ANCIENT ROME HAD FEMALE GLADIATORS

Yep. You read that right. Women were gladiators! Huge crowds came to see the gladiators. This was a well-attended sport, much like football today in that people come to see strong muscled individuals face off against each other and crash into each other and stop their opponent from advancing. Typically, just like today on the gridiron, the opponents fought a bloody battle and then resigned from the field. No one died. They live to fight another day and to please the crowd again as they cheer and shout in hopes that the opponent will be crushed and humiliated. And just like the Romans, we call this sport.

Why do we enjoy watching people face off against each other and work to destroy each other? Why keep this in the Coliseum ring or the Football field? What do we gain by watching people face off, shove each other around, swing weapons, and dominate the other? Clearly, this is an important part of human culture, or it would not have been going on for centuries and show little or no sign of abating.

The culture must benefit from these shows of strength and threats of death. We also have many other entertainment venues that are based on threats and violence. Murder mysteries can be intellectual, like Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes, or they can be violent contests like The Hunger Games, which has a whole series of films with murderous challenges.

The female gladiators show us that women can entertain with violence just as easily as men. Shows of violence must serve a purpose as they have been popular for centuries. The spectator may have the experience of releasing thoughts and feelings of aggression by watching shows of violence, thus leading to a smaller probability that the spectator will commit acts of violence. However, I wonder where the cost/benefit analysis breaks down or crosses a threshold.

Surveys within the last few years indicate that young children today typically watch approximately 4 hours of “screen” time on average per day. That is a lot of screen time. Televisions were just coming into being when I was a child, and often, they were reserved for evening programs with the family and then morning programs for kids before going to school and afternoon programs for kids as a kind of built-in babysitter until dinner time. Now, screens are available to children 24/7. The long-term impact of that is being studied by The National Institutes of Health, which points out one obvious consequence: screen time leads to less physical exercise, which has health consequences, social consequences, and psychological consequences.

We have reached the threshold where an extended diet is just too much. Apparently, we do benefit from a dose of violence that we can identify with and not participate in, but we may also be going too far.