June 3, 2008
By Alex Cantoral-Gillespie, Dexter, MI

The grotesque wooden gates covered in dry blood opened. The gladiators waited patiently for the lions, bears and elephants that would soon attack them with deep hatred. Without a sign of flinching the young gladiator stabbed his spear into the flailing lion. The crowd instantly picked out the young gladiator as a favorite to win the battle; he showed great speed and strength while attacking various animals. 4 gladiators were killed by the giant tiger, which moved around slowly but killed with a flick of its paw. The battle between man and beast went on for 20 minutes. Blood littered the sandy coliseum floor, only three of the nine gladiators survived. The young gladiator showed no signs of being tired from the battle, only a look of regret for killing so many animals.
The young gladiator returned to his room in the upper half of the coliseum. The room was lavishly furnished with skins of tigers and lions. A large bed sat in the corner. The gladiator ripped off his chest plate and Trojan helmet, replacing them with a white toga. He placed his spear and shield on the worktable near bed. The gladiator set to work, polishing his shield with rich oils and cleaning off his spear, he then began sharpening his spear with a piece of flint. Absorbed in his work he did not notice the fat man approach him and tap his shoulder.
“ Cantinus, you fought well today, but you must work on fighting for the crowd, you give them no entertainment.”
“ Shut up Barto, I am the one fighting for my life while you sit near the politicians drinking without a care in the world.”
“Fine, you may insult me, but you will be the one fighting human gladiators tomorrow.”
Cantinus sat at the worktable wondering what it would feel like to kill a real man. He shuddered at the thought of ending someone’s life. What would the Gods think of him if he killed for no true reason?
Cantinus barely slept that night, his troubled past came to his mind and the pressure of fighting tomorrow lingered in the back of his thoughts. Cantinus finally got some rest, but he dreamt of the slave traders burning his family’s large villa down and killing his Roman father and Spanish mother for helping slaves escape from their evil masters. Cantinus knew how to fight with a sword and killed as many as the slave traders as he could. However, this all happened when he was only 15. Cantinus was then chained and forced to work as a slave, cutting rocks all day for a year. Then one day a fat man named Barto came to the area where the slaves were put to work and said he was taking men and adolescents to the coliseum games to fight as gladiators and that he would act as their agent. Cantinus immediately signed up knowing it was his only way out of being a slave for the rest of his life. If he became a gladiator he could reclaim the freedom he had owned when his political father was still alive.
Barto took the gladiators to a practice arena which would also be the gladiators living quarters until the games started. When the games started they were promised lavish living quarters. Barto knew he had a great fighter on his hands when he saw Cantinus scrimmage with a wooden sword. Cantinus easily beat all his opponents with his speed and quick jabs. Barto was unaware that Cantinus had received sword lessons from his father who was a Roman soldier before he became a politician. Barto wanted Cantinus to fight against other gladiators in the games, but Cantinus said he could not kill a man and was instead put into the animal fighting.

A sharp knock on the door awoke Cantinus. It was Barto who came to give the gladiator his armor for the upcoming match.
“Cantinus, the reason I put you in this fight was to win your freedom.”
“Barto I know you are a greasy scum who just wants to make money, cut the bull testicle” “ Barto today I am going to kill everyone in my path and when I win my freedom I am going to kill you.”
“ Ok, Cantinus whatever you say, but when you kill me, kill me with dignity and chop my head off.”
The fighting started well; Cantinus dominated his bout and was never even grazed by the other gladiator’s sword. The other gladiator had cuts all over his body Cantinus could have easily killed him if the blades on the swords were not blunt. The other gladiator showed signs of giving up; his swings of his sword were slow and inaccurate. With a swipe to the other gladiators leg Cantinus had him on the ground.
“Please, don’t do it, don’t kill me, let me see my family again.”
“I am not going to kill you, you and I are the same. The slave traders ruined your life too.”
Cantinus helped the other gladiator up. The entire crowd booed and whistled. Letting a gladiator live after winning was rarely heard of.
Cantinus returned to his room. He had evaded killing a man, but he knew he could not evade killing in every bout. What would he do? The people he was fighting against were in the same situation as him, they were both fighting for their freedom.
The coliseum was filled completely. The noise generated was so great that the sand floor of the stadium vibrated. Cantinus looked calm and ready. The gladiator Cantinus was fighting had a long jagged scar running down his face and was missing several teeth. Cantinus observed his opponent. Cantinus knew he was much more agile, but the other gladiator was huge and would swing his sword very hard.
The gladiators stepped into the ring, the crowd cheered for Cantinus, there were banners with the colors of his helmet, which was black and red. The other gladiator was slower than Cantinus had expected but could swing his sword with incredible force, causing Cantinus head to jar with every blow. Cantinus continued to jab the other gladiator with quick precise blows to his gut and legs. The fight continued on for 30 minutes, the longest any fight had lasted in history. Both gladiators were drenched with sweat and blood. The emperor who was sitting in the stands raised his arms to signal for the end of the fight, two wooden swords were presented to both gladiators for their stunning fight. The wooden swords symbolized their freedom. Cantinus felt like crying, he could have avoided this whole situation if the slave traders hadn’t killed his parents. Cantinus slumped down on the sandy floor and cried until he could cry no more.
Cantinus trudged into the stands of the coliseum and went to his room to pack his things. Barto had told him that he had won 50,000 thousand lire, which would support him for life, Barto planned on building a huge villa on the outskirts of Rome and finding new gladiators to train and make a large profit. Cantinus happily came along and was excited to give less fortunate people a path to freedom and wealth. He knew his parents would have supported him if they were still alive. The villa provided huge fields and a small stadium built for practice bouts. Cantinus was very pleased with the work on the house and told Barto that he was not going to live in the house, he said it was for the gladiators and for Barto himself. Cantinus took the remaining 25,000 lire and built himself a large villa near his birthplace Florence. He regularly worked with the gladiators until his death.

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