In last week’s blog, Binyamin tries to convince Miriam that his being a gladiator is his chance to earn a place of honor in society. But most gladiators were not an auctoratus, a hired volunteer, like he was. Rather, they were prisoners-of-war, slaves bought for that purpose, or criminals condemned to the arena.

In THE DEADLIEST SPORT, Binyamin introduces Miriam to his buddy, Tychon, from his troupe of gladiators:

“Initially Tychon was condemned to the arena for three years, a sentence no one could be expected to survive. See, when you’re a prisoner-of-war, slave, or criminal, you’re just thrown into the arena without any training or medical care. But by the time I joined the troupe, Tychon had not only survived his sentence, but he’d begun his first of two five-year contracts as an auctoratus, a hired volunteer like me, a professional.”

“So, what was his crime?”

“Murder. He killed—”


“I know it sounds bad, but just listen. He killed a publican in Caesarea, some slime named Vibius Arrius Corvus who’d bid successfully for the post of tax collector. One day, this tax collector had the soldiers seize a boy and scourge him for crying out when he saw his father bound to the wheel and mauled for not paying his taxes. As Tychon tells it, both the father and son died a few hours later right there in the forum. And no one even dared move their pulpy bodies.

“But Tychon, just a seventeen-year-old street kid, had the courage and cunning to waylay Arrius Corvus when the bloodsucker thought he was alone under his own portico. Anyway, that’s my buddy.”