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The Gladiator: The Secret History of Rome's Warrior Slaves [Kindle Edition]

Alan Baker
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Alan Baker weaves an extraordinary, vivid picture of Roman life as his compelling and evocative history tells the story of Rome's most notable gladiators. They were condemned and feared by emperors, slaughtered and adored by the masses and worshipped by their female fans, yet their lives were invariably violently short.



Whether their enemy was a starved tiger or a battle-hardened criminal, their numbered days were dark and bloody. Yet men gave up their wealth and freedom to become gladiators and noble-women gave up their positions to be with them. The Gladiator illuminates the extraordinary lives of Spartacus, Commodus, Eppia and others - bringing the same energy and passion to the page that Ridley Scott's cinematic triumph bough to the screen.



Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a lurid, sometimes sensational, tabloid-like account of Roman gladiatorial life, British author Baker (Invisible Eagle: The History of Nazi Occultism) offers an encyclopedic examination. While there were a few famous gladiators, such as Spartacus, the majority of these warriors were unnamed slaves, criminals or prisoners of war whose lives were nasty, brutish and short. Baker points out that there were different groups of gladiators, each with its own style of fighting. The Thracians, for example, used a round shield and sword, while the retiarii (net-men) used a net and trident spear. The games themselves were sponsored by the emperor, whose popularity was often secured by the magnitude of the contests he hosted. Using historical accounts of various games, Baker imaginatively re-creates a day at the Coliseum in Rome, which included a series of fights between criminals one armed, the other defenseless staged in a round robin manner until only one criminal was left standing; the victor was then killed unceremoniously by a Roman guard. The afternoon brought on the great battles between the "trained" gladiators, like the Thracians and the retiarii. The blood and dust from one combat had barely cleared before another began. Although they reflected the virtue of killing and facing death with the courage and dignity that dominated the Roman Empire, gladiatorial contests came to an end in the fifth century, when Christianity became the official state religion and when the empire itself was weakening. Baker builds upon an already established wealth of scholarship e.g., Michael Grant's Gladiators (2000) as he offers a lively, voyeuristic glimpse into the ancient world. Fans of the Ridley Scott movie won't be disappointed.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Baker states at the very beginning that this book is not intended to be a scholarly study, but rather a history for the layperson. He lives up to this disclaimer. The book begins with a look at the origins of the gladiator games (circa 400 B.C.E.) and ends with why they were abolished 800 years later. In the 150 pages in between, the author covers all aspects of the games: training, equipment, styles of fighting, and types of combat (man versus man, man versus beast, and the grand spectacle of the naval battles). There are chapters on why men became gladiators (some were slaves, others prisoners of wars or common criminals, while others voluntarily participated), the development of the arenas, and even a chapter on the emperors who fought. A culminating chapter called "A Day at the Games" provides readers with a vivid blow-by-blow description-what it was like in the expensive and cheap seats, the opening ceremonies, the scheduling of the events, their staging, and the reactions of the crowds. Baker goes into great detail and the book may not appeal to squeamish readers. It is, however, very well written and the information is thorough enough for student research.
Robert Burnham, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 337 KB
  • Print Length: 244 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0306811855
  • Publisher: Ebury Digital; New Ed edition (December 23, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004GKMV0W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #690,089 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
(24)
3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sand and blood in ancient Rome 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
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a Good History, but Might be a Good Read 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
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lurid Introduction to the Roman Games 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
3.0 out of 5 stars Roman Gladiators 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
good book
Published 21 days ago by Doug L Alexander
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Don't remember ordering this???
Published 1 month ago by Allan Jolly
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Is a gift for gson but it looks good to me Thank you
Published 5 months ago by Linda
5.0 out of 5 stars Real fighters
I have a real problem with movies, they don't tell all the truth. I like to research about a time period and the people. This book more than clarifies what happened back then
Published on August 9, 2012 by Leonard Griffin
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but somewhat superficial
This is an interesting popular history of gladiators. It is written for a general audience and lacks notes or detailed references, but there is a general bibliography and a list... Read more
Published on November 8, 2011 by Metallurgist
1.0 out of 5 stars Secret History?
As a Latin student in high school I knew most of what the author has to say about gladiators, so what kind of "Secret History" can this be? Read more
Published on September 15, 2009 by Reader reader
2.0 out of 5 stars Good for young readers, bad for well-read ones
This book reads like an undergraduate's thesis. The prose isn't terrible, but it isn't enthralling, either. Read more
Published on June 16, 2009 by JackDaniels7
2.0 out of 5 stars Almost, but not quite, good
Just a tiny insight into a fascinating period of history. How to you take such a strange and exciting subject and make it boring. Ask Alan Baker. Maybe he can tell you.
Published on June 17, 2008 by Gopal
4.0 out of 5 stars Adequate, entertaing and oft shocking introduction to the subject
My reading of "The Gladiator" was begun with a mote of lowered expectations. However, after reading the preface where the author clearly outlines that this is not meant to be a... Read more
Published on August 20, 2006 by P. Parikh
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Read
I picked this book up with a passing interest in the subject matter. My knowledge on gladiators was basically limited to viewing movies such as Spartacus and Gladiator. Read more
Published on May 9, 2006 by Calvin Durham
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