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Regulating and Ranking Gladiators

In an act known as the senatus consultum de Pretiis Gladiatorum Minuendis of A.D. 177, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and his son and co-emperor Commodus promulgated regulations intended to reduce the mandatory costs of presenting gladiatorial games required from men appointed to certain priesthoods or offices, which also incidentally happens to give us some notion of how gladiators were ranked during the high empire.

The prices to be paid for gladiators were dependent on the total sum allocated for the games, in sesterces, and the relative rank of the gladiator in what might be termed the “Gladiatorial Guild”, from first rank man, Primpalus, through second, third, fourth rank, and novice, though the last might actually have already had a few fights under his belt.

Gladiatorial Costs in Sestertii

BudgetRank1st 2nd 3rd 4th Novice
30,000-60,000 - - 5,000 4,000 3,000
60,000-100,000 - - 8,000 6,000 5,000
100,000-150,000 12,000 10,000 8,000 6,000 5,000
150,000-200,000 15,000 12,000 9,000 7,000 6,000
Note: For comparative purposes, note that in this period the annual
 pay of a legionary infantryman was 1,200 sestertii, see “Paying Miles Gloriosus.

Under these regulations, games budgeted at 30,000 sesterces could include six gladiators costing 5,000 each, or ten at 3,000, or some combination of men costing, 5,000, 4,000, or 3,000.

While gladiators were not soldiers, when the great Gaius Marius reformed the Roman Army around 107 BC, turning it from a theoretically part-time yeoman militia into a professional force, he modeled swordsmanship training on that used for gladiators. Throughout Roman history, noted gladiators were often employed to train young noblemen in swordsmanship and other military skills. And at times gladiators did sometimes serve as troops, particularly during civil wars, being tough and loyal. There was a famous incident after the Battle of Actium in 31 BC in which several thousand of Marc Antony’s gladiators marched hundreds of miles from Greece across Asia, in the hope of joining their master in Egypt.

Gladiators are still popular, judging by the frequency of cinematic “sword and sandal epics.

 

The Kaiser's Jewish Warriors

During World War I, about 96,000 Jewish men served in the German armed forces, roughly 19.2 percent of the empire’s 500,000 Jewish citizens (including women and children); pretty much a maximum turnout. Of the Kaiser’s Jewish servicemen, about 84,000 saw action at the front or on the seas, and about 12,000 Jewish soldiers or sailors were killed in action, a death toll roughly the same as that for men of other faiths. Over 35 percent of the Jewish men who served were decorated, and 23 percent were promoted in the course of the war.

On the eve of World War I most European armies had few, if any, Jewish officers. Proportionate to the number of Jewish people in the population, the German Army had very few. At the time, the German Army had four branches, the Imperial Army proper (essentially the Prussian Army plus contingents from about twenty small duchies and statelets), and the three somewhat autonomous armies of Saxony, Bavaria, and Wurttemberg. The Imperial Army proper had only no Jewish officers on active duty, although there were 23 officers from Jewish families that had become Christian, nor were there any practicing Jewish officers in the reserves. The Bavarian Royal Army also seems to have had no Jewish officers on active duty, but there were 46 practicing Jews holding reserve commissions and 42 more in the Landwehr. It’s not clear whether there were any Jewish officers in Saxon or Wurttemberg service. During the war as many as 2,000 Jewish men seem to have become reserve officers in all branches of the German Army, and a number of Jewish chaplains were appointed as well.

Apparently the only member of the German Reichstag to be killed in action during World War I was Jewish; Ludwig Frank (1874-1914), a Social Democrat. Although Frank was over age for military service, he joined the 110th Baden Grenadier Regiment (2. Badisches Grenadier-Regt. ‘Kaiser Wilhelm I.’ Nr.110) on the outbreak of the war and was killed in the Vosges Mountains on September 3, 1914.

Despite their patriotic support for Kaiser und Vaterland, Germany’s Jewish citizens were popularly believed to be shirkers. As a result, On November 1, 1916 the Imperial Army conducted what it called a “Jew Count,” a census of Jewish personnel in uniform. The results were never published, as it turned out that proportionately there was no notable difference between the number of Jewish men in military service than men of any other faith.

One of the Jewish officers in the Kaiser’s service arguably had an important influence on history, Hugo Gutmann (1880-1971).

The son of a shopkeeper from Nuremburg, Gutmann entered the Bavarian Army in 1902 as a volunteer, and passed into the reserves in 1904 as a Feldwebel (E-5 or E-6). Called up in 1914, he was assigned to the Royal Bavarian Reserve-Infanterie-Regiment 16 “List”. In late 1914 Gutmann was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class, and the following spring was promoted to Leutnant (second lieutenant). Serving as a company commander and then Acting Adjutant for the Regiment's artillery battalion, Guttmann was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class in December of 1915.

From Jan. 29 to Aug. 31, 1918, one of Gutmann’s dispatch runners was an Austrian-born gefreiter (lance corporal) named Adolf Hitler. It was to Gutmann that Hitler owed his nomination for an Iron Cross 1st Class, a decoration rarely given to enlisted men, which was duly awarded on August 4, 1918.

Gutmann was discharged from the Army as a reserve lieutenant early in 1919. Soon afterwards, he married, and went on to father two children, while making a living running a small office furniture business in Nuremberg. In 1933, Gutmann applied for and received a veteran’s pension. With passage of the “Nuremberg Laws” on racial purity in 1935, however, Gutmann lost his German citizenship, his reserve officer’s commission, and his official status as a veteran. Oddly, his pension seems to have continued, by some accounts due to Hitler's personal intervention. Although Gutmann had at least one run-in with the Gestapo, sympathetic officials, Nazi and anti-Nazi alike, knowing his history, kept him out of danger. By some accounts warned to leave Germany, in 1939 Gutmann and his family fled to Belgium. When Germany invaded Belgium in the Spring of 1940 the family fled through France and Spain to Portugal, where they took ship for the United States.

Settling in St. Louis, Missouri, Gutmann changed his name to Henry G. Grant and went back into the furniture business.

 


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