Ruins reveal how Roman gladiators won their spurs

 

Berlin

Archaeologists using sophisticated radar equipment say they have located a remarkably well-preserved underground Roman gladiator school that will give them "sensational" new insights into the lives of the fighters 1,700 years ago.

The site, 24 miles east of Vienna, contains the remains of a heated training hall for combatants. It was discovered beneath the former Roman settlement of Carnuntum, which is already home to one the finest amphitheatres ever found. Archaeologists say it is the first gladiator school ever found outside Italy.

Frank Humer, an archaeologist with Vienna's Ludwig-Boltzmann Institute, which found the school while conducting a detailed radar scan of the site, said: "The wooden post that gladiators traditionally used as their mock opponent during training is still visible in the middle of the school's arena."

Mr Humer told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine yesterday that the find had been possible only because of significant advances in ground-penetrating radar equipment, which allowed archaeologists to clearly identify structures beneath the earth. "We now know what is down there and we can take our time before deciding whether to excavate," he said.

The Vienna institute team has been able to make detailed images of the gladiator school. They reveal that its centre was dominated by a circular arena equipped with wooden benches.

The school houses a heated training hall which combatants would have used during cold central European winters. There are also a bath house, administrative offices and small cell-like rooms for the gladiators themselves.

Roman gladiators took their name from the Latin "gladius", or sword, and were pitted against each other or wild animals for the entertainment of both emperors and the public. Many were admired for their bravery, celebrated in artworks and even buried in ornate graves as a mark of respect. But only a few were volunteers. Despite their fleeting fame, the majority were slaves doomed to die an early and violent death.

Carnuntum was the capital of the Roman province of Pannonia, which covered Austria and much of what are now the Balkans. Experts say the school was founded in the middle of the first century AD, when the settlement became the headquarters of Rome's Legio XV Apollinaris and had a comparatively large civilian and military population.

Bloody gladiator games reached their peak between in first century BC and the second century AD and continued until the fourth century AD, by which time Christianity had become the official religion. The last known gladiator games took place in the late 5th century AD.

To cope with the high demand for gladiatorial entertainment, the Carnuntum settlement boasted two amphitheatres: one for Roman legionnaires and one for the common public which was situated close to the gladiator school.

Mr Humer said radar images of the site showed that it also contained what was probably a gladiators' graveyard. He said the immediate plan was to use the radar images to build a life-sized model of the gladiator school. "If all goes well, we may not even have to dig it up – we will be able to leave it in the ground where it won't be damaged," he added.

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

    £6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor