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Aside from the philosophical aspects of the world "their audience will understand some of the technical vocabulary, and will admire and approve" the conduct of those arranging the games.
Another major point in Wiedemann's depiction of the Roma world is his connection to the morality of the fights with gladiators. He comes to depict them in the wider context of the religious beliefs of the Romans. More precisely, it was considered that gladiators possessed a certain virtue which could absolve them of any wrongdoing. At this point however, this belief entered in collision with the Christian belief in the Jesus.
There are several theoretical aspects which can be considered in terms of the Christian opposition towards the fights with gladiators. The author points out the fact that Christians considered the games to be repulsive from the point-of-view of the Christian doctrine. Indeed, while the Romans viewed the fights as a means to find forgiveness, the Christinas viewed faith and not virtue as a means to be absolved at this point. However, the author mentions a certain sense of morality to the games in the sense that he finds them justification in the desire of man to fight mortality. Still, taking into account the fact that Wiedemann mentions the participants to these fights to be also individuals who were eager to be paid for their participation, it is rather hard to determine their moral incentive for their contest.
The morality of the fights appears to lack a solid foundation in terms of arguments. Indeed, in the mythology of the Romans there are references made with concern to the virtuous nature that would eventually save the individual. However, through the arguments Wiedemann presents, it is rather obvious the fact that the main motivation was not related to ancient mythology. In the contests, the majority of them were in fact war prisoners or slaves who had been brought from the provinces as war trophies.
To illustrate this point there have been a number of pictures made on the issue of gladiators. One of the most recent and one which clearly points out this fact is the 2000 film "Gladiator" starring Russell Crowe. The account of the lives of gladiators represents in fact a small part of the film. Yet the details clearly point out the fact that the fights that went on between gladiators were by no means ones for absolution, but rather for survival. At the other end of the story, their organization represented simply a popular means of controlling the degree of happiness of the people. Therefore, it can be said that the idea of the morality of the fights with gladiators can be contested.
In addition to this point, the Christian opposition appears as well to be inconsistent not with the historical events that took place, but with the issue of morality itself. The opposition came in response to the actual belief in virtue as a means for salvation. The Christians rejected this heresy. However, it was very clear from the point-of-view of the religious background of the Romans that they could not reject such games on religious considerations. On the contrary, taking into account the fact that they were seen as a means to thank the Gods, they found nothing wrong in watching individuals fight to death. At the same time however, Christians believed in the absolute nature of the individuals, yet they did not reject the games out of compassion but rather out of religious heresy.
In his concluding parts however, the author stresses the main role of the games as an obvious practice of the emperors to subdue their people and their time. In the end, it can be said that regardless of the issues of pagan philosophy and Christian opposition, the main idea behind the fights with gladiators was the influencing of the people. The organization of the games and the offering of such shows were considered to be extremely necessary for the well being of the population precisely because they represented the strength and power of the emperor in front of his people.
The moral argumentation of the fights is rather hard to be understood. The Romans were a people considered to be rather vain and shallow in their beliefs not necessarily from a mythological point-of-view, but in terms of philosophy and thought. This is not to say that their culture was less valuable than that of other peoples, but by comparison to the Greek culture which relied more heavily on the ideas of philosophers, the Romans tried to live more in the present rather than in the abstract world philosophy offered. From this point-of-view, I find it rather difficult to accept the fact that the Romans and the Roman Empire was driven by mythological considerations and not by pure vanity in organizing the fights with the gladiators.
Overall it can be said that the book represents an interesting and to a certain degree captivating depiction of the way in which gladiators came to symbolize power for the ones organizing their fights; established themselves as cultural icons and representative figures for the Roman Empire; and their existence was even given a place in the mythological world of the Roman culture. Aside from certain aspects which I found to be lacking a convincing base of argumentation, Wiedemann's book is indeed a useful source of information on the Roman society as…[continue]
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