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Don't Monkey Around

In THE DEADLIEST SPORT, Judah accompanies Miriam to the games to see her twin brother perform in the arena for presumably his last bout:

And so, Judah's palm between my shoulder blades, my feet inching forward, he steered me through the thousands milling about the ticket scalpers, souvenir hawkers, and sausage vendors who, from their covered stalls, seasoned the air with fennel and fried grease. As soldiers split the throng, we joined the stream of those funneling toward our gate through an arch decorated with painted images of gladiators and charioteers in stucco relief. Judah checked the marble, wall-mounted diagram for the location of our seats and then directed me through an arcade to our stairway.

But let Miriam tell you about the praegenarii, the clowns who, with wooden weapons and ludicrous antics, mocked the gladiators to amuse the spectators.

Before even climbing the steps, we caught the clack of wooden swords and the fits of raucous laughter springing from the antics of the praegenarii, the acrobatic dwarfs, cripples, and amputees who, accompanied by light-hearted music, amuse the crowd with their comic routines during intermissions. In tight-fitting costumes and outlandish plumed helmets, they exchange choreographed blows with their blunt weapons, lassoes, and nets to mock the gladiators.

The rest of the games were dead serious, of course, and lasted from sunrise to sunset. The seasoned spectators, however, skipped the preliminary acts and came only to the events in late afternoon when the professional gladiators exhibited their skills as they fought for their lives. But you are not likely to skip any parts of THE DEADLIEST SPORT because murder not gladiatorial combat is on the menu. Click here for the book trailer.


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