Tag Archives: Roman Emperors
In AD 350 the gladiatorial games were as popular, magnificent and widespread as they had ever been. An unbroken history of development and adaptation stretching back some 600 years lay behind the combats. A century later not a single gladiator, lanista or munus was to be found anywhere. For an institution that had survived for so long and been so popular to disappear so completely was dramatic indeed.
Sumptuously housed on the Palatine Hill—the origin of our word “palace”—is His Highness Claudius Nero, Head of the State, Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, Empowered to act as Tribune of the People, and Head of the State Religion: in modern times commonly called “the Emperor.” Every day and night his palace is surrounded by a regiment of the Imperial Guards, and attached to his person is a special corps for bodyguard, and orderlies.
Neither Roman spectators calling for the death of the gladiator, nor Roman Emperors authorising one, ever gave a thumbs down. In fact, the Romans did not use a “thumbs down” at all. If death was desired, the thumb was stuck up – like a drawn sword. For a loser’s life to be spared, the thumb was tucked away inside the closed fist – as with a sheathed weapon. This is expressed in latin as pollice compresso favor iudicabatur, “goodwill is decided by the thumb being kept in”.
The Julio-Claudian dynasty normally refers to the first five Roman Emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula (also known as Gaius), Claudius, and Nero, or the family to which they belonged; they ruled the Roman Empire from its formation, in the second half of the 1st century (44/31/27) BC, until AD 68, when the last of the line, Nero, committed suicide.