I am a Government and Multi-Language (French, German and Italian) double-major and a European Studies and Arabic Studies double-minor. I studied abroad in Rome (Italy) during Spring 2018. I also studied abroad in Vienna (Austria), where I started my research on slavery during the Late-Roman Republic in the Roman Republic and its provinces. Due to this research in Spring 2017, I decided to narrow down my topic and study the case study of Gladiators as slaves: ‘Gladiatore: mancipia athletae? Gladiators as a part of the slave population in the Late Roman Republic’ Thanks to the Weaver/Nicolais Family Travel Research Grant, I was able to travel to Ostia Antica, Pompeii, Naples, Herculaneum, Capua, Agrigento and Syracuse, where I did my field research in order to complete my research of gladiators as slaves.
I looked at a general idea of gladiators as slaves and looked at individual stories from my field trips to the Campania and the Sicilian areas in Italy. When looking at the figure of gladiators, one of the biggest misconceptions is that people believe that Gladiators were either ‘superstars’ or simply unfortunate people that died in the Arena. They were neither of them since it was more complex than that. Gladiators usually were soldiers who came from the territories that did not surrender to Rome. A very famous type of Gladiator were the Dacians, who came from modern Romania after their defeat against Emperor Trajan in the first century A.D. This said, during my research, I learned that most of them were already professional soldiers and, once they became gladiators, it was not sure that they would die even if they lost their battle. If they were able to entertain the public and gain their support, they became popular and also profitable for the Roman politicians, the reason why they were not just simply killed. They were also used as male prostitutes for influential women of Rome or its allies and even figures used in political events for public support.
In sum, my research focused on gladiators as slaves, but I ended up discovering more things about them and the Roman culture of the time. One must understand the significance of gladiatorial games and gladiators in order to understand the most important motto of ‘Roman Ancient History’: “Panem et circenses”, or “bread and circuses” that applied as a significant propagandistic technique to have the citizens happy so they would not care about what the Senators and Emperor were doing with the foreign policy of the Republic and the later Empire.