It was believed that the gladiator’s blood could heal epilepsy or infertility. The blood was collected and sold to the crowd. When the body of the death gladiator was taken out of the arena, the “sellers” collected still warm blood and sold it to the crowd.
Blood was collected from the still warm body of the gladiator, cutting the throat. It is mentioned i.e. by Celsus1. Interestingly, when in the year 400 CE gladiators were forbidden to fight, similarly the blood of the condemned2 was perseived as healing.
Alexander of Tralles (about 525 – about 605 CE), in turn, mentioned that a great recipe for curing himself from epilepsy is to wet a piece of material into the blood of a warrior or criminal; burn the soaked clothing, then mix the ashes with wine and drink 3. Apparently it gave a stunning result.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that others were looking for a drug in other places. Pliny the Elder mentions, among others, that bone marrow or baby brain 4 was also eaten.
Celsus, On Medicine, 3.23
Tertullian, Apologia, 9.11
Alexander of Tralles, Terapeuci, 1.565
Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 28.4
Michael Grant, Gladiatorzy, 1980
Ferdinand Peter Moog, Axel Karenberg, Between horror and hope: gladiator's blood as a cure for epileptics in ancient medicine
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