I never really gave much thought to the iconic Roman fighters known as gladiators. Sure, we skimmed over them in my ancient history classes in college, and I read a bit of background when I visited the Colosseum for the first time. I have seen them talking on cell phones and getting bawdy in coffee bars while on break from their jobs as costumed kitsch performers offering photo ops to tourists for a price.
I even watched as my step-father came close to losing his...um, "manhood" when one such sword-wielding gladiator didn't like being videotaped on the steps leading out of the Forum. He swung gracefully and aimed precisely, giving John quite a scare. Then he laughed uproariously and patted him on the shoulder, saying "you should have seen the look on your face, my friend!"
However, I have never seen Spartacus - Bryan assures me I'm possibly one of only about ten people on the planet who hasn't- and I never bothered with the Russel Crowe movie about them, either. Just not my genre, I guess.
So I don't know why, but it seems every time I turn around lately I'm running into gladiators, or some reminder of them anyway.
First I ran headlong into their footware at Nordstrom's, where apparently gladiator sandals are all the rage. Several styles and heights, including bizarre nearly knee-high brace-like contraptions are being sold. They have been popular in Italy for a few years now, but I didn't realize they had caught on here, as well.
Then I read online about the Gladiator School, where you can learn about Imperial Rome by acting out the gladiatorial games first-hand. For $75 you can get into the garb and play Spartacus for a day on the ancient Appian Way. It's garnering good reviews, so I am guessing they don't fight to the death.
A few days after that I stumbled onto the ItalyGuides site and ended up a page that gives a brief background about Gladiators (with a few macabre facts I'd never heard before).
And as if that weren't enough, a post on the message board of Slow Travel revealed that there are now yellow-jacketed "angels" on electric propelled chariots who will be riding the Roman roads to come to the assistance of lost travelers. Much cuter and friendlier than the fierce warriors of old.
That's a lot of gladiator gab for one week, don't you think? Maybe it's time for me to see Spartacus after all.