Twenty students from a variety of disciplines at the University of Regensburg in Germany have volunteered to live and train as 1st century Roman gladiators.
They’ll eat the diet of berries and white beans that renown 2nd century physician Galen recommended for gladiators, learn to fight wearing 11-pound bronze helmets and live in a camp with no showers, washing machines or lady friends allowed.
“For me it’s a welcome change from sitting in front of the computer,” said athletic archaeology student Martin Schreiner.
He and the other gladiators are already training together four days a week. Following the summer training camp the group plans to perform at the former Roman army camp Carnuntum in Austria.
“We assume that those involved will weather the experiment quite well,” [historian Josef] Löffl said.
They seem to be:
Carnutum, the site where the summer games will be held, was a permanent Roman military camp starting in the 1st century under Augustus. It was the headquarters of the garrisons along the Danube and emperors like Marcus Aurelius actually lived there for a time. It was destroyed by Germanic invaders in the 4th century, partially rebuilt, then destroyed for good by the Hungarians in the Middle Ages.
Now it’s an archaeological park with a really innovative, interactive approach. The civilian city has been extensively excavated. You can see the remains of the town gate, a palace, public baths and even a city neighborhood that is an open-air museum where you can watch ongoing archaeological digs and projects like the rebuilding of The House of Lucius, done using solely Roman-era materials and methods.
The military city has only one extant structure: the amphitheater, which is where the Regensburg students will be displaying their berry-and-bean prowess this August. The seating area has been recreated as it would have been in ancient times, so the lucky audience who gets to see the students gladiate will have about as authentic an experience as you can get without huge gushing torrents of blood.
Next to the amphitheater is a small but awesome museum where the artifacts excavated from the site are conserved and displayed. There’s even a glass atrium where visitors can watch from the second floor as archaeologists do their thing in the first floor workshop.