As the gladiators entered the arena they'd face the promoters and shout, "We who are about to die salute you!" The bloodthirsty crowds would go wild!
They'd then face in pairs and when the signal was given, commence the grueling fight to the death. A gladiator was not expected (or allowed) to show any mercy towards his opponent. Sometimes, if a beaten gladiator had put up a good fight the crowd would take mercy and give him a chance to fight another day. The crowd would wave a white handkerchief in the air - this meant he was saved - this time.
The gladiator fights were introduced to Rome in 264 BC, when the sons of Junius Brutus paid honor to their father's funeral by showing three pairs of gladiators fight to the death. The ritual caught on and as the years passed emperors would use them as a sort of status symbol and a mark of their power.
The Roman crowds loved these bloody spectacles. The most popular fights were the combats between Rome's most powerful gladiators.
It wasn't just the gladiators who were at the mercy of the Roman emperors. If Christians refused to sacrifice to the emperors and worship their false gods, they were accused of treason and their whole family was thrown into the lion's den, even the children!
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