Epic gladiatorial movies like Gladiator and Spartacus usually show conflict in Rome’s Circus Maximus or the Colosseum.
But new evidence from an ancient Roman vase shows that these bloody battles were also fought in Roman Britain – in Colchester.
The Colchester Vase, excavated from a Roman grave in the town in 1853, was made from local soil around 160-200 AD, when it was known as ‘Camulodunum’.
Possibly a piece of ancient “sports memorabilia,” it depicts a pair of gladiators named Memnon and Valentinus in conflict.
Experts believe it was created specifically to commemorate the battle just before it took place at Camulodunum, the first major city in Roman Britain and the first capital.
The Colchester Vase (pictured) was excavated from a Roman grave at Colchester in the mid-19th century. It shows a pair of gladiators named Memnon (left) and Valentinus (right) as they engage in battle
Epic gladiatorial films such as Gladiator and Spartacus usually depict battles in Rome’s Circus Maximus or the Colosseum. Pictured is Russell Crowe in the 2000 movie Gladiator
Roman Colchester was home to three battlegrounds – more than any other in Britain – and hosted the only Roman chariot racing circus.
The Colchester Vase
The Colchester Vase is a piece of Roman pottery depicting gladiator battles.
It was excavated from a Roman grave in Colchester in the mid-1800s and dates to around AD 160-200.
New research has shown that the vase is made from local clay – suggesting that the battle depicted also took place locally.
Frank Hargrave, director of Colchester and Ipswich Museums (CIMS), said the Colchester vase is the only evidence of a gladiator fight in Britain’s Roman arena.
“The vase is of such high quality that there has been a bit of snobbery, an assumption that it couldn’t possibly have come from Britain, when all the analysis has now put that to bed,” he said. the observer.
Working with experts from the University of Reading and the University of Durham, the new research used isotope analysis to uncover more insights about the vase.
Glynn Davis, a curator at Colchester Museums, told MailOnline that the clay used for the vase is a direct match of Colchester clay.
“All clay has a make-up that is unique – from the color to the ‘inclusions’, kind of like a fingerprint,” he said.
‘The ‘dust’ of the vase, as we call it, is a direct match to the local Colchester clay.
“The pot was made in kilns west of the city – the decoration matches other specialized pots made in these kilns.”
In addition, it was revealed that the inscription with the names of two gladiators was carved into the clay before ‘firing’ – the heating of the clay to make ceramics.
In addition to Memnon and Valentinus fighting each other, the vase is decorated with two more scenes – two men taunting a bear and a dog chasing two deer and a hare
Camulodunum was the first major city in Roman Britain and the first capital. Pictured is Colchester’s Roman town walls
It was previously believed that the inscription was made after the firing process, perhaps many years later.
But the fact that it was engraved earlier suggests that Memnon and Valentinus – and this particular battle between the two of them – was an intrinsic part of the vase’s original design.
The Colchester Vase measures approximately 8.3 inches by 6.2 inches and was likely created as “the ultimate in sports memorabilia” and gifted to the sponsor of the fight, or perhaps to someone else involved, such as a trainer.
“The inscription was made on the jar as it was being made, meaning it must have been a commissioned work and we conclude it represents a local event,” Davis said.
“Many other artifacts that decorate gladiatorial scenes are generic, mass-produced pieces, so knowing that the inscription was part of the original design of the pot means it’s not a generic piece.”
The analysis also revealed traces of cremated human remains of a non-local man over 40 “of possibly European descent.”
This suggests that the vase changed from a commemorative piece worthy of a trophy cabinet to a grave vessel.
“The vase had a life in – for example, the trophy case – before it was later reused as a cremation urn,” says Davis.
“We assume that the individual in the vase must have had an intimate connection to the events on the vase, or it as an object, because of the rarity of these decorated jars ever used as vessels of creation in this way.”
Three types of entertainment usually seen in the Roman amphitheatre: men fight against men, men fight against animals and animals fight against animals. In the photo, scene from Gladiator
Besides Memnon and Valentinus fighting each other, the vase is decorated with two more scenes – two men taunting a bear and a dog chasing two deer and a hare.
Therefore, the vase depicts the three kinds of entertainment usually seen in the Roman amphitheatre: men fighting men, men fighting animals, and animals fighting animals.
On the left in the main scene is Memnon, the ‘secutor’, holding a sword, shield and helmet, while Valentinus, the ‘retiarius’, stands on the right with bare chest and legs, arm and shoulder protector.
Secutor and retiarius were two types of gladiator – and they often opposed each other.
“The retiarius wielded a net, a trident and a short sword,” Dr Andrew Sillett, a lecturer in classical languages at the University of Oxford who was not involved in the study, told MailOnline.
“He tried to entangle his opponent in the net and then disarm or injure him.
“He usually faced a secutor, who used a short gladius sword and a dagger.”
On the Colchester vase, Valentinus (the retiarius) has dropped his weapon and holds his net in his left hand.
His right hand, meanwhile, is outstretched with one finger up — a signal known as “missio,” meaning handing the fight over to his opponent.
Valentinus probably appealed to the sponsor of the games, who would have had the power to decide whether he lived or died and indicated his decision by turning his thumb up or down.
Whatever the decision of the sponsor, this outcome is probably lost in history.
The vase is an item that will be displayed in a new exhibition called ‘Gladiators: A Day At The Roman Games’ at the Colchester Castle Museum, which opens July 15.
How England passed nearly half a millennium under Roman rule
55BC – Julius Caesar crossed the canal with about 10,000 soldiers. They landed in a Pegwell Bay on Thanet Island and were met by a force of British. Caesar was forced to retreat.
54BC – Caesar again crossed the Channel in his second attempt to conquer Britain. He came with 27,000 infantry and cavalry and landed at Deal but was unopposed. They marched inland and after heavy fighting defeated the British and key tribal leaders surrendered.
Later that year, however, Caesar was forced to return to Gaul to deal with the problems there and the Romans left.
54BC – 43BC – Although no Romans were present in Britain during these years, their influence increased due to trade relations.
43 AD – A Roman force of 40,000 men led by Aulus Plautius landed in Kent and took the southeast. Emperor Claudius appointed Plautius governor of Britain and returned to Rome.
47 AD – Londinium (London) was founded and Britain was declared part of the Roman Empire. Road networks were built throughout the country.
50 AD – Romans arrived in the south west and left their mark in the form of a wooden fort on a hill near the River Exe. Decades later, a town called Isca was founded on the site of the fortress.
When the Romans left and the Saxons ruled, all ex-Roman cities were called a ‘ceaster’. this was called ‘Exe ceaster’ and a merger of these eventually created Exeter.
75 – 77 AD – Romans defeated the last resistant tribes, making all of Britain Roman. Many Britons began to adopt Roman customs and laws.
122 AD – Emperor Hadrian ordered a wall to be built between England and Scotland to keep out Scottish tribes.
312 AD – Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal throughout the Roman Empire.
228 AD – The Romans were attacked by barbarian tribes and soldiers stationed in the country were called back to Rome.
410AD – All Romans were recalled to Rome and Emperor Honorious told the Britons that they had lost all ties with Rome.
Source: History on the Internet