Humanities › History & Culture Martial Tells the Story of Gladiators Priscus and Verus Share Flipboard Email Print Manuel Breva Colmeiro / Getty Images History & Culture Ancient History and Culture Rome Figures & Events Ancient Languages Greece Egypt Asia Mythology & Religion American History African American History African History Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More by N.S. Gill N.S. Gill is a freelance classics and ancient history writer. She has a master's degree in linguistics and is a former Latin teacher. Updated January 27, 2019 In 2003, BBC produced a television docudrama (Colosseum: Rome's Arena of Death aka Colosseum: A Gladiator's Story) about Roman gladiators that The Naked Olympics writer Tony Perrottet reviewed, in Television/DVD: Everyone Loves a Bloodbath. The review seems fair. Here is an excerpt: "The early phases of the show are squarely embedded in the time-honored tradition of gladiator movies, so much so that there is an inevitable sense of déjà vu. (Is that Kirk Douglas slaving away in the quarries? Doesn't that gladiator look a bit like Russell Crowe?) The rustic prisoner's first glimpses of imperial Rome, the initial matches in the gladiatorial school--all are part of the tried-and-true formula. Even the music seems familiar.Still, this new foray into the genre quickly distinguishes itself from its forebears." That final sentence bears repeating. I would recommend watching this hour-long show if it ever comes back to television. The climax of the show is a dramatization of a known Roman fight between gladiators Priscus and Verus. When they fought each other it was the highlight of the games for the opening ceremonies of the Flavian Amphitheater, the sporting arena we usually refer to as the Roman Colosseum. The Gladiator Poem of Marcus Valerius Martialis We know of these capable gladiators from a poem by the witty Latin epigrammatist Marcus Valerius Martialis aka Martial, who is usually referred to as coming from Spain. It is the only detailed -- such as it is -- description of such a fight that has survived. You'll find the poem and an English translation below, but first, there are some terms to know. ColosseumThe first term is the Flavian amphitheater or Colosseum which was opened in 80, a year after the first of the Flavian emperors, Vespasian, the one who had built most of it, had died. It does not appear in the poem but was the event's venue.RudisThe second term is rudis, which was a wooden sword given to a gladiator to show that he was freed and released from service. He might then start his own gladiatorial training school.The FingerThe finger refers to a type of end to the game. A fight could be to the death, but it could also be until one of the combatants asked for mercy, by raising a finger. In this famous fight, the gladiators raised their fingers together.ParmaThe Latin refers to a parma which was a round shield. While it was used by Roman soldiers, it was also used by the Thraex or Thracian style gladiators.CaesarCaesar refers to the second Flavian emperor, Titus. Martial XXIX English Latin While Priscus drew out, and Verus drew out thecontest, and the prowess of both stood long inbalance, oft was discharge for the men claimed withmighty shouts; but Caesar himself obeyed his ownlaw: that law was, when the prize was set up, tofight until the finger was raised; what was lawful hedid, oft giving dishes and gifts therein. Yet was anend found of that balanced strife: they fought wellmatched, matched well they together yielded. Toeach Caesar sent the wooden sword, and rewards toeach: this prize dexterous valour won. Under noprince but thee, Caesar, has this chanced: whiletwo fought, each was victor. Cum traheret Priscus, traheret certamina Verus, esset et aequalis Mars utriusque diu,missio saepe uiris magno clamore petita est; sed Caesar legi paruit ipse suae; -lex erat, ad digitum posita concurrere parma: - 5 quod licuit, lances donaque saepe dedit.Inuentus tamen est finis discriminis aequi: pugnauere pares, subcubuere pares.Misit utrique rudes et palmas Caesar utrique: hoc pretium uirtus ingeniosa tulit. 10Contigit hoc nullo nisi te sub principe, Caesar: cum duo pugnarent, uictor uterque fuit. Martial; Ker, Walter C. A London : Heinemann; New York: Putnam Continue Reading Design Features of the Colosseum Roman Gladiators Risked Death for a Chance at a Better Life Key Information on Roman Architecture and Monuments Check out These Awe-Inspiring Landmarks of Ancient Rome Titus: Roman Emperor of the Flavian Dynasty What Was the World Like During the Ancient Roman Republic? 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