No Christian Gladiators
|A 5th-century mosaic in the Great Palace of Constantinople depicts two venatores fighting a tiger.|
It was the Christian gospel that finally put an end to the horrid games in the amphitheaters. The butcheries of the arena were stopped by Christian emperors.
(John McRay, Archaeology & the New Testament, 62-63)
|Detail of the Gladiator Mosaic, 4th century CE.|
Though there are claims for legal bans, the actual, extant texts are late. The fact is, we don't know with certitude exactly when or why gladiatorial contests stopped.
One single late primary source, the Calendar of Furius Dionysius Philocalus for 354, survives to suggest how the gladiator featured among a multitude of official festivals in the Late Empire period. In that year, 176 days were reserved for spectacles of various kinds. Of these, 102 days were for theatrical shows, 64 for chariot races and just 10 in December for gladiator games and venationes.[Wiedemann 1992, pp. 11–12.]What is certain is that the (Christian) textual tradition is wrong, for we have reliable evidence for them long after they supposedly stopped.
|The base of the Obelisk of Thutmose III showing Emperor Theodosius as he offers a laurel wreath to the victor from the Kathisma at the Hippodrome of Constantinople.|
In the days of the Roman republic, the races featured four color-themed teams, the Reds, the Whites, the Greens and the Blues, each of which attracted fanatical support. By the sixth century A.D., after the western half of the empire fell, only two of these survived—the Greens had incorporated the Reds, and the Whites had been absorbed into the Blues. But the two remaining teams were wildly popular in the Eastern, or Byzantine, Empire, which had its capital at Constantinople, and their supporters were as passionate as ever—so much so that they were frequently responsible for bloody riots.My own view is they stopped in the West when the western empire stopped functioning, with invaders in Italy and no cash available to fund the games. No law was needed: they became impossible to hold. The rest is Christian and apologist nonsense.
In 501, for example, the Greens ambushed the Blues in Constantinople’s amphitheater and massacred 3,000 of them. Four years later, in Antioch, there was a riot caused by the triumph of Porphyrius, a Green charioteer who had defected from the Blues.
(Blue versus Green: Rocking the Byzantine Empire by Mike Dash)
If the Christian textual tradition had substance, these events would have stopped with Constantine I, and they did not.
So, what was really going on? The emperors became Chrestian, starting with Vespasian and Titus, then with Trajan, Hadrian and Antoninus Pius; this became public in the 4th century. If you have come to learn anything of Chrestianity, it was nasty and brutal, so supported gladiatorial games.