The gladiators who put on shows in the coliseums of ancient Rome fought to the death before crowds of adoring fans. Most of them were prisoners or slaves, but some did it for pay and others did it because they enjoyed it. Archeologists say they put on these shows in order to display their fighting skills, that they weren’t only fighting for their lives. Emma Young writes in New Scientist that gladiatorial combat had become a martial art, like kung fu or other Asian martial arts, by the beginning of the first century. They draw this conclusion from researching Roman artifacts and medieval fight books. The daughter of the Roman orator Cicero was a big fan of one particular gladiator. Teens love actors or rock stars the same way today.
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