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Christian Views on Gladiators

Watching the gladiators fight to the death was a popular pastime for ancient Romans. However, not everyone was pleased with the event. The brutality and killing associated with the act went against the religious beliefs of many. In this article, you will learn some of the Christian views regarding gladiators and Roman festivals.

Tatian , 165 AD  

When delivering an address to the Greeks, Tatian is quoted as saying, “I have seen men weighed down by bodily exercise, and carrying about the burden of their flesh. Rewards and wreath crowns are set before them, while those who judge them cheer them on”not to deeds of virtue, but to rivalry in violence and discord. The one who excels in giving blows is crowned…”

“”¦      And he who misses the murderous exhibition is grieved, because he was not doomed to be a spectator of wicked, impious, and abominable deeds. You slaughter animals for the purpose of eating their flesh, but you purchase men to supply a cannibal banquet for the soul, nourishing it by the most ungodly bloodshedding. The robber commits murder for the sake of plunder, but the rich man purchases gladiators for the sake of their being killed.”

Tertullian , 210 AD

The following quotes regarding gladiators as they relate to religion have been attributed to Tertullian, who was an early Christian author from Carthage. He is known as the first Christian author to produce a great deal of Latin Christian literature.

1.  “There are those, too, who at the gladiator shows, for the cure of epilepsy, quaff with greedy thirst the blood of criminal slain in the arena, even as it flows fresh from the wound.”

2. “The prohibition of murder shows me that a trainer of gladiators also is excluded from the Church; nor will any one fail to be the means of doing what he assists another in doing.”

Theophilus , 168 AD

According to Autolycus III:15, Theophilus stated, “We are forbidden even to witness shows of gladiators, so that we do not become partakers and abettors of murders. Nor may we see the other spectacles, lest our eyes and ears be defiled, participating in the utterances they sing there.”

Athenagoras , 177 AD

As seen in “A Plea for the Christians,” Athenagoras felt compelled to dispel a rumor that the Christians routinely killed and ate infants at their ceremonies. He answered with the following quote: “When they know that we cannot bear even to see a man put to death, though justly, who of them can accuse us of murder or cannibalism? Who does not reckon the contests of gladiators and wild beasts among the things of greatest interest, especially those which are given by you [the ones in Rome, put on by the emperor, to whom this plea is addressed]. But we, because we believe that to watch a man be put to death is much the same as killing him, avoid such spectacles.”

Source of Quotes: http://www.christian-history.org/gladiator-christian-quotes.html