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Gladiator’s pernicious fame

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

A vessel with gladiators
A vessel with gladiators

Gladiator Spiculus convinced himself that life in grace is uncertain and changeable and that nothing lasts forever. He fought in the arena, he was the favourite of the emperor, he gained fame and enormous wealth, which every Roman certainly dreamed of, but it was this that ultimately led him to destruction.

Spiculus fought as murmillo during the reign of Emperor Nero. We can say that he was the most famous, and certainly one of the most famous gladiators during his reign. As a gladiator, he belonged to Nero’s stable, he managed to win his sympathy and favour and became his favourite. From the graffiti found at the gate in Pompeii, we know that he defeated and killed the veteran of the arena Aptonetus who had won 16 previous matches. The fame and publicity of Spiculus are also evidenced by an archaeological discovery in southern France where a glass vessel was discovered, on which his fight scene with the gladiator Columbus, which he won. Other warriors are immortalized on the dish, together they have represented four pairs of gladiators with the captions SPICVLVS COLVMBVS CALAMVS HOLES/PETRAITES PRVDES PROCVLVS COCVMBVS.

As part of the reward for winning victories, Emperor Nero gave Spiculus several mansions, slaves and other riches worthy of a leader who achieved military triumph. The emperor’s favourite had the greatest fame and riches he desired, he was also one of the highest-earning gladiators in the history of Rome, but these favourable times would soon pass. When in 68 CE the emperor Neron was overthrown, he sent his men for Spiculus to cause him a fatal blow, but the messengers failed to find the gladiator and Nero was forced to commit suicide later. After the emperor’s death, unfortunately, the warrior remembered who was the favourite of the overthrown emperor. Shortly thereafter, the furious people skated Spiculus to death under the statue of Nero in Rome.

Author: Bartosz Kareciński
  • David Matz, Ancient Roman Sports, A-Z: Athletes, Venues, Events and Terms, 2019
  • Photo: The MET Museum

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