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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Gladiator Relief Discovered in Bulgaria

Thursday, September 13, 2018

VELIKO TARNOVO, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that a stone relief thought to date to the Severan Dynasty (A.D. 193-235) has been found in the ancient Roman city of Nicopolis ad Istrum, which is located in northern Bulgaria, by a team of archaeologists led by Ivan Tsarov of the Veliko Tarnovo Regional Museum of History. The rare image, discovered under the pavement in the southwestern corner of the city’s forum, depicts a type of gladiator known as a secutor, wearing a helmet and a shield and armed with a short sword, facing another type of gladiator called a retiarius, wearing an arm and a shoulder guard and carrying a trident, a dagger, and a net. Tsarov and his colleagues think the carved stone may have been part of a frieze that decorated a table where olive oil and grains were weighed, or part of a sacrificial altar associated with rituals performed before gladiatorial battles. The find is said to confirm three inscriptions mentioning gladiator fights that have been found in the city, even though an amphitheater has not been located. Tsarov thinks the battles may have been held in a wooden structure outside the city. To read about research on an area outside an amphitheater in present-day Austria where gladiatorial contests took place, go to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

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