19.310 Reenactment Event at Corbridge
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Reenactment Event at Corbridge
Corbridge, 24th August 2008

Another Outing for the Webmaster

Late August saw another event that had yours truly heading out to Hadrian’s Wall by train to view the ‘Gadiator Spectacle’ being staged at Corbridge Roman fort. It proved a really great day out.
It was a fine day, but the weather was changeable, making light difficult. The hedging had suffered a bit and hence often failed to hide the cars parked behind in the neighbouring field. This wasn’t conducive to pics recalling ancient Rome, so I had a lot of editing to do. The same went for the dreaded English Heritage plastic barrier tape, which fenced off the arena. I think you’ll find the sight of modernity has been removed from all pics, bar one.

The exhibits were all pretty exceptional. Without doubt this was one of the best such events I’ve been too. But my personal experience was dominated by the truly exceptional gladiators from the Britannia re-enactment group and the fabulous presenters of Heuristics. All in all it was a great day.

Two presenters who almost overshadowed the gladiators that day were this lot. Frankly, they are fabulous, explaining and demonstrating some of the basic technologies and scientific principles known to the ancients.
Above they're explaining a simple klepsydra (water clock) and to the right Iden is explaining the use of the surveyor’s tool known as the groma

To the left is Iden demonstrating the plumb line right angle and explaining how the Romans constructed their buildings to be rectangular and (hopefully) vertical. To the right is a fabulous portable exhibit of a Roman toilet which they brought along with them.
Sadly I missed their demonstration on ancient makeup. I’m sure it will have been a barnstormer. I would truly recommend that anyone in the UK who has these two coming to town go see them.
Check out www.heuristics.org.uk for their website.

The late Roman cavalry also made an appearance, delivering some demonstrations of their skill followed by out-and-out mounted combat.

A Roman cookery presentation was to be seen at the stand of the Casa Apiciae.
To the right the mistress of all things ancient and culinary is just cutting a fresh baked loaf of Roman bread.

A potter was on hand, preparing votive offerings. These little clay trinkets were usually sold at places of worship or pilgrimage. The offering depicts the very object you wish to gain help from the gods for. Look closely at the votive offerings and you’ll find depictions of ears, eyes and arms. Were you hoping to win the favour of the deity to heal that particular body part then you’d offer the respective votive gift to the god.
It seems pretty clear that this could no doubt prove a nice little earner for the potters and temple authorities of the locality.

Finally, it’s the turn of the gladiators from the re-enactment group Britannia.
It goes without saying that this group were the star attraction of the event.
You'll fidn their site at: http://www.durolitum.co.uk/
To the left we have the narrator in full magisterial garb who went by the name of Titus.
To the right is the gladiator school’s lanista, the gruesome Draco. Although here the lanista is also operating as the doctor (trainer) of the gladiatorial school. Most unusual…

The whole display came complete with emperor Domitian and his royal entourage.
It was thus to the emperor that the gladiators turned and delivered their infamous salute, ’Morituri te salutant’ (’Those who are about to die salute you.’)

Before just about any public spectacle could take place there was always a bit of ceremony and ritual required. Here we see two maidens purify the arena with incense in advance of the spectacle.

No gladiatorial fight would be possible without the proper officials.
To the left we see the referee entering the arena. It is he who sees to it that the proper rules and forms of combat are obeyed.
To the right the dreaded Charon makes his entrance. He despatched the fatally wounded to the netherworld.

A hoplomachus (left) takes on a secutor (right).
Notice how the lance of the hoplomachus is broken by the time this picture was taken, leaving him to fend with little more than a pointy stick.

A net fighter (retiarus) fighting a Thracian, with the referee keeping a watchful eye.
The retiarius sweeps his net and uses his trident to keep his foe at a distance, whilst the Thracian relentlessly seeks to close on him.

Once or twice the netfighter nearly succeeds in catching the crest of his opponents helmet in his net. But it isn’t long before the Thracian’s superiority in skill and sheer power begins to tell. The retiarius is wounded and downed.
To the left: He raises his indicating his plea for clemency to the crowd. To the right: The crowd and the fight’s editor however remain unmoved. ’Jugula!’ goes the cry and the Thracian dispatches his vanquished foe with a slash across the throat.

(Please note: the reenactors use fake blood pellets for their performances - the crowds love it. Of course no-one is ever really harmed. It’s all for show.)

Once a fight comes to an end and the groundsmen (libitinarii) begin clearing the arena, the feared Charon goes to worked making sure that anyone too badly injured for treatment goes the way of all things mortal. His tool is the fearsome hammer you see him wielding here.

Again, the group employ plenty of showmanship. If at first you see Charon knocking pegs into the ground to prove his hammer to be real, the tool is later switched with an identical one with a foam head. Consequently it causes quite a shock among the crowd at first when he actually proceeds to batter the fallen fighters on the head with it.

A particularly skilled, determined fight was that of two provocatores. It was determined, energetic and artful fighting such as this which would win the favour of the crowd. The losing gladiator of such a contest was much more likely to receive mercy and not face death in the arena.
The arms of this provocator gladiator type mimicked those of Roman soldiers. A pairing of identical types of fighter would be unlikely tough.

One of the highlights of the gladiator event was the entry of the crupellarius. This is the re-enactment group Britannia’s interpretation of a small horde of Gallic fighters mentioned in a text (by Caesar, I’d guess). Such was their armour that they are said to have been virtually unstoppable.
The same proves to be the case in the arena. Though his sight is severely limited, there is little his foes can do against this metal giant. As a result he butchered the lot of them.
In a way this might be seen as a version of the lumbering andebate who fight unarmed but was protected by impenetrable layers of armour.

The event closed with a display of a slain gladiator (one who had paid into the burial fund, that is) being prepared for his cremation.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures.

The Webmaster


This page was last updated on 24th September 2008.

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