The Spoliarium


Luna’s painting depicts the bloody carcasses of gladiators as they’re about to be dragged through the Porta Libitinaria (The Gate of Death) into the darkness of the spoliarium. There the gladiators’ bodies are stripped of their armor and, some say, prepared for burial. Others say their bodies are fed to the wild beasts to whet their appetite for human flesh.

No one has actually described the inside of a spoliarium, but in Chapter 22 of THE DEADLIEST HATE, the soon-to-be-released second book in the Miriam bat Isaac series, Miriam enters the hypogeum, the labyrinth of chambers below the arena, to find her brother. It’s through her eyes alone then that we get a fleeting image of some of the underground chambers including the spoliarium:

“More bleak passageways, grim chambers, and grisly cells. Many I couldn’t see into. So swallowed by shadows, they emitted only the stench and groans of human misery or the clamor of slaves sharpening swords, hammering out armor, or testing whips. But I could identify the spoliarium because in addition to the stench of slaughter, the squeals of rats, and the din of slaves stripping armor and weaponry from the dead, I could see in a puddle of light the rows upon rows of stacked corpses yet to be stripped.”

Don’t worry. Miriam will tell you herself how she managed to sneak past the guards to get into the hypogeum. And you’ll see how she gets out.

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