The ancient Romans are known for their violent forms of entertainment. People are fascinated by the blood sports that once were. In fact, over six million people visit the colosseum annually and it has become a well-recognized symbol of the Roman empire. These public spectacles included animal hunts, executions, chariot races, and of course, gladiatorial games. People in the modern age spend a lot of their leisure time watching somewhat similar content; violent sports, horse races, wrestling, etcetera- there’s just less blood and actual death! The games also provided more than sheer entertainment to the spectators, sometimes, for the right price, they could provide a cure for medical afflictions (or so they thought!).
The gladiators were symbols of virility. Crowds cheered as men in their prime showcased their physical strength and agility under circumstances of extreme violence and stress. Gladiators who performed well were treated with celebrity status and were revered. They were human representations of strength, sex, and traditional masculinity and people wanted to feel connected to such a force. Strigils, metal scrapers, were used to collect sweat and dirt from the bodies of the men after a fight. The liquid was bottled and sold to women in the crowds who would put the elixir on their jewelry and dab it on their bodies like perfume. Blood was another bodily fluid that had high value. Corpse medicine has a rich and complex history and throughout time there have been many cultures that saw blood as having healing properties.
The Romans believed that the blood of the young men slain violently in the gladiatorial games had the ability to cure diseases such as epilepsy. Workers would slit the throats of a freshly-dead man and collect his warm blood in vials that were then sold to the public. When the gladiatorial games were outlawed in 400 AD, blood from executed criminals served as a substitute.
“Some have freed themselves from such a disease by drinking the hot blood from the cut throat of a gladiator: a miserable aid made tolerable by a malady still most miserable.”Celsus, De Medicina 3.23
Until Next Time
· “Blood Gladiator Miracle Cure.” Imperium Romanum. 21 May, 2019. Accessed 12 January, 2023. imperiumromanum.pl/en/curiosities/blood-gladiator-miracle-cure.
· Pandey, Sahir. “Romans Drank Gladiator Blood as an Epilepsy Cure!” ancient origins. 26 June, 2022. Accessed 12 January, 2023. https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-ancient-traditions/gladiator-blood-cure-0016946.