A Gladiator's Lament

A Gladiator's Lament

A Story by Jared Michael Smith

This was an assignment I had to do for school. The point was to describe different aspects of the gladiatorial lifestyle back during the times of ancient Rome.


The games begin like they do every other day.  We are brought to the arena in our gleaming chariots and parade around for all to see, like the prized cuts of meat on the Emperor’s table.  The procession is slow, allowing for the closest of the audience, the dignitaries on the podium, to fully take us in, our armor shining in the sun, our faces hardened by the life of an animal.  There are those select few who choose to bask in the “glory” we take part in, and they lift their cries to match those of the spectators.  The multitudes, close to fifty thousand, shout their praises to us with a grandiose display of excitement and mock reverence.  But what do they care for our lives?  We are but mere beasts to them, an escape from the sorrow of their own horrible lives.  They seat themselves comfortably on the finest marble in the empire, row upon row and section upon section of people packed into them, watching us maim each other.  I often wonder, with its multiply-styled columns and its bronze statues, how such a place of aesthetic beauty can contain the most barbarous of pass-times.

With our procession nearly complete, the chariots sidle up to the Emperor’s portion of the podium, and we dismount to stand before him.  The crowd hushes as we prepare to recite our understood death warrant:  Ave, imperator, morituri te salutant!  The Emperor smirks and dismisses us, signalling the beginning of the games.

As we exit, the first act of the public’s sick drama enters.  Two women, brandished with wooden swords and dressed in ceremonial garb, pass us as we retreat back into the depths of the underground maze.  They will soon commence in a reenactment of sorts, a kind of fantasy battle that showcases the stories of the famous battles of the gods.  I pity them, but I continue with the rank and file.

We are now under the arena itself, among the various corridors and pens used to contain us, the animals of the Coliseum, as well as the true wild beasts.  And here we wait.  Our portion of the games do not truly begin until after the people take their midday meal.  Between now and then, the hunts of the bestiarii still remain, as do the public executions of the Christians during the intermission.  It is this part of the games that I despise the most:  the waiting and the wondering.  At least when it comes my time to fight, I have that to concern my mind, along with the inherent instinct to survive another day here in Rome.  But here, in this darkened space between the earth and the sun, I am left to my own painful devices.  It is here that I begin to remember the life I left behind when I joined the ranks of the gladiators.  I was a young and foolish plebeian, unconcerned with anyone’s safety but mine and my family’s.  I would do anything for them, and I more often than not proved it with the number of times I stole from the privileged of Rome.  We were the poorest of them all, so there was little left for me to do to provide for them.  I almost had my tactics down to a science, but that was when my winning streak came to haulting crash.  The Praetorian guard caught me attempting to swipe food from the imperial palace and were just about to cut me down for good when the Emperor stepped in.  He said he admired my skills and that I would be a perfect candidate for the Ludus Magnus, under the guidance and supervision of his most trusted lanistas.  With no other option for escaping immediate death, I was forced to accept.  From then on, I was cut off from all outside contact and treated like a dog.  And this is where it has brought me:  disrespected, degenerate, and utterly alone.

Returning back from the burning memories, I hear a voice call out my name.  The time has come for me to return to the arena once again.  I stand and ready what little armor I was given as a retiarius:  a manica for the left arm topped with a metal galerus for the shoulder.  The rest of my body remains bare, save for a loincloth around my waist and pair of sandals for my feet.  I am nearly ready, and as I am departing the room, I gather my net and trident from their respective places in the weapon’s cache.  With my tools at the ready, a lanista leads me to the Porta Sanivivaria.  Perhaps this is a sign of good luck, as victors and survivors are often led back through this door.  But then again, I have little hope that I will ever be awarded the wooden sword by the Emperor; after all, why release the better fighter when the public enjoys him so much?

I emerge into the shining rays with the same apathy as the procession, and I am greeted with the same wild throng of cheers and shouts from the spectators.  I survey the arena more out of habit than of necessity.  The same styled pillars, and the same rows of thousands.  The same terrace for the dignitaries, and the same arrogant Emperor.  Soon enough, I will engage yet another gladiator in combat and hopefully put on a good enough show to survive another day in Rome.  Yet with my fate in the hands of the Emperor, I cannot help but wonder otherwise.

© 2013 Jared Michael Smith

Author's Note

Jared Michael Smith
Sorry, it's not that great, I kind of procrastinated on it. Maybe you guys can help me improve it into better, more meaningful version?

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Added on November 20, 2013
Last Updated on November 20, 2013
Tags: Rome, gladiator, Coliseum/Colosseum, lamentations, fighting, death


Jared Michael Smith
Jared Michael Smith

I'm a pretty mild-mannered guy who enjoys composing poetry, playing video games, and drawing portraits. I don't think my writing's that good, but some of the people I have had read tell me otherwise... more..