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A rare Roman Bronze Gladiator Caestus, ca. 1st century AD

of semi-circular cylindrical form, with five spikes protruding.  Roman gladiators would attach metal studs or spikes to their gloves (caestus) to inflict maximum damage when fighting.  In the Roman arena, the caestus was mostly used when otherwise unarmed opponents - such as prisoners, criminals or slaves - were made to fight each other to the death.  They were also used outside the arena in violent competitions known as caestus boxing, until this increasingly brutal and bloody sport was officially banned in 393 AD.

see:   Kohne, E and Ewigleben, C. " Gladiators and Caesars " (University of California Press, 2001) p.79. 

"As with the gladiatorial manica, there was a tendency for the caestus worn by boxers to be elongated in the course of the imperial period into something more like a sleeve reaching up to the armpit.  At the same time the leather knuckleduster was replaced in many caestus by a semi-cylindrical bronze reinforcement, from which spikes or a shovel-shaped device with a jagged edge projected in the direction of the adversary.  Although there are no references to it in the ancient sources, it is commonly thought that this semi-cylinder and its projections were made of metal, which would have changed the caestus into a real and murderous weapon.  This has led to the conclusion that this kind of caestus began to be used by gladiators, not athletes."   Kohne, E and Ewigleben, C. " Gladiators and Caesars" (University of California Press, 2001) p.79.

Condition:  Intact and in excellent condition overall.

Dimensions:  Length: 10.16 cm (4 inches)

Provenance:   Private collection of G. Blumenthal, NYC, acquired in Israel in the 80’s.


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