‘Gladiatori’ at the National Archaeological Museum Naples

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A great exhibition that presents to the public the evolution of the gladiatorial art in its salient features, from its origins to the first manifestations of the Republican Age, then arriving at the spectacular games organized in the Imperial Era.

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples

The approximately one hundred and fifty works that make up the tour show how a complex organization revolved around the games, capable of permeating multiple aspects of public and private life. 




The attention to the games and their protagonists was not only an extraordinary instrument of political propaganda but also a theme rooted in the collective imagination, as the decorative apparatuses and furnishings of the domus both in Pompeii and in the other centers of the empire, including those from beyond the Alps represented in the exhibition. 

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Thracian helmet with palm. Pompeii, gladiator barracks. First half
of the 1st century AD [Credit: MANN]

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Cnemis with laurel branches, Bacchic mask and Pan’s heads. Pompeii,
gladiator barracks. 1st century AD [Credit: MANN]

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Detail of Myrmillone helmet with personification of Rome, prisoner barbarians, trophies and Victories.
Pompeii, gladiator barracks. Second half of the 1st century AD [Credit: MANN]

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Sword with scabbard. Pompeii, gladiator barracks.
1st century AD [Credit: MANN]

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Provocator helmet with eagle. Pompeii, gladiator barracks.
First half of the 1st century AD [Credit: MANN]

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Galerus with dolphin, trident, anchor, rudder and crab. Pompeii,
gladiator barracks. 1st century AD [Credit: MANN]

The route is in fact conceived with continuous references between the most famous contexts, such as those of Pompeii, the Colosseum and the amphitheaters of Pozzuoli and Santa Maria Capua Vetere, and Swiss sites such as Avenches or Augusta Raurica, from which come valuable and noteworthy finds, such as the floor mosaic with figures of gladiators exhibited for the first time outside Switzerland after a recent restoration. 




The exhibition is divided into six sections: 

– From the funeral of the heroes to the duel for the dead

– The gladiators and their weapons

– From mythical hunting to venationes

– Life as a Gladiator

– The amphitheaters of Campania

– The Gladiators in the house and on the walls

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Gravestone with boxing and duel with referee. Paestum, Necropolis of Gaudo, Tomb 7.
Second quarter of the 4th century BC [Credit: Paestum, Archaeological Park]

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Krater with the funeral of Patroclus. Canosa, Hypogeum of the vase
of Darius. 340-320 BC [Credit: MANN]

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Shard of glass. 2nd century AD. Aventicum, excavations
of the Roman city, 
Avenches [Credit: Mus√©e Romain]

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Peneleos funerary stele. 3rd century AD. Basel [Credit: Antikenmuseum
 und Sammlung Ludwig]

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Acclamation to Numerius Popidius Rufus, organizer of gladiator shows.
Pompeii, VIII 7, 16 Flavian period [Credit: MANN]
'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Bear skull. 2nd century AD. Roman city of Augusta Raurica, Augst
[Credit: Antiquarium Augusta Raurica]

As well as the 160 historical artefacts on show, the Naples-based exhibition also includes a high-tech ‚Äúseventh section‚ÄĚ called Gladiatorimania, hosted in the Museum‚Äôs New Wing. Gladiatorimania is new to the exhibition seen at Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig, widening the scope of the project with accessible content for visitors young and old and capturing the ‚Äúperson beneath the helmet‚ÄĚ. 




The interactive itinerary covers seven stages, with an informative ending: training, the gladiators’ diet and food for the audiences, combat, weapons, armour and venues for the games, body care at the amphitheatre: costumes and injuries, the lives of the gladiators and gladiators at play.

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Consular diptych by Flavio Areobindo. Early 6th century AD,
Zurich [Credit: Schweizerisches Landesmuseum]
'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Axis (coin) of Alexander Severus with representation
of the Colosseum. 222 AD [Credit: MANN]

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Lucerne with a duel between Thracian and Myrmillone. 3rd century AD,
Basel [Credit: Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig]

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Floor mosaic. Late 2nd century AD. Roman city of Augusta Raurica,
Insula 30, Augst [Credit: Antiquarium Augusta Raurica]

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Detail of Floor mosaic. Late 2nd century AD. Roman city of Augusta Raurica,
 Insula 30, Augst [Credit: Antiquarium Augusta Raurica]

'Gladiatori' at the National Archaeological Museum Naples
Detail of Floor mosaic with a duel between Myrmillon and Thracian. Late 2nd century AD.
Roman city of Augusta Raurica, Augst [Credit: Antiquarium Augusta Raurica]

Gladiatori is made possible with the support of the Campania Region, in synergy with the Archaeological Park of the Colosseum and in association with the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. It concludes a research programme that has created exhibitions charting the great civilisations of the ancient world. 




The scientific project behind the exhibition was overseen by Valeria Sampaolo, former curator at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, and coordinated by Laura Forte, Exhibitions Manager at MANN and the MANN Photographic Archive.

The partnership with MANN confirms Intesa Sanpaolo’s support for the worlds of art and culture as part of Progetto Cultura, the Bank’s programme that nurtures Italy’s historic and artistic heritage by making a concrete contribution to the country’s civic and cultural development.

The exhibition will run until January 06, 2022

Source: National Archaeological Museum Naples [May 31, 2021]

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