Friday, January 21, 2005

Medieval Combat manuals indicate gladiators more showbusiness than slaughter

Scotsman.com News : "To thrill the crowds around the arena the combatants would 'display' broad fighting skills rather than battle for their lives, according to Professor Steve Tuck of the University of Miami.

'Gladiatorial combat is seen as being related to killing and shedding of blood, but I think that what we are seeing is an entertaining martial art that was spectator-oriented,' he said.

Prof Tuck focused on fighting methods used by pairs of gladiators in one-to-one combat, as opposed to mass battles or staged events, and examined 158 images that show combat, such as a gladiator pinning down his opponent, his shield and sword on the ground.

Such gladiatorial art adorns practically all Roman artefacts, from lamps, gems and pottery to large-scale wall paintings.

To try to ascertain more fully what these scenes show, Prof Tuck turned to the pages of fighting and martial-arts manuals produced in Germany and northern Italy in medieval and renaissance times. These provided instruction in everything from sword-fighting to wrestling. He argues that, as such, they are a good parallel for gladiatorial combat.
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