• Aprilis 10th, 86 A.D.

    Dear Reader,

    By reading this letter, you have been given a responsibility; one that is of great importance. If you do not wish to be burdened with such a thing, then I would suggest to stop reading this letter and hand it to someone who is willing to do so.

    My name is Daearen Ahearn. I am a cavalry soldier of Gaul from Gallia Cisalpina (the Southern Alps) and now a captive of the Roman Empire. I was captured on the 18th of Januaris of this year; the end of the rebellion for freedom between the Gaul people and the Romans. This Reader is my story.

    The Roman soldiers along with my confined colleagues and I departed for the city of Rome that miserable day. Of course, the Romans were in high spirits. It was their victory after all. After two gruesome months of pain, hunger, and exhaustion, we had finally arrived in Rome. Many of my colleagues had died on the journey; may they rest in peace.

    I was taken to a cell in a prisoner’s hold that night. I had thought that I would stay there till the end of my days. I had concluded that the worst was over. At that time, I hadn’t known how wrong I was.

    It was the very next day when I was taken out of my cell. I can still remember the confusion and depression that I had gone through. When we, and by we I mean the guards and a few prisoners, walked through the streets of Rome, the sights I saw dazzled me. Great structures standing in all of their magnificence, many statues with the finest detail, glimpses of beautiful mosaics as I passed buildings of great importance, and much more. The Roman people: men, women, children, and slaves were so different from the people of Gaul. They wore different clothing, spoke a different tongue, ate different food, and I am quite sure that they even walked differently then my people. They held themselves up high, even more so as we passed. It was as if they saw themselves superior to all those around them. Every step I took on the foreign path made me long for escape, for home. But there was no home, at least not in my case. I had no mother to care for me, no father to lecture me; I had no one. I had grown up with my uncle, who to him I was as important as the dirt on the ground. Horses, which I had grown up with, only seemed to keep me motivated to live. That and now war. It was all I knew and all I would be good for.

    It hadn’t been long until we arrived at our destination. It was an auction: for slaves. I watched with great hatred as every one of the survivors, my allies, were sold off to the wealthiest of the Roman people. Soon it was my turn to be sold. I had felt like a dog, and I have to admit this Reader, I still continue to do so. After the restless waiting and squabbling was over, I was handed over to the highest bidder, a rich man by the name of Aulus Leonius. He was to be my new master. The look I had given the man was one of great abhorrence. I cannot even begin to describe how I felt, as it would take up this whole letter. “If you expect me to scrub your floors, mine stone, and bow down in front of you, I can assure you that death will claim first before I do any of these deeds.” I had said to him. And do you know what he did Reader? He laughed. “No, no slave. You will not scrub my floors, mine stone, and bow down beneath me,” he had replied, “Your fate is within the amphitheatrum Caesareum doing what you do best. You will be more use to me there.” I was in shock, appalled by his response. Terror had filled me though a small part of me had the smallest hint of relief. I was to be a gladiator.

    Leonius wasn’t hesitant about anything. He quickly enrolled me into a ludus gladiatorius, a school in which I was to be trained as a gladiator. This is where I met my lanista, or butcher if you would prefer. Every pupil had a trainer in the school to teach them to fight. My lanista went by only one name: Horatius. Someone must have known about my position during war for he was to train me to be an Andabatus, which was essentially a blind warrior on horseback.

    I quickly learned that training wasn’t a walk in the woods. Horatius would beat and whip me if I did not spar hard enough with the “man of straw”. Exercising was hard labour as well. Even though I was already trained as a cavalry soldier, they made me fight with the other gladiators using wooden swords. Horseback riding, it seemed, was probably the only break I had. The horses calmed me from committing homicide or suicide, and Horatius hardly yelled or beat me while riding. I suppose it was one thing I was good at.

    In the first week, I got myself familiar with the people around me. The ludus gladiatorius staff consisted of the trainers, owners, guards, armourers, cooks, and doctors. I had encounters with each and every one of them, seeing the doctor and Horatius the most. None of them were the least decent to any of gladiators. Though it was not like anything I wasn’t used to. The pupils of the school were slaves, criminals, condemned men, bankrupt Romans, and surprisingly, women and children. Most of the students though, were captured soldiers from war. Sadly, none of the soldiers were any I knew.

    Many of the pupils made friends with other pupils. What else could they do? Sticking together would help them survive through this living nightmare. Though there were a few exceptions. I, for example, was considered an outsider, a lone wolf. It was later that I realized that this was because fellow warriors of the same country, religion, and etcetera would be friends with each other. Outrageously enough, I was the only one of my country in that school. Though I must tell you Reader, I didn’t go through this experience alone.
    It was nearly three weeks since I had come to the school. Three weeks spent training with no friendships. Until that one day, when I met Liberus. It was during supper, the third and last portion of the day. The meal consisted of porridge, barley grains, beans, and a few spoonfuls of ash for dessert. That one meal was the same throughout the day and everyday. I had gotten up from the table, done with my so called dinner, when someone knocked me down to the cold stone floor. In a fit of rage, I had gotten up to face the one responsible. Standing before me was a young man, blue-eyed and thin, with a look of embarrassment on his long face. He had hastily apologized, saying that he wasn’t watching where he was going and that it would never happen again. Well, something along that line. The man had spoken so fast and swiftly that I barely understood his words. He had just kept mumbling on and on. After what seemed to be about an hour, I had bursted out laughing. All was silent, except for my laughing self. No one had ever heard such a sound in a long time. It was like laughter had almost been forever lost to the gladiators. It was a miracle. Afterwards, I forgave him for the accident, in between the laughs. This was my first meeting of Liberus Nerva Pontius, a condemned Roman man and the greatest friend I ever had.

    I was not exaggerating when I said that Liberus was a great friend. There was a time when I had stolen some food for a hungry boy, just so the child would survive. I had been caught soon afterwards by one of the guards. I was to receive a harsh punishment. Most of the students at the ludus gladiatorius were punished when they tried to runaway. Usually, the first offense was being locked up in the stocks for a week’s worth. Higher offenses typically resulted in a long flogging, or being locked up in the prison, a small rat infested hole for days without food. Since stealing was a huge offense at the school, I was to be flogged by Horatius. When Liberus heard this, he had stepped up and lied that he had assisted me with this deed. In the end, we both got a flogging, though I was still very grateful for the act.

    For another two weeks, Liberus and I trained. He had been enrolled earlier than I had, so for him it was around five months since he started. We had heard rumors during the hard days, about huge banquets held for the gladiators before their fight. They said the Romans planned this as it could be their last meal before they died in battle. Many of the gladiators wrote letters to their families and took them to the banquets because the Roman public came to see the banquets. This way they could ask the free people to send the letters and wills. Liberus and I shivered at the very thought of the banquets. Despite rumors of the delicious food, we couldn’t bear the meaning behind the whole plan. How much time did we have till that fateful day? We had no idea.

    We didn’t wait long until Liberus’ day came. He had told me about the banquet he had attended and how the rumors were true. He had said he and the others had enjoyed it, though I do not believe him. The thought of death would always be at the back of their minds. The next morning was the day of the fight. Liberus bid me farewell and told me that I would see him soon. Something inside me wanted to believe him. Shortly after he had left, I couldn’t take it any longer; I had to see what was to happen.

    I begged Leonius to take me to the amphitheatrum Caesareum to see my friend fight. After much pleading, he reluctantly agreed to do so. The amphitheatrum Caesareum was huge. It is one of those places that you cannot describe without doing so very poorly. All four levels of the arena were full with excited Romans eager to see blood and death. I was disgusted with all of them. Since I was of lower class in the Empire, I had to hide myself near one of the many pillars where the gladiators entered, so I myself would not get caught.

    The fight did not begin immediately. The two groups of gladiators, each group owned by one master, entered the ring and paraded around the arena. The crowd cheered and booed, calling for death and gore. The two sets now stood before Caesar Domitian (or Dominus et Deus, master and god as he liked to be called) and raised their right hands. “Ave Caesar, Morturi te salutamus!” they cried. Domitian nodded at them in acknowledgement and the gladiators moved towards the center of the arena. I watched them warm-up with their wooden swords, just like during training sessions. Afterwards, they were each handed out their weapons while the Romans betted on who would win. Liberus was lightly armed as he was a Secutor.

    The trumpets sounded as they announced the first set of competitors. It was to be Liberus against an Andabatus that I did not know. I prayed for the best for my friend. It was then the battle commenced. There was a clash of swords, a cry of pain, galloping of the hooves; the battle itself was intense. I watched in horror as Liberus stabbed the gallant stallion leaving a deep, bloody cut in its thigh. Although I was sickened at the sight and also angered by it, I still sincerely wished for victory for Liberus. My eyes followed my friends every move. He was tiring, I could see it. It was then when the opponent attacked. Liberus could not avoid the strike. He was hit and down. I took a sharp intake of air. I prayed even harder. I watched as the Andabatus slowly stepped towards my wounded friend, his steed forgotten. Even though he could not see him, the groans of pain gave him away. I watched as Liberus shakily raised his left hand toward the Emperor. My eyes widened, as my heart sank; his fate was upon the people now. His life depended on their actions. As Emperor Domitian gave the signal to the audience, I stopped breathing; I could feel tears welling up in my eyes as I searched the crowd for its decision.

    All were thumbs down.

    I turned away from the scene in front of me. I can still remember the shaking of my body, the tears staining my cheeks, and the crumble of my balance. When I heard the roar from the horde behind me, I knew it was true: Liberus was dead.

    As I sit here inside the walls of the ludus gladiatorius writing this letter to no one in particular, I feel no emotion; I am dead inside. Not a month ago, my best and only friend I ever perished; I had no one left in this world. I have lost my country, my freedom, and most importantly, my spirit. I have attended my death banquet and tomorrow I will enter the arena of the amphitheatrum Caesareum to fight to the death. Though at this point Reader, if you have read this far, I must tell you that I am not afraid. I am ready to die, ready to leave this cruel world behind.

    This is the task I leave you Reader, it does not matter how this letter came into your possession, it does not matter if you yourself are Roman, and it does not matter if you are of the lowest class of humans. All I ask of you is to tell my story. Short as it is, the world needs to know. Many do not know of the hardship of gladiators, on how they must live on knowing how they will die. They do not know how the Romans are brutal, power hungry people, who do not realize that pain, blood, and death are not forms of entertainment. On how war is not something to be proud of, it is something to be remembered and never done again. I want to the world to realize these morals so that no man, woman, slave, child, or animal has to suffer like this again. This is the task I leave to you Reader, a simple deed of great value and importance. I thank-you Reader, for reading this letter and sincerely hope that you will pass these morals down to your children and your children’s children, and remember them yourself till the end of your days.

    Daearen Ahearn,
    A Gallic soldier, A lover of horses, and a gladiator