Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Female Gladiator? Or Girl with Strange Bathing Habits?

Originally, this Roman statue was believed to be of a female athlete holding a strigil (an instrument used to scrape off sweat and gunk before entering the baths).

But now, scholars think she may actually be a gladiator. Why? Her posture is one of victory, as if she is holding up her sica, curved sword (used by fighters known as Thracians), in a moment of triumph.

Somebody about to scrape themselves wouldn't necessarily have cause to thrust the cleaning instrument up in celebration.

Also, she is looking down, possibly over her fallen opponent. Both the arm up and the looking down postures signal victory in the gladiatorial arena.

Also, her knee is bandaged, which would be more likely to expected of a fighter. Finally, she is wearing a loin cloth. Thracians fought only in loincloths. If she were in the baths, she'd be naked.

The arguments against her being a gladiator? No helmet. We rarely see depictions of gladiators without their helmets. This may have been an artistic choice, however, so that we could see her face. Also, it would be easy to imagine that the winner of a fight would throw his or her helmet off in victory as a sign that protection was no longer needed.

Also where is her shield? Thracian fighters used a square shield called a parma. Of course, the shield could have gone the way of her helmet--thrown aside in victory.

This little statue is a reminder of how much we don't know about the ancient world. And of how much everything we think we know is a matter of speculation.

I personally like to think that she is a gladiator. After all, a victory in the arena is much more interesting than imaging that this is a depiction of a young woman in the baths celebrating the defeat of the dastardly and dangerous draping of, dress.


Author Lindsay Mead said...

I'm not entirely certain it's a woman. It could just as easily be a young man who has a little man boobage going on ;P

Anonymous said...


Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

A.E. Rothschild--thanks for stopping by!

Lindsay--I can see how you might conclude that, but the form still seems feminine to me--especially when you look at other statues of gladiators where the builds are way thicker and more muscular. But that's the point, nobody actually knows!