Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

LAST week, Minimus, the mouse of the new primary school Latin course in the world of fables; this week, Maximus, the no less fabulous gladiator of the film.

Gladiators were outsiders; criminals or slaves trained to bring amusement to the populace by killing and being killed. As Rome's rather nasty foundation myth suggests - Mars, god of war, fathering Romulus and Remus who are suckled by a wolf - the Romans had no qualms about the inhuman. But gladiators could be seen as more than bloody entertainment fodder.

In 221 BC a son listed in a funeral speech for his father the achievements that made him outstanding, and, at the head of the list, above wisdom, glory and high office, stood `he wanted to be a warrior of the first rank'. In the Roman legion that meant an expert at single combat. Gladiators exemplified that virtus in a particularly uncompromising way. …

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