In the movie Gladiator, Maximus turns to the bloodthirsty crowd and yells, “Are you not entertained?” It’s clearly meant to be a biting criticism about the entire nature of violence as a sporting event. An actual Roman gladiator would have never said something like that. They wouldn’t have gotten the chance. After all, they were just nameless murder machines who lasted for a fight or two tops before ending up as lion poop, right?
Wrong! Real gladiators were minor celebrities (and sometimes total sellouts) who milked the whole thing for all it was worth. They even served as spokespersons for dumb products, just like modern athletes. They were on signs and everything.
Popular gladiators would even have action figures of themselves sold at little carts around the arenas … although looking at them today, the “action” part might be debatable.
The British Museum
All this stuff was actually supposed to be in the movie, but it was cut because it made it all seem too much like a parody. Yes, real life in ancient Rome was too sensationalist for a Hollywood production. Which is doubly ironic since gladiators were as close to television as the Romans could get. Even if it was less Nickelodeon and more HBO.
And you know what? We still have gladiator action figures.
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