The battle of the friends of Verus and Priscus: how was the only gladiator fight described in detail in history

The battle of the friends of Verus and Priscus: how was the only gladiator fight described in detail in history

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The fight of the gladiators Verus and Priscus is considered the most famous gladiator performance in history and the only fight described in detail by a contemporary. The tragedy of the battle was that two best friends who were the favorites of the Roman public fought to the death in it.

The battle of the friends of Verus and Priscus: how was the only gladiator fight described in detail in history

Verus was a German barbarian and was captured by the Romans as a child. Later, he was made a slave and sent to the quarries, where he grew up, constantly doing hard physical work. Growing up, Verus decided to change the pickaxe to a gladius sword. During the selection process at the gladiator school, the young man met another candidate for training – the son of a slave, Priscus.

To choose the best, the young men were ordered to arrange a demonstration fight. On the sand of the arena, both fighters showed themselves to be brave strong warriors, and the coaches decided to take both of them. Already during the training, Verus and Priscus became best friends, and when they fought in pairs, no one could resist them. In the arena, gladiators quickly gained popularity among the capricious Roman public and became real "stars" of their time.

The battle of the friends of Verus and Priscus: how was the only gladiator fight described in detail in history

Training at the Gladiator School

In the 80th year of our era, the emperor Vespasian completed a huge amphitheater, today known as the Colosseum. In honor of this event, he ordered the games to be held, which had not yet been held in Rome. The ancient Roman historian and writer Gaius Suetonius wrote:

The battle of the friends of Verus and Priscus: how was the only gladiator fight described in detail in history

Navmachia-an imitation of a naval battle in the walls of the Colosseum

At the end of the epoch-making holiday, the Romans were waiting for a special surprise. Their favorite friends Verus and Priscus for the first time had to fight not in pairs, but with each other. The winner of the battle received freedom, and the loser – a funeral shroud.

The battle of gladiators is not just a demonstration battle of slave warriors. In imperial times, it was a theatrical performance, most often playing out an ancient myth or a battle of past centuries. The extras who were killed during the games were simple slaves and criminals sentenced to death. Gladiators were protected, and they performed in more than two dozen images that differ in weapons and protective equipment.

The battle of the friends of Verus and Priscus: how was the only gladiator fight described in detail in history

Different types of gladiators

Verus acted as hoplomachus, who imitated the warrior of ancient Greece. His main weapons were a spear and a dagger. Priscus fought like a murmillon with a short sword and a rectangular shield. The winner of the battle received freedom, and the loser received a funeral shroud. The audience of the Colosseum was the Roman poet Marcus Valerius Martial, who described the battle.

The battle of the friends of Verus and Priscus: how was the only gladiator fight described in detail in history

Gladiator murmillon. Modern reconstruction

The battle of the friends of Verus and Priscus: how was the only gladiator fight described in detail in history

Gladiator hoplomakh. Modern reconstruction

Valery Martial wrote that the fighters were equally strong and for a long time none of them could gain the upper hand. When the gladiators, bloodied and exhausted, stood opposite each other, the crowd began to shout for the emperor to spare both soldiers. But Vespasian decided otherwise. He ordered the gladiator to fight without shields until one of them died. The fight continued, but still no one lost. Then the emperor stopped the duel and decided that equal in battle should be equal in reward.

The battle of the friends of Verus and Priscus: how was the only gladiator fight described in detail in history

The friends of the gladiators received a laurel wreath and a wooden sword, which was a symbol of freedom. After receiving the will, Priscus became a coach at the gladiator school of Flavius Quintus Valerius, and his friend Verus returned to Germany. Most modern historians believe that the Emperor Vespasian planned the outcome of the battle. Thus, he tried to win the love of the inhabitants of Rome, who had just survived a huge fire that destroyed half of the city.

Keywords: Friendship | Italy | Freedom | Battle

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