In The Deadliest Sport (Miriam’s third adventure, coming soon), Gershon, an aficionado of the games, blinks slowly for a moment before recognizing Miriam’s brother as the combatant who slew Orcus, the highly favored and most popular gladiator in the Empire.
“Why you were hardly more than a new hire! I couldn’t believe it! You chose the perfect moment to trap Orcus and close in on him. All that despite your own blood staining the sand.” Gershon, glowing with the excitement of every sports fan reliving a tense competition, sucked in a breath and blew it out in a soundless whistle before continuing.
“Soon enough ‘Charon’ appeared with his long-handled mallet.” At this point, the volume had leached out of Gershon’s voice. “He struck Orcus on the forehead, and a team of slaves lifted him onto a bier and carried him away. I tell you we all cried, those of us who could believe our eyes, that is. The rest just stood frozen in disbelief, their faces convulsed, their skin pale as a fish’s belly.”
The “Charon” Gershon refers to is the attendant at the games who impersonates the Angel of Death. Costumed in a conical hat and a red exomis, a laborer’s tunic that bares the right side of the wearer’s chest, he discourages gladiators from feigning death by striking their forehead with a mallet.
Charon was depicted in ancient Greek art as an ugly, bearded man with a crooked nose. The image displayed here, painted in red on a 5th century BCE Athenian funereal vase, shows him driving his skiff with a pole.