The world of gladiators is a fascinating and compelling tale, shrouded by deep sense of pathos but also fame and glory.
Last night Tarraco Viva gave a vivid account of the last supper that took place before the games, in the heart of the amphitheatre, where a table richly laid with food provided the centre stage of the Coena Libera. This was free dining and entertainment provided to to the men which would enter the arena the next day; in provided a distraction to what lie ahead, with banter and emotions flowing, visited by prostitutes, fortune tellers, and courtesans happy to pay for sex.
For some it would be the last night on earth depending on the mood of the public which would would decide the faith of the defeated. Then came next day.
Ars Dimicandi is probably the best historical reconstruction group specialising on Gladiators. Far from producing a theatre piece their re-enactment is a sport taken seriously: every details worn has been researched and faithfully re-created. This year saw the introduction of the boxers, the physical technique based on Hellenistic accounts. Wearing a leather helmet and leather gloves for protection, it did not involve weapons and it was more akin to kickboxing, strangely sensual, with bodies colliding and escaping each other.
Although Hollywood has always portrayed Gladiators fight as a bloodbath they actually weren’t. Opponents were balanced against each other by strength and armour making the fight as fair as possible and using relative blunt instruments. It was left to the editor or the public do decide the faith of the looser and if the decision was death the winner would plunge a special short sword made of bronze in to his neck.
For more information about the festival, see tarracoviva.com