The Life of Gladiators in Rome

By Go City Expert

Roman gladiators are some of the most iconic characters in history and they have defined how we think of entertainment in ancient Rome. Their portrayal in films and through stories have turned them into archetypal legends who faced death on a daily basis – certainly something not to be taken lightly. The expectations of gladiators are incomparable to anything we see or do today, making their lives even more fascinating and yet inconceivable. We tend to associate gladiators with an image of blood, gore and brutality but we wanted to give them a bit more credit and explore the real history behind these characters to learn about what ‘being a gladiator’ was really like. The term gladiator is derived from the Latin gladiatores in reference to their weapon the gladius – short sword. Many historians believe the tradition of gladiator fighting dates back to the Etruscans who hosted the contests as part of religious rites of death. However, it’s been disputed that the contests were also to commemorate the deaths of distinguished aristocrats and wealthy nobles, forcing condemned prisoners to fight, with the act of combat and bravery representing to the virtues of those who had died. The sport of gladiator fighting ran for over 650 years – a proof of its popularity! Spanning throughout the Roman Empire it was a fixture in the Roman entertainment calendar from 105 BC to 404 AD and the games mainly remained unchanged bar a few small rules. Early on, most gladiators were condemned prisoners and slaves, who were sacrificed by their Emperors. Later, when the Coliseum opened in 80 AD, being a gladiator proved a lucrative career move and thanks to this change in trend, gladiator schools were set up to train these volunteer fighters, enticing free men with the hope of winning a stake of the prize money and ultimately, glory. These new fighters included retired soldiers, warriors and desperate men looking to make a living. Some were even knights and nobles who wanted to prove their pedigree and show off their fighting skills. Rome had three notable training schools, Capua being one of them for the calibre of gladiators it produced. Agents would scout for potential gladiators to try and persuade them to come and fight for their honour. These gladiator schools offered both safety and captivity, comparable to a prison with its gruelling schedule, yet offering the comfort and security of three hearty meals a day and the best possible medical attention. Although these men were free men, they had to live in shackles and were not allowed to speak at mealtimes but they were allowed to keep any rewards and money if they won a fight. Their diets consisted of protein and carbohydrates like barley porridge and cereals – with no option of wine, water only. Although the gladiators were fighting fit, most of them were a little on the round side as it was preferable to have some extra padding around the midsection to protect them from any serious damage from superficial wounds. Gladiators were an expensive investment for those who ran the gladiator schools, so it was preferable that the fighters did not die on the field – meaning they had to be strong enough to last more than one fight. Contrary to popular belief, not many gladiators actually fought to the death. Some historians say 1 in 5 died in battle, others 1 in 10, yet most only lived to their mid-twenties which compared to today’s average is shocking! However, it was also common place at fights held at the Coliseum for the Emperor to have the final say as to whether the combatants lived or died – often invoking the opinions of the audience to help decide on the matter. So whether you fought well or not, your fate could lie ultimately in the hands of your ruler. When we think of gladiators in ancient Rome we tend to stereotype and think of men; warriors or slaves. But interestingly female slaves were also forced into the pit to fight alongside their male counterparts, or as Emperor Domitian preferred, to face them against dwarves for his particular entertainment. Women fought in gladiator fights for 200 years until Emperor Septimius Severus banned their participation from these blood thirsty games. The brave, strong gladiators not only had their strength to bring into the pit but also their swords. The type of armour and weapons they fought with depended on their social ranking as a gladiator. There were four main classes of gladiator: the Samnite, Thracian, Myrmillo and Retiarius. The Samnites were equipped with a short sword (gladius), rectangular shield (scutum), a graeve (ocrea) and a helmet. The Thracians fought with a curved short sword (sica) and a very small square or round shield (parma). The Myrmillo gladiators were nicknamed ‘fishmen’ as they wore a fish-shaped crest on their helmets and also carried a short sword and shield, like the Samnites, but their armour consisted only of padding on arm and leg. Finally, the Retiarius were the most exposed of all, with no helmet or armour other than a padded shoulder piece, and whose defence included a weighted net used to entangle the opponent and a trident. Although gladiators may have seemed well equipped, the strength and courage it must have taken to step into battle and face death on a regular occurrence is unfathomable. We can be grateful that this brutal form of entertainment came to an end in 404 AD thanks to the Emperor Honorius who closed down the gladiator schools, years before. Who knows when this diversion might have ended had he not have stepped in and called it a day? Learning that the majority of gladiators weren’t actually slaves, but free men who had volunteered for a slice of glory and winnings, makes gladiator fighting seem all the more bizarre and barbaric; opting into a blood battle over traditional forms of trade and commerce. However, it doesn’t take away from the pedestal on which we will always place them – venerating those who survived as heroes and legends of their time. But in the context of the 21st century, I think it’s safe to say that this is one sporting game we’re glad hasn’t come around again!

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Top 10 Things to Eat in Rome

You certainly won’t go hungry on your visit to Rome. It’s a city that loves its food and boasts some of the best pizzerias and gelaterias in Italy. We get a bit excited when we think about local delicacies in Rome, so we decided to put our heads together and pick our top 10 things to eat in Rome. So treat it like a bitesize bucket list of food. From little tomato-y arancini rice balls, to spaghetti alle vongole; chilled sorbets and fried anything – here is our best of the best, in no particular order... Pizza Now there’s no doubt that pizza is a bit of a non-mover on anyone’s top 10. A staple on any holiday to Rome, you can get pizza al taglio – which literally means slice – to takeaway with you, or sit down to an orbit of soft dough and all manner of toppings, from savoury to sweet. One of our favourites is a pizza bianca which is without tomato sauce and sometimes just sprinkled with salt. Arancini These little rice balls actually originate from Sicily but are a popular snack and served in most pizzerias. They’re a perfect accompaniment to any quick meal and a much healthier ‘fast food’ option when you’re on the go. Oozing with mozzarella and bound together with a breadcrumb outside, they are little balls of tomato rice heaven! Fritti The Roman’s love their fried food and will fry even vegetables! This may sound like any healthy-eater’s nightmare but it is delicious. Thanks to the Roman’s affinity with good food and quality olive oils they are never greasy so we recommend you opt for baccala (salt cod) or fiori di zucca (fried zucchini flowers) the next time you’re in a restaurant. Spaghetti alle vongole Vongole are little clams and are served as a speciality spaghetti dish in Rome and further south in Campania. Served in the shell, the main flavours in the dish are oil, garlic, parsley and maybe a splash of white wine – or if you opt for the rosso version just add tomatoes and fresh basil. Delicious if you like both pasta and seafood! Gelato Now this is an overarching theme in any food bloggers account of Rome. Blessed with some of the mouth-watering gelaterias in Rome, you won’t go short of a sweet creamy gelato, or refreshing sorbet. With flavours like hazelnut and espresso, to mango and kiwi, you can mix and match it all to your palette’s content! Roman Artichokes Carciofi (artichokes) are a big deal in Rome. They are such a staple vegetable that they have even been given a protected status by the EU! They are often fried, fritti style, or mixed into dishes like pasta and pizza. You can also indulge in ‘Jewish style artichokes’ which are fried so lightly they melt in your mouth. Saltimbocca One of the most popular dishes in Rome for both locals and tourists is saltimbocca, which literally means ‘jumping in the mouth’ – alluding to the pleasant sensations you’ll get whilst eating it! Typically it’s a meat dish, which can vary in chicken, which is its most common for, or, lamb. Garnished with prosciutto, mozzarella, sage and spinach, it’s a winning combination of flavours! Bucatini all'amatriciana One of the most Roman of all pasta shapes is the bucatini shape, a thick spaghetti like pasta but with a hollow centre. It’s great for scooping up the delicious cheesy sauces that run through its middle – so not one for those counting calories! It’s often served all’amatriciana, tomatoes, pepperoncino and guanciale (pigs cheek). Delicious! Coda alla vaccinara Oxtail soup is a hearty, meaty Roman delicacy that’s not to be missed. Local to the city, specifically from Arenula, the hub of Rome’s slaughterhouses, the butchers would sell their offal to local trattorias who would create dishes out of them – one of them being coda alla vaccinara – which is made by braising the tail of the cow and serving with stewed vegetables, celery, onion and seasonal herbs. Chicory Winter chicory, puntarelle, is another popular vegetable in Rome and is often found served on its own with a sprinkling of olive oil, anchovy and salt, served either raw or cooked. It’s a refreshing, bitter crunchy vegetable and a great accompaniment to salads or meatier dishes. One to try at home! image credit: Naotake Murayama - Flickr
Go City Expert

The 20 Most Romantic Places in Rome

Soak up the romance in the Eternal City with our guide to the most romantic places in Rome! With heaps of romantic places to share with your loved one, Rome is the perfect mix of greenery, history and radiant sunsets. Beautiful architecture lines the streets while hidden cafés nestle under arches and between historic buildings. If you’re looking for a European destination to explore with your partner, Rome is the perfect place to go. The team at the OMNIA Vatican & Rome Pass have put together this handy guide to help you dial up the romance. Explore the Villa Borghese Gardens Head over to the beautiful gardens of Villa Borghese for a romantic stroll or a quiet picnic in the lush greenery. Villa Borghese was built in the 17th century and now houses the largest private art collection in the world. The gardens themselves offer a small lake with rowing boats for hire and a small zoo; bike rental is also popular. Make sure you don’t miss the Temple of Aesculapius by the small pond, which is particularly tranquil. The best of the first day 🏛⛲️Terrazza del Pincio, 6 agosto 2018 A post shared by Silvi (@silvi.dozzi) on Aug 9, 2018 at 5:02pm PDT The Pincio Gardens Stroll across the pedestrian bridge within the Borghese Gardens to discover the Pincio Gardens that neighbour the park. There are beautiful views from the terrace at the Piazzale Napoleone I, particularly at sunset – well worth the climb up the hill. (più Roma di così...) #iconic #pantheon #botticella #carrozzella #roma #rome #italy #igersroma A post shared by Tommaso (@pangestruzio) on Jun 29, 2018 at 6:04pm PDT Horse-drawn carriages What could be more romantic than touring the ancient streets of Rome in a horse-drawn carriage? The carriages are called Botticella (meaning small barrel) and there is a choice of tour routes taking in famous monuments including the Coliseum, Circus Maximus and the Trevi fountain. The great beauty #rome #rivertiber #italy #cloudlovers A post shared by Federica Todisco (@_federicatodisco) on Mar 28, 2018 at 11:55am PDT Cruise the Tiber Cruise down the river Tiber on a boat tour for a different view of the city and take in the wonderful surroundings with your favourite person. There are cruises with live music, drinks and/or food as well as hop-on-hop-off options. Explore Vatican City Be inspired by the Vatican Museums – 1400 rooms containing art and artefacts from over 3,000 years of Roman history. Not to forget the Sistine Chapel, that attracts more than 5 million visitors a year (equal to the population of Norway). Advance booking and tickets with fast-track entry are advised, but it’s a real must-visit. St Peter’s Basilica Also part of the Vatican, St Peter’s is one of the holiest Catholic churches in the world and a beautiful example of Renaissance architecture. Climb to the top of the dome for 360-degree views of St Peter’s Square and the city of Rome, or admire the many statues and artworks, including the Pietà – Michelangelo’s only signed work. If you’re Catholic, you can even be married here. (Terms and conditions apply.) Resterei lì, a guardarla per ore. Perché certi posti ci restano nel cuore! / 🗝 #roma #bucodellaserratura #aventino #meraviglia ________ #igersitalia #igersroma #igerslazio #instagramer #yallersitalia #yallerseurope #yallersroma #yallerslazio #ilikeitaly #italiainunoscatto #igers #instagrammer #instagramers A post shared by @ smonep on Jun 16, 2018 at 4:36am PDT Aventine Hill Climb Aventine Hill to enjoy a romantic picnic while gazing down at the city from above. Set in a quieter residential district, it’s a break from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city. Take a cheeky bottle of wine at sunset and don’t forget to peek through the keyhole of the Knights of Malta for a particularly beautiful view. A post shared by Tim (@timvranken) on Jul 19, 2018 at 12:51am PDT Teatro Dell’Opera di Roma Head over to the famous opera house to witness a jaw-dropping opera or ballet. Built in the nineteenth century, this theatre is one of the best in Europe. A perfect evening or day activity, you and your partner will leave feeling refreshed and inspired. Situado na rua ao lado da Piazza Navona (praça) , o hotel Raphael oferece quartos luxuosos com banheiros revestido em mármores e piso em parquet. O terraço na cobertura oferece vista panorâmica de Roma , da Basílica de São Pedro. #azmturismo #roma #relauschateaux #viagem E-mail: [email protected] A post shared by AZM Turismo & Corporativo (@azm.turismo) on Aug 8, 2018 at 1:11am PDT Raphael Rooftop Dinner Enjoy a fancy dinner on the Hotel Raphael roof terrace looking out over Rome. Look up from your meal to admire views of the Church of St Agnes, the Church of St Mary of the Soul and Santa Maria della Pace. Or simply gaze into your partner’s eyes. A post shared by Диана Харламова (@slum_princess) on Aug 9, 2018 at 3:47pm PDT Trastevere As the sun goes down, head over to Trastevere to explore the more laid-back, bohemian side of Rome. Wander through boutique shops selling a variety of unique products perfect for special gifts or souvenirs. There are also plenty of cafés for a relaxing cup of coffee while enjoying the evening air. Trevi Fountain Don’t forget to throw a coin into the famous Trevi fountain for luck. Legend has it, you will then be sure to return to Rome in the future. And if you throw in three coins, the fountain promises marriage! All the coins are later collected and donated to charity. Learn about this iconic Roman landmark here. When in Italy... GELATO • When in Rome... GIOLITTI 🍦#sisterlystyle #sisterlystyletakerome #travelingwithsisterlystyle ❤️ A&E A post shared by S I S T E R L Y S T Y L E (@sisterlystyle) on Aug 6, 2018 at 3:26pm PDT Giolitti Ice Cream Ice cream lover? If you’re starting to feel the heat after a long walk, this is the perfect place to cool off. With every flavour imaginable and sprinkles galore, this is a great place to stop off during a day out. Discover some of the best gelato in the city thanks to our guide with local bloggers! ★ story ★ Puddles = photo opportunity . Another pic from my recent trip to Rome. _̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅ . ★ kistography ★ _̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅ . ★ my set up ★ _̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅ . 📷 = @CanonUK 700D + 10-18mm. . 🌍 = Giardino degli Aranci, Rome, Italy 🇮🇹. . 🖍 = Processed in Adobe Creative Suite - Adobe Photoshop _̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅ . ★ social ★ . * [FB] * [TW] kistography * [IG 2] @kistogram * [SC] Kistography. * (Clickable links in my profile). _̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅_̲̅ . ★ hashtags ★ . . . . #canonuk #telegraphtravel #guardiantravelsnaps #ig_travelerworld #bbctravel #natgeotravel #igrome #romecityworld #thehub_roma #inrhome #unlimitedrome #igroma #lazio_super_pics #loves_lazio #vivolazio #romeitaly #placesofitaly #raw_italy #travelsitaly #igpic_italia #ig_italia #TopEuropePhoto #ig_europe #loves_united_europe #loves_europe #ig_europa #ok_europe #euro_shot #ThePIPAS2018 A post shared by Photographer ➕ instagram geek (@kistography) on Aug 7, 2018 at 1:09pm PDT The Garden of Oranges Take a leisurely stroll to the Giardino degli Aranci behind the Basilica of Santa Sabine with the ancient ruined walls of the Castle Savelli. Take a picnic or go to enjoy the sunset, accompanied by the wonderful fragrance of the orange trees. What could be more relaxing? Ponte Sant’Angelo Enjoy a scenic wander along the Tiber until you reach the Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge that dates back to the 15th century. Watch the lights of Rome reflect and sparkle in the water and think about the love of your life (or the pizza you’re going to order later). Castel Sant’Angelo Castel Sant’Angelo is close to the Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge and beautifully lit at night. It’s occasionally open in the evenings, which is a chance to explore the castle when it’s much quieter than normal. Now housing a museum, it was originally built as the Mausoleum of Hadrian and later converted to a papal fortress. While that may not sound romantic, the impressive architecture, peaceful atmosphere and views from the terrace are well worth the trip. Hidden Cafés and Rooftop Terraces It wouldn’t be a romantic get-away without a drink at a hidden café or on a rooftop terrace. Rome is home to many places of the sort waiting to be discovered by you and your partner. Stroll through the streets to stumble upon cosy cafés amongst the brick. The Roman Forum & Palatine Hill The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are part of the ancient city of Rome. Explore the ancient ruins, iconic pillars, historical buildings and winding cobbled streets with your partner while you literally walk in the footsteps of emperors. Pinching myself that I happened to be here for last night’s sunset. Roma you never cease to amaze me! ✨✨✨ • • • • • • • • • • #romewhatelse #lazio_bestsunset #tramonto #rome #roma #romewise #tramonti_italiani #sunset_hunter #campidoglio #michelangelo #quantoseibellaroma #ig_rome #igersroma #igersitalia #vivoroma #vivo_italia #italia_super_pics #italiainunoscatto #yallersroma #yallersitalia #mytinyatlas #beautifuldestinations #romeisus #romephotography A post shared by Elyssa Bernard (@romewise) on Aug 8, 2018 at 12:48pm PDT Campidoglio A very popular wedding venue, Piazza del Campidoglio is a great place for holiday photos, particularly as there is no traffic. The piazza itself was designed by Michelangelo and has plenty of cafés to stop at. Located on Capitoline Hill, it also offers more exquisite views over the city. #down #exploringtheglobe #sunrise #sundown n #sky #skyline #skylovers #skyview #valley #nature #naturelove #natura #natureza #naturalista #naturegram #panorama #roma #tramontosulfiume #explore #isolatiberina #colli #river #tramonto #explore #naturephotography #summer #naturephotography #travelphotography #sunset #tibetina #tevere A post shared by Giulia Godoli (@gullarig) on Aug 9, 2018 at 2:24am PDT Lungotevere Lungotevere were large walls built to protect Rome from the Tiber flooding. Now a boulevard running along the edge of the river, this is a perfect spot for a romantic evening stroll while looking out over the water. View from the other side of Gianicolo hill. #gianicolohill #rome #villalante #basilicadisanpietro #saintpetersbasilica A post shared by Suvi Juvonen (@s_juvonen) on Jul 2, 2018 at 11:46am PDT Gianicolo Hill For the most breathtaking panorama of Rome yet, Gianicolo Hill is the place to go to. It doesn’t matter if you’re in your heels and best dress, as taxis run regularly to the top. With cafés and shops conveniently located, there’s no need to pack a picnic either. With so many romantic places in Rome, it’s hard to choose where to start. An OMNIA Vatican & Rome card will save you time and money on big and small attractions, making your romantic getaway go as smoothly as possible. Wishing you a romantic trip!
Megan Hills

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