The Debater as a Gladiator

During his last moments alive, an honorable defeated gladiator would not whine but "offer his throat to his opponent and direct the wavering blade to the vital spot" (Seneca). This is how demanding being a gladiator was.

Lately, we see Presidential debates with various numbers of participating presidential hopeful candidates. In spite of the enormous numerous differences between the candidates and the gladiators, watching these debates may stimulate the association with gladiators, due to some similarities exemplified bellow. This is not a claim that "debaters" are exactly like "gladiators," but that they share some common characteristics.

Armed with weapons, the gladiators in the arena in ancient Rome fought to death a wild animal or a person in order to entertain a crowd of spectators. Sometimes the fights were between two groups of gladiators. The gladiators were foreign prisoners or slaves who wanted to display bravery and receive compensation, but sometimes free born men from the upper class, including senators, voluntarily became gladiators, wanting to show their bravery. The "compensation" in this case was not necessarily material.



Do debaters try to receive "compensation" by demonstrating their skills and abilities? Are they drawn to the presidency as a public service only, or do they have additional considerations such as power, status, and honor?

Most of the gladiators were men, but there were times that female gladiators fought other women or beasts in extravagant games.

The gladiators were trained to fight to death. The Presidential candidates in a Presidential debate fight "to the death" (figuratively) of their presidential aspiration. Knowing that only one person will become President, every candidate claims that he is the only well-suited candidate to the presidency, and tries to destroy the chances of the other candidates - women and men. The political "death" of the other contestant is the life of the survivors.


In order to attract spectators to the gladiators' shows, early information was provided about the games by advertising the date, place and other details such as executions in the show. The antagonistic Presidential debates are advertised in a dramatic language in order to build up excitement and interest and to generate a "rating."

In order to be ready for the fight, the gladiators had sometimes unceremonious warm-up matches in which they used dull swords. The Presidential-hopeful debaters "warm-up" when they respond to the public controversial statements of their opponents prior to the debates.

There were periods when the defeated gladiator could not escape his death, and there were times that his life was spared. The spectators decided the fate of a defeated gladiator by "voting," turning their thumbs. They wanted to see blood. The fate of a candidate to the presidency is decided by voting, that is influenced by his or her performance in the debates.

While even the slightest movement of a gladiator in the arena could decide his life or death, a few words of a debater can decide his or her political fate. A few words are quoted numerous times so that we appreciate his high abilities or understand how ill-suited he is.



The gladiators fought in the game and died, their numbers would decline during the game, those who survived continued to the next show. The number of the Presidential candidates goes down after some candidates withdraw or are suspended, their high power political life "ended" at least for now. They usually withdraw in an honorable manner and often are forgotten thereafter. Some of them go back to their high position and often eventually "fight" again for the much-coveted post.

Where do we fit into this mess of a show? Do we as spectators of the debates look for excitement and entertainment? Do we all watch the debates in order to be informed, or do we sometimes crave to see "blood" (figuratively of course) as the debates intensify? Do we derive enjoyment that we each have the power -- however minuscule -- to decide the fate of the contestants? Aren't the most provocative moments of the debates the ones that are broadcasted time and again, with the assumption that we like them the most, and something is satisfied in us by the media's senseless sensationalism as it repeats and broadcasting their profundities, and follies, and sometimes their profound follies? Are we sated by watching the fight a contestant puts out, and then watch him or her be worn down? Has the appearance of the fighting changed, while the profitable process of providing entertaining through displaying aggressive encounters, is continued?

We don't have gladiators in the original sense anymore, but the debates seem to fulfill something deep in our ancient psyche that will need to be transcended somewhat for our society to evolve.