Not only in Rome, Gladiator Fights are also known in England
This ancient Roman vase showing a bloody battle in a gladiatorial duel also took place in Roman Britain, at Colchester to be precise. Photo/Daily Mail/wikimedia commons
LONDON – A number of epic films about gladiator fights such as Gladiator and Spartacus usually depict duels in Rome’s Circus Maximus or the Colosseum. However, new evidence from ancient Roman vases suggests this bloody battle also took place in Roman Britain, at Colchester to be precise.
The Colchester vase, discovered during excavations of the city’s Roman graveyard in 1853, was made from earth in the area around AD 160-200, known in the past as Camulodunum. The Colchester vase has the potential to be authentic evidence because it depicts a pair of gladiators who are dueling, namely Memnon and Valentinus.
Experts think the vase was made specifically to commemorate the battle at Camulodunum, the first major city in Roman Britain and its first capital. Roman Colchester is like the Colosseum for three battle arenas and a place for Roman chariot races.
“The vase is of such high quality that there is little doubt that it could not have come from England. Even though all analyzes have now proven it (originating from England),” said Frank Hargrave, Director of the Colchester and Ipswich Museum (CIMS), quoted from the Daily Mail page, Tuesday (7/3/2023).
In collaboration with experts at the University of Reading and the University of Durham, new research using isotope analysis has uncovered more insights about the vase. Glynn Davis, curator at Colchester Museums, said the clay used for the vase matched Colchester clay.
“All clay has a unique make-up from its color to its ‘inclusions’, a bit like fingerprints. The pot is made in a kiln just west of the city of Colchester, the decor matches the other specialist pots made in this kiln,” says Glynn Davis.
Measuring about 8.3 inches by 6.2 inches, the Colchester vase was likely made the name for ‘the ultimate in sports memorabilia’. It is then given to the fight sponsor, or possibly other people involved such as trainers.
Open only depicting the two gladiators Memnon and Valentinus ready to fight, the vase is decorated with two more fight scenes. There were two men fighting a bear, and a dog was chasing two deer and a rabbit.
So the vase depicts the three types of entertainment that were usually displayed in Roman amphitheatres, namely men against men, men against animals, and animals against animals. For the two Memnon gladiators on the left called the ‘secutor’, holding swords, shields and helmets.
Valentinus on the right plays the role of the ‘retiarius’, with his bare chest and legs, arms and shoulder guards. Secutor and retiarius were two types of gladiators, and they were usually pitted against each other.
“Retiarius wields a net, a trident, and a short sword. He tries to entangle his opponent in a net and then disarm or injure him. He was usually paired with a secutor, who wielded a short gladius sword and dagger,” said Dr Andrew Sillett, lecturer in classics at the University of Oxford.