Gladiators and the Boundaries of the Empire: Establishing Visibility in Ancient Rome
This thesis focuses on how marginalized groups become visible in society. As a case study, I look at gladiators in the imperial period of Ancient Rome, specifically those who were captives from foreign territories, and who had to compete in front of an audience in order to become accepted in society. Gladiators had to, quite literally, “fight for their lives” in order to be seen as persons. However, there was danger associated with the excessive visibility of gladiators. They wanted visibility, but being too visible in society was also dangerous for them. In order to become accepted as social persons, gladiators had to create fictive kin and equally fictive personae, simulating a Roman familia and displaying characteristics associated with Roman masculinity in the arena. In simulating the military role of Roman citizens, gladiators were able to achieve acceptance and even social recognition in death. As a way to compare the marginalized position of the gladiator in ancient Rome to an aspect of contemporary American society, I conducted an ethnographic study of athletes at Franklin & Marshall College. The interviews helped to shape my larger discussion of the interactions between the audience and the performer in ancient Rome. My research ultimately revealed that visibility creates a dialectical tension for both ancient and modern people, forcing those people to engage in a constant relationship with seeing and being seen in the construction of their personhood.
Franklin and Marshall College Archives, Undergraduate Honors Thesis 2015
- F&M Theses Collection