Gladiatorial combats in the Forum, the Circus Maximus, and later in the Colosseum, were introduced into Rome in the middle of the third century before Christ. They were a survival from the primitive religion of the Etruscans, Rome’s immediate neighbors to the north. After a nobleman’s death his retainers and slaves killed one another in fights at the funeral ceremonies so he would have a proper escort to the lower world. In Rome there combats rapidly developed into great and bloody public spectacles. But they were complacently accepted as any customary practice is accepted.
“Several paintings reveal the popularity of the equivalent of the Roman gladiatorial contest. This deadly sport, thought to have been a relic of the primitive custom of human sacrifice, formed part of the funeral games and originally was intended to supply blood to sustain the spirit of the deceased.” (22, A History of the Roman People, 2003)
This post is a part of the Cicero series, reading This Was Cicero, by H.J. Haskell.