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The Arena of Death

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86 A.D.
Ante Diem IV Nonas Quintilis-

These words are written by a shaking hand. Fear consumes every waking hour of my fading life. I cherish sleep, for with sleep comes escape from the world and my prison. I am not only in this prison, this confining, damp cell, in body. In mind, I am imprisoned also, held prisoner by my jailer Fear. Yes, I fear death, but it is not only my own death, that I fear.

I am sentenced to die. I am to be beheaded, as is the most popular punishment for the crime I have committed. What crime, you ask? I stole a loaf of bread—a single loaf of bread—from a market stall. Did the Roman soldiers care that my family is starving? No. Did they even consider that I had no other choice but to steal, to feed my family? Of course not, they are brutal and indifferent to the struggles and trials of common folk. They hold their heads up with pride, looking down scornfully at us commoners. As if they weren’t born in the same position we are in now. As if their own parents weren’t commoners.

But no more about the vulgarity of Roman soldiers; time is scarce, the clock is ticking down to my execution and I still have much to say. If you are reading this, please get this into the hands of the Lucretious Minus family. Thank you for heeding the sole wish of a condemned man, awaiting his imminent death.

As I said before, I do not fear only for my death. It is not this that troubles me day and night. When I stole that loaf of bread; I was a fool and ran, seeking shelter at home. I thought I had lost the soldiers, but no, alas I led them straight to my house. They knocked down my door and seized not only I, but also my family. My family has done no wrong, but they are now in the fatal embrace of the Roman Empire.

I shudder to think of their fates. My beautiful wife Thuria and my daughter Italia will become slaves in the Colosseum, forced to work in that hideous place for life, with no chance of being freed. My son Aquilo will train for two or three years in the School of Gladiators, and then will be thrust into the deadly life of a gladiator. I am at fault. I wish I could save them all, but especially Aquilo. Poor Aquilo, he is not bred to be a warrior. I fear I have been too soft on him. A mind full of knowledge and poetry will not help him in the arena of death.

I have read a scroll written by a gladiator and from his account I can see that the gladiatorial battles are not for the weak hearted. I mourn for Aquilo, for surely he is condemned to die, like me.


~ Cato Lucretius Minus

Taken from the writings of a Gladiator:

81 A.D.
Ante Diem V Ides Martius


This is the day, the day that has never left my thoughts for more than a minute, the day I have been training for. This is the day I have been both dreading and anticipating. Today I will fight for the first time in the mighty Colosseum. I have trained hard to get where I am. I have trained as a gladiator for nearly two and a half years.

True, I did not come here of my own accord; true I was forced into enrolling in the School of Gladiators, but I am ready for the challenges the arena will throw at me. I was sold to the School of Gladiators by my master. I would have run away, but alas, my master still holds ownership over my family. I have three children within his grasp. My oldest son, Julian, is six and ten years old, as of this year. His fierce, brown eyes and thick brown hair remind me of my late-departed wife, who was taken from me by a fatal snakebite.

Julian should not have to live the life he does. He protects his younger brother and sister, the twins, with his life. Any blame they might have taken from the master, he takes upon his own shoulders willingly, to spare them from the blow.

My youngest are Fabian and Aristarete. They are why I have stayed willingly all these painful months at this dreadful camp. They have given me the willpower to carry on. One day, I hope to win my freedom fighting in the Colosseum. Then, I will save up money to buy their bonds and free my children from the chains of slavery.

This will not be an easy task. My faith wavers when I think of the terrible odds against me. I will fight in a group of ten gladiators, as is most popular, and only one of us will come out alive. It will be a fight to the death. And what chance do I, Soren, a former slave, have against the victor, Cassius? He is the crowd’s favorite and has never lost before. But, I must not lose. A loss would result in death and my master would have no reason to keep my children alive. He might decide to keep Julian, for he is strong, and perhaps Fabian, for he is healthy and may one day be of use to him. But Aristarete, my sweet Aristarete, she is weak and never fully healthy. She gets ill so often, it seems as if her illnesses run continually.

I must be strong and have confidence in my ability to fight. I pray to Mars, god of war, to provide me with the strength to succeed. I have given offering to all of the major gods, so as not to offend any one, least they strike me down in battle.

My adrenaline is pumping; my heart is beating faster then the rapid wings of the hummingbird. I long to pace, but I must not. I must finish my testimony, least this be the last day that I walk in this world.

I have resolved that I cannot die, not after all I have been through. To die at this point, would be pure irony. Countless innocent ‘gladiators’ have died in this training camp, before they even set foot in the Colosseum. Some say that the School of Gladiators is a death trap, even worse than the Colosseum itself.
Our camp is not the only training camp for gladiators, but it is the biggest and most well known.

So many have died from exhaustion, sickness, fatal wounds inflicted by fellow gladiators in training, unquenchable thirst, and unfathomable hunger. Death runs rampant in our camp, as common as lice. Every day, we fight for our food and water, and hope that we will not be forced to go hungry.

Currently there are 23 of us, but our numbers change so often, that I harly bother to kepp track anymore. There are new recruits every week and many people die. On very unfortunate days, more than one person dies. This happens often; so often that we almost disregard death now. We turn our faces away from death and weep no more for those who pass away.

This is not true for the fresh recruits, though. When they first arrive, they are delicate and if they don’t toughen up within the first few days; they usually die.

I know it is sick, but we often bet on who will live or die. We do not have much to bet, so we bet things like a ration of food, a blanket, or the spot where we sleep.

Our camp is also very unsanitary. Rats, bugs, and snakes are everywhere in great numbers, spreading disease. We sleep in the dirt, alongside them, sharing our warmth and few blankets. We even fight to be in the middle of our open aired cabin during the icy nights of winter. Those who sleep on the borders often never wake from their slumbers. On warm nights, we down not bother to sleep inside. We take our blankets outside to sleep on—least they be stolen by one thinking of colder nights to come—and sleep beneath the bright stars.

Very few friendships are formed in the tension that circulates camp. Who can form alliances, when we are always watching our backs, least we are stabbed? Also, when someone dies, it is easier not to have strong feelings for him. Showing your feelings is a sign of weakness, in the style of life we are forced to live in. Our trainers discourage it and portray it as a punishable offense. Many a new recruit has been made an example of, for crying in the night.

I hear echoing footsteps headed towards my cell. The Roman soldiers are coming to escort me to the Colosseum. I guess this is farewell. I must go and fight now, not only for my life, but also for the life and wellbeing of my children. I fight for freedom!








~Soren Arrius Domitius


Ante Diem IV Ides Martius

I won! I won the gladiator games! I’m still in so much shock, a day afterwards. I can’t believe it; it seems like a distant dream. Maybe I am just exhausted. Yesterday was a very trying day, that’s for sure.

I woke up here, in this strange fancy house, not knowing where I was, but then it hit me. I am lying on a soft bed in the House of Victors, where the gladiators who survive the Colosseum get to stay, when they are not training. Victors get special training, not with the gladiators-in-training.

I almost forgot that since I am victorious I can start winning my way to freedom and then begin saving up money to buy my children's freedom! This is the start of a new journey. Against all odds, 10 to 1, I have survived my first real battle. My new life is beginning. One to two more years of successful battles and I will be a free man.

This is a lot for my brain to process. I am growing weary. My eyelids are drooping. It is late in the night; my candle burns low, and I am off to bed. I shall sleep in luxury tonight and wake refreshed in the ‘morrow. Tomorrow I will give an account of my trials in the Colosseum. Good night.


~Soren Arrius Domitius


Ante Diem III Ides Martius


This morning has been so fantastic that it does not seem real. I was visited by my angelic children while being served a three course breakfast in bed, which the even the four of us couldn’t finish. The smiles on my childrens’ faces, especially Aristarete's, warm my heart, more than any fire ever could.

This meal, this comfort is overwhelming. What a change this is; only two days ago I was fighting for my meager breakfast with countless others.

I promised an account of my triumphant day and the struggles that preceded it, so now you shall get just that. When I arrived at the Colossuem, I was taken to a chamber below ground, beneath the Colosseum’s arena. There we were told to wait for someone to come and get us, to fight.

The whole time we were waiting, Cassius was flexing his muscles, lifting things to show his strength, and trying to intimidate the other gladiators. Emlyn, a small, sickly lad, was doing just the opposite. He was curled up in a ball, crying and being sick in the corner. I knew I should not have spoken to him, for he reminded me of my daughter, always sick and frail, and he toke hold of my heart.

I should have known that this would happen. I went over to the corner where he was trembling and began to pat his shoulder and to comfort him. Then Ynyr, an adamant admirer of Cassius, stormed over and struck Emlyn on the head for showing his feelings. I backed away and sat down in a separate corner, to wait.

About this time, we started to hear music, as the parade traveled overhead. Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus had arrived. Next were the mock fights and theatre productions. After this, some gladiators, none of us ten, were selected to hunt and fight the bestiari, wild animals.

When it was time for the lunch break, we were given a loaf of bread and a jug of water apiece. Even though it is called a break, the festivities continued. This is when the particularly treasonous, sacrilegious, or rebellious prisoners are executed in the arena.

Usually they are forced to star in a dramatic reenactment of a mythological tale that ends in the main character’s death. Other times, the prisoners are forced to fight to the death. Either they fight each other and the last one alive has the choice to of being beheaded or becoming a gladiator, or they are pitted against trained gladiators.

Today the prisoners were forced to fight each other. The victor of today’s battle was Rupert Aulus Sectius. His crime was murder, so he was not given the choice of death or the life of a gladiator. He was promptly hanged.

Next came the highlight of the day, the crowds’ favorite event: the gladiator battles. We were outfitted as specific kinds of gladiators and sent out into the arena. Arena slaves gave us different types of weapons and armor to make it more interesting for the crowd.

There are four kinds of gladiators; Retarius, Thracian, Samnite, and Myrmillion. Retarius gladiators fight with a large net and a forked trident. This type of gladiator originated from Neptune, the god of the sea. In a stroke of good luck, I was picked to be a Retariusgladiator. This was the gladiator that I had hoped to be, because, I usually train with a net and trident during our training sessions.

Emlyn and Leo were chosen to be Thracian gladiators. This was a horrible placement for Emlyn, as Thracian gladiators wear a shield and a short, curved dagger. To use this dagger, you need to be able to get in close and that can be a fatal move for one as weak as Emlyn.

As Cassius bore a short sword and a long, curved shield, he was a Samnite gladiator. Ynyr was picked to be a Myrnillion gladiator and fought with a short sword and a rectangular shield.

Once we were suited up for battle, we were lined up in the middle of the arena for people to place their bets on which gladiator would survive the fight to the death and come out alive.

Emlyn was the first to be killed, by the sword of Julian, as I had earlier predicted. His scream of death was like nothing I had ever heard before, a scream pure and haunting,like a child's wail. Emlyn should never have been forced to fight in the Colosseum; we all knew he wouldn’t last a minute. He was the first to be singled out, the weakest link.

Leo was the third to go, Ynyr the sixth, and Ares the eighth. Finally it was down to Cassius and I,squaring off. I knew that Cassius would be fighting in the final round, but I never thought that I would get that far, much less win.

Our battle dragged on for five and twenty minutes. I was weakening fast, bleeding from many wounds, and losing confidence and energy by the second.

For some reason, for the slightest second, I glanced at the crowd and doing so, saw my children in the stands, watching fearfully. I realized then, that my former master meant to sell them to the Colosseum, to be arena slaves, if I died, so he could at least get some profit out of me.

This gave me a burst of energy. I got my second wind, just as Julian leapt at me, thrusting his sword downwards, pointed towards my heart. I blocked the fatal sweep and caught his sword with my trident. Flipping my trident backward, I flung his sword behind me, leaving him confounded and more importantly weaponless.

Now I had him at the crowd’s mercy. I knocked him to the ground, stood over him, and awaited the crowd’s verdict. Receiving a majority of “thumbs down”, I killed him.

He did not scream or whimper; a true gladiator. Each gladiator before fighting is required to take a sacred oath; “I will endure to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten, and to be killed by the sword.” This is the oath that bound Cassius to take death without flinching.

After this, the Charon, a masked figure representing Pluto, the god of death, removed Cassius’s head. The Charon’s job is to make sure that dead gladiators pass into the underworld. The Charon then uses a long hook to drag the gladiator’s body out the Porta Libitinensis.
This Portal of Death is named after Libitina, the goddess of death.

In a trancelike state, too shocked to move now that reality had returned to me, I allowed four royal bearers to carry me out of the arena of death, amoungst the wild cheers of the crowd.That is the last I can remember, before darkness overtook my vision and I passed into the black nothingness of unconsciousness.



~Soren Arrius Domitius




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