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  • Helmet for a Gladiator

    Helmet for a Gladiator

    Helmet for a Gladiator
    Roman
    about 1st century C.E.
    bronze
    33 x 36.8 x 57.2 cm (13 x 14 1/2 x 22 1/2 in.); 5 lb 4 oz (weight)
    The John Woodman Higgins Collection
    2014.115

    Copyright Notice

    Gladiators engaged in mortal combat against human or animal opponents for the entertainment of mass audiences. Such blood sports evolved from sacrificial combats held at funerals; by the height of the Roman Empire, they were conducted in purpose-built colosseums holding up to 50,000 spectators. Gladiators included criminals, prisoners of war, and highly trained volunteers; they often used weapons and armor loosely based on those of Rome's enemies. Certain gladiators became celebrities, having cult followings not unlike today's more flamboyant sports figures.

    Gladiatorial games were held by wealthy families to honor their dead. They were also sponsored by ambitious politicians to win public support. Julius Caesar's rise to power was in part based on his masterful manipulation of the Roman public's thirst for ever more imaginative blood sports.

    This helmet, one of only three in the Americas, was once brightly polished and ornamented with a tall horsehair crest. It was probably used by a type of gladiator called a hoplomachus. These fighters used arms vaguely reminiscent of the Greek heavy infantryman (hoplite), including leg defenses, a small round shield, spear, and short sword.

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