Gladiators and Beast Hunts (Paperback)
Arena Sports of Ancient Rome
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Gladiators and Beasthunts is a comprehensive survey of arena sports in ancient Rome, focusing upon gladiatorial combat and the beast-hunts (venationes). Whilst numerous books have already been written on arena spectacles in ancient Rome, they generally neglect the venationes, despite the fact that the beast-hunts, in which men were pitted in mortal combat against various dangerous wild animals (including lions, tigers, elephants and rhinos), were almost as popular as gladiatorial spectacles and were staged over a longer period of time. Dr Christopher Epplett, gives a full and detailed treatment of both types of spectacle.
The author starts by explaining the origins of these bloody combat sports in the late Roman Republic, before surveying the growth of these events during the first two centuries of the Empire, when emperors possessed the resources to stage arena spectacles on an unmatched scale. The details of the training, equipment and fighting styles used by different types of combatants are covered, as are the infrastructure of the arenas and behind-the-scenes organization that was essential to the successful staging of arena events. Particular attention will be paid to the means by which Roman spectacle organizers were able to procure the countless wild animals necessary for the staging of venationes throughout the Empire. This is a gladiator book with added bite and sure to be welcomed by scholars and general readers alike.
This was a well-researched, in-depth look at the development of gladiators arena fighting in ancient Rome. Epplett examines the different kinds of gladiators, their weapons and costumes, their possible origin in terms of Roman psychology (from using prisoners of war from different conquered areas of Rome to gladiators merely dressing in ways that remind Romans of those conquered warriors), and their place in Rome's social strata. The variety of animal fights in the arenas are also examined, along with their popularity even outstripping those of gladiator fights... the book is carefully researched and presented with scholarly thoroughness.NetGalley, Anne Morgan
As a history of munera and venationes Christopher Epplet's book works well, and indeed, has a level of detail that is condensed into a handy volume. There is an impression that every recorded instance of a public event has been charted and considered for importance and relevance. Nonetheless the book does not dwell on every aspect of arena sports. You will learn almost nothing of the psychology of such fighting, limited coverage of social issues, architecture, and even descriptions of the established gladiator classes seem a little cursory.UNRV
Should you buy this book? There are good reasons for doing so, with the understanding this will not be the only book about gladiators you will ever need. Dr Epplett comes agonisingly close to a palm leaf of victory but in the final analysis, he recieves a missio - with some well deserved applause.
Read the full review here.
As featured byVaeVictis, March-April 2017