The general who became a slave. The slave who became a gladiator. The gladiator who defied an emperor. Striking story! But now, the people want to know how the story ends. Only a famous death will do. And what could be more glorious than to challenge the Emperor himself in the great arena?
You wrote to me once, listing the four chief virtues: Wisdom, justice, fortitude and temperance. As I read the list, I knew I had none of them. But I have other virtues, father. Ambition. That can be a virtue when it drives us to excel. Resourcefulness, courage, perhaps not on the battlefield, but… there are many forms of courage. Devotion, to my family and to you. But none of my virtues were on your list. Even then it was as if you didn’t want me for your son.
Troisième quart du Ier siècle ap. J.-C. Found in the gladiators’ barracks at Pompei, Campagna, southern Italy Campagna, southern Italy
This bronze helmet, richly decorated with a Gorgon’s and a griffin’s head, was probably used by Thracian gladiators during the parades preceding the games in the amphitheater at Pompeii, just before Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. The shape of the visor, which evolved over the course of the first century, is typical of the period. The eye openings have been replaced by a grill covering the upper part of the face, and plume holders have been added on either side of the helmet.
Armor discovered at Pompeii
This bronze helmet is one of a number of pieces of armor given in 1802 to the First Consul Bonaparte by Ferdinand IV, king of Naples. They were buried when Vesuvius erupted and the region of Naples was laid waste on 24 August, AD 79, but saw the light of day when excavations were carried out (1766-67) in the gladiators’ barracks at Pompeii. They were kept at Malmaison until the death of Josephine and thereafter entered the Durand collection (1814) and the Comte de Pourtalès collection (1825), before being purchased by the Musées Impériaux in 1865. Finally, they were transferred to the Louvre from the Musée des Antiquités Nationales at Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1892. The armor, which is richly embossed, was probably used in the parades that preceded the games in the arena.
My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the TRUE emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.