on Seutonius and others as literal fact upon which to base his "history". It's difficult to know how much of Baker to trust given his apparent inability to be skeptical.

Finally, the chapter on the Emperor-Gladiators is a wretched peice of work. The account of Caligula is just a transcribed Seutonius. (Why not just read the original in the first place, then?). And the overwelming majority of the chapter has nothing to do with these emperors' behavior in the arena, it's just a long liteny of how these men were depraved.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By William Holmes VINE VOICE on May 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Gladiator" is a readable and sometimes melodramatic account of the gladiatorial games of ancient Rome. The book is not a systematic, chronological history of the arena--rather, it offers an impression of what the contests would have been like at various points in the development of the Republic and the Empire.
The games started as sword fights between slaves at funeral ceremonies--sometimes to the death, sometimes not. Over time, successful Romans undertook to display their wealth by producing increasingly elaborate spectacles. The cost and complexity of the enterprise eventually became so great that the state became involved in staging the proceedings.
Baker describes (sometimes in upsetting detail) the different contests that a Roman could expect to see at the arena: battles between warriors armed with various types of weapons and armor, fights to the death between "hunters" and terrified animals, naval battles between fleets manned by doomed slaves, and brutal executions. Occasionally, an Emperor would step into the arena to display his fighting prowess (or to indulge his taste for sadism)--of course, his guard always made sure that his opponents were armed with wooden swords and doomed to die at the Emperor's hand.
Baker's book culminates in a chapter called "A Day at the Games." The account is lurid and unsettling, and Baker brings home the terror and pain of the men, women and animals who died in the arena to the cheers of the crowd.
The cruelty of the games simply staggers the imagination, to say nothing of the fact that this went on for hundreds of years. It makes you think that the term "Roman civilization" is a bit of an oxymoron.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on March 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is a popular history about the gladiatorial games in ancient Rome. As such, it has no footnotes and limited sources. Still, Baker does a pretty good job of giving a concise account of this fascinating aspect of ancient history. Various chapters cover such things as different types of gladiators, emperors who fought in the arena, and the Spartacus slave revolt. The book ends with an examination of why the gladiatorial games ended (Christianity, in a nutshell). The highpoint of the book is a fictional account of a day at the games under the emperor Commodus. Did this guy write the screenplay to the movie Gladiator? I don't think so, but he is obviously influenced by that film.
What should become apparent as this book unfolds is the changing nature of the games and spectacles. The munera, or gladiatorial contests, originally began as a funeral ritual. During the Republic, the religious implications of these contests increasingly became politicized. Temporary theaters were constructed so people could recline and watch. The sponsors of these contests were increasingly magistrates and others who wanted to curry favor with the masses. The number of fighters also increased as the years went by. It was with the installation of Augustus that the games became codified in political terms. Augustus passed legislation concerning seating in the arena and took over many of the aspects concerning the games. Menageries holding animals used for exhibitions and executions were owned by the emperors, as were the gladiatorial schools housing the fighters. Other officials were banned for the most part from sponsoring games, although provincials were allowed to do so under strict supervision from Rome. Those officials who were allowed to hold games were held to strict limits so as not to upstage the emperor.
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