THE ORIGINAL SUPER BOWL
After spending the evening reading about the topic, I'm realizing how little I know about gladiators. My own "knowedge" comes from old Star Trek episodes and movies, and I looking forward to doing further research today.
Oh well, as Will Durant said, "education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance". Here's the heart of the matter from a good gladiator briefing posted at Bates College:
"What gladiators did (indeed what they were trained to do) was kill and die well. These were tasks of extraordinary urgency for Romans. On the one hand, Romans (as most premodern societies and impoverished modern societies) faced daunting mortality rates. They did not have the opportunity to "grow into their deaths" as a matter of course (as moderns in materially successful societies do). A Roman at the age of 20 knew he would probably die before he was 30, and he wanted to meet death with honor and dignity. He could observe gladiators do it in the arena. Conversely, as members of a relentlessly militaristic culture, Romans valued the art of killing in a way we simply don't understand. Roman soldiers, moreover, enjoyed a much greater autonomy in their line of battle than Greeks did. In fact, the success of the Roman battle line often depended on the courage of individual soldiers in hand to hand combat. Thus the ability of an ordinary citizen to kill single handedly was a skill that the entire empire depended on to survive."
Of course creating a large subclass of desperate highly trained warriors might, in retrospect, be viewed as destabilizing. The Spartacus rebellion tends to get a few sentences in the books I've read (Will Durant gives it two pages out of 750), but it was a huge event. Spartacus fought his way out of gladiatorial school with 70-80 others, then started building up an army. They kept beat everyone sent to bring them in, including legions (this is kind of like the Michigan Militia beating the 101st Airborne in a straight-up fight). They ran amok on the peninsula for three years, and the force got up to 120,000 at one point before starting to turn away new recruits. It got to the point where the Romans couldn't find generals willing to go up against them.
Given the simplicity of the premise and complexity of D20, you might be wondering if someone has come up with a simpler game system for gladiatorial combat. Why yes, they have...
Is there an addictive online gladiator game? Yes indeed.