Roman Times and Events: Those about to Die, Chapter 11, Part 7 of 7

(by Daniel P. Mannix)

The fights continued to rage. Slaves pushing two-wheeled carts collected the wounded, for these men were too valuable to be burned by hot irons or knocked on the head by a hammer.

The referees had trouble saving the wounded even when the verdict of the crowd was for them, because the victorious gladiator, mad with the excitement of battle, would often dispatch his defeated adversary on the spot. A mural in Herculaneum shows a referee trying to stop a Myrmillo from killing his helpless Samnite opponent.

When the crowd tired of the individual combats, companies of gladiators were engaged. A platoon of Gauls' fought a platoon of Thracians.

Domitian was always a strong supporter of the Thracian gladiators; people became fanatical fans of certain types of gladiators just as they backed the Reds or the Blues in the chariot races.

One excited man in the stands leaped up during the fight to shout, "Smear 'em, Gauls! Those Thracians may be the emperior's pet but they can't stand up against you boys!"

The furious Domitian had the offender dragged from his seat and thrown in the arena. Then he ordered Carpophorus to turn his Hyrcanian hounds loose on him.

After the gladiators had finished, there were jousts between Equestres—mounted men on horseback in full armor with lances.

The armor these men wore was not plate armor like the Medieval knight's but breastplates, visored helmets, and greaves on their legs.

However, the Romans did know how to make jointed armor, that is, armor that can slide in and out like an armadillo' plates as a man moves. The Secutores wore such armor on their right arms. Possibly the Equestres were similarly equipped and may even have worn chainmail.

Their lances were probably light like the lances used by the Light Brigade at Balaclava. I can't understand why the Romans didn't make more use of the Equestres in warfare.

An armored man on horseback can handle almost any number of footmen as the Medieval knights demonstrated. After all, King Arthur lived only a couple of hundred years after the time of Domitia and may even have been a British governor trained by the Romans. He certainly used knights to good effect.

But apparently the Romans always put their faith in their legions maneuvering on foot. It was a great mistake.

By the time the Equestres had finished their jousting, it was dark, but the games still continued. The catapults flung figs, dates, nuts, cakes and plums to the crowd. Free wine was distributed. Torches sprinkled with incense were lighted. The incense was of different kinds so the torches burned red, yellow, blue and green.

Silver stars were hung from the awning. In the arena, cavalry fought against chariots and heavily armored Hoplomachi fought equally well-armed Provocatores, the varicolored lights dancing on the sword blades and shields.

At the end, the arena was flooded again for a fight between African natives in war canoes while barges full of beautiful nude girls floated around the podium wall, chanting songs and throwing favors into the stands.

Roman Events: Those about to Die, Chapter Twelve, Part 1 is next.

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