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Owlscrying

Gladiators' graveyard discovered

3 posts in this topic

May 2

The discovery of what is claimed to be the first scientifically authenticated gladiator graveyard.

The remains were found at Ephesus in Turkey, a major city of the Roman world.

The Ephesus graves containing thousands of bones were found along with three gravestones, clearly depicting gladiators.

Two pathologists at the Medical University of Vienna - have spent much of the past five years painstakingly cataloguing and forensically analysing every single bone for age, injury and cause of death.

They found at least 67 individuals, nearly all aged 20 to 30. One striking bit of evidence is that many have healed wounds.

But there was also evidence of mortal wounds. Written records tell us that if the defeated gladiator had not shown enough skill or even cowardice, the cry of "iugula" (lance him through) would be heard throughout the arena, demanding he be killed.

The condemned gladiator would be expected to die "like a man" remaining motionless to receive the mortal blow.

The pathologists discovered various unhealed wounds on bones that showed how these executions could have taken place. And these are consistent with depictions on reliefs from the time showing a kneeling man having a sword rammed through down his throat into the heart. A very quick way to die.

Tell-tale nicks in the vertebrae or other bones suggest at least some of the bodies suffered this fate.

A number of skulls were also found to have sets of up to three holes at odd intervals, consistent with a blow from a three-pronged weapon such as a trident.

The bone injuries - those on the skulls for example - are not everyday ones, they are very, very unusual, and particularly the injuries inflicted by a trident, are a particular indication that a typical gladiator's weapon was used.

But not all head injuries found were trident wounds. A number of the skulls showed rectangular holes that could not have been made by any of the known gladiator weapons. Instead, they suggest the use of a heavy hammer.

One possible explanation, which is supported by a number of archaeologists, is that there must have been an assistant in the arena who basically gave the gladiator the coup de grace.

They must have been very severely injured gladiators, ones who had fought outstandingly and so had not been condemned to death by the public or by the organiser of the match, but who had no chance of surviving because of their injuries. It was basically the final blow, in order to release them.

Gladiators were prisoners of war, slaves or condemned offenders

If a gladiator survived three years of fighting in the arena, he would win his freedom. Those who did often became teachers in the gladiator school; and one of the skeletons found at Ephesus appears to be that of a retired fighter.

He was of mature age and the scientists were able to reconstruct nearly his entire body. His head showed apparent signs of healed wounds from previous fights but, clearly, none of them would have proved fatal.

Historical records suggest a gladiator's chance of survival was slim, with some estimates as low as a one in three chance of dying each time he fought.

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VERY interesting stuff.

I'm a big fan of ancient Rome.

I also heard that the bones the found indicated that the men weren't the big burly musclebound fighters that are often depicted in the movies, but rather "normal" in build, bone and muscle structure.

Just average Joes for the most part who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, depending on which side you were on.

Anytime we get a glimpse of the ancient past it's cool...I love it. :tu:

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Very interesting piece of information you got there. Cool stuff!

JJO

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