Gladiator

Richard Ross Watkins, Author
Richard Ross Watkins, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $18 (96p) ISBN 978-0-395-82656-0
Paperback - 96 pages - 978-0-618-07032-9
Prebound-Other - 80 pages - 978-0-613-31247-9
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In this engrossing debut, Watkins chronicles the early history of combative sport and offers an insightful look into ancient Rome--and the seeds of Western culture. He begins in Rome in 264 B.C. with the first known gladiatorial combat, and ends with a tragic event in 404 A.D. (when a Christian monk, attempting to come between two combatants, was torn limb from limb by a mob of spectators). Along the way, he traces the origins of the sport, the political stature it gained (including how the succession of Emperors used them as a show of power) to its inevitable end with the spread of Christianity. The one-on-one combat (which originated with the Etruscans) featured gladiators, who were usually bareskinned except for a tunic, a weapon (of sword or trident) and a shield (six types of fighters and their attire are described in detail). The Romans adopted the tradition and, as the centuries progressed, each Roman Emperor used them to outdo his predecessor, expanding the combat into day-long tournaments between slaves and criminals, animals--even ships. Charcoal and pencil sketches detail the period costumes and architecture. By focusing on the history of this one sport, Watkins ingeniously points out not only the lasting legacy of the gladiators in the sports thriving today (e.g., bull fights, rodeo, wrestling, boxing and football), but also in the exploitation of the many lands, animals and peoples needed to satisfy the increasing thirst for blood, sport and power. This eloquent history will make gladiators seem as real for today's readers as they were over 1500 years ago. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)
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