Why did gladiators fight to the death?

As many as 50,000 spectators gathered in Rome’s Coliseum in the second century A.D. to witness gory spectacles: reenactments of famous battles, live hunts for exotic animals (released from cages kept in an elaborate basement under the sandy floor), and bloody battles between trained warriors. These gladiators were the professional athletes of their day. But although they were celebrities, most gladiators were slaves or prisoners-of-war forced into fighting for the bloodthirsty crowd’s amusement. Rome’s emperors hosted these expensive events – which were often free to the public – to make the citizens happy and thus easier to govern.


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