In today's news, archaeologists in Turkey uncover what seems to be a Roman-era gladiator burial ground. Don’t let Hollywood fool you: Those warriors were mostly enslaved people, who were scorned, abused, killed, and then buried poorly outside of city walls. There were also women gladiators, by the way, as you can read in historian Sarah E. Bond’s in-depth report.
Possible gladiator tombs were found during excavations in the ancient Roman city of Anazarbus (modern Anavarza) in Turkey, near the Roman amphitheater. (photo by Ozan Efeoğlu via Anadolu Images)
Archeologists claim to have discovered an ancient gladiator burial ground in southern Turkey.
Since 2013, continuous excavations at Anazarbus, located within the ancient Roman province of Cilicia, have disclosed a wealth of archaeological finds. The site goes back to the Hellenistic era, before being occupied and annexed by the Romans. It would continue into the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, until being destroyed by the Mamluks in 1374. The site sits at a pivotal inland crossroads that connected tradespersons and travelers to Syria, Mesopotamia, and the Levant.
The large urban area had a stadium, theater, triumphal arch, baths, numerous late antique churches, and a wide Roman road decorated with impressively large columns. The only-recent discovery of the amphitheater by researchers from Çukurova University points to the use of gladiators in the area south of Anazarbus, beyond the city walls. (Ancient Minoans demand luxury)
In 1993, Austrian archaeologists working at Ephesus along a road called the Via Sacra found a gladiator necropolis dating to the 2nd and 3rd century CE. Ancient necropoleis were often placed along roads outside of cities, since Greeks and Romans — prior to the dominance of Christianity — buried their dead outside of urban areas, rather than within the confines of the city walls of the polis.