Height: 75.000 cm
Width: 42.000 cm
Gift of John Turtle Wood
GR 1873.5-5.1 (Sculpture 1286; Inscription 670)
Greece and Rome
Marble relief with lion and gladiator
Roman, 1st-2nd century AD
From Ephesus, modern Turkey
Wild animals (bestiae) were used in a variety of entertainments in the Roman arena. These ranged from the simple presentation of exotic species (such as elephants, ostriches and crocodiles), shows with trained performing animals, the hunting of game, fights between professional venatores (animal fighters) and dangerous beasts, to the execution of criminals condemned to die as damnati ad bestias, thrown defenceless to the wild animals.
The huntsmen and animal fighters, like the gladiators, were recruited from among prisoners of war, slaves, condemned criminals and volunteers. However, they were inferior to the gladiators in terms of prestige and pay.
Combat on foot with a large and dangerous beast of prey, usually a lion, tiger, leopard or bear, was undoubtedly the most popular variant of the animal fight. The surviving part of this relief depicts the second and fourth stages of a fight between a venator and a lion. The Greek inscription may be translated: 'Second [fight] ... fourth [fight]. He was taken away for burial.'
By the time this relief was carved, the venator would have fought with a spear, probably a hunting spear held in both hands.
E. Köhne and C. Ewigleben (eds.), Gladiators and Caesars: the po (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)