Bad Refereeing: 1,800 years ago

   We complain about bad refs now, but this story involved more than the loss of a '0' on a fighter's record.


   The fighter was Diodorus, a gladiator in Turkey during the height of the Roman empire.  The battle was with an opponent named Dimitrius, and there was a very bad call.


The evidence is a gravestone for Diodorus, erected perhaps by family or friends, which blames his death on a bad call by a referee (a "summa rudis").  The gravestone shows a gladiator, presumably Diodorus holding two swords and standing over an opponent who appears to be surrendering.   There is a rather bitter inscription, which you can read by clicking on the link below: it has only recently been deciphered, but it seems to capture a pretty raw deal.


   Apparently, gladiatorial contests were often or always refereed, and  there was a set of fairly complex rules governing these fights.  One of them, familiar to all modern fighters and fight fans, concerned a "slip."  It appears as though if a fighter slipped in combat, rather than being knocked down (or worse), there was a time-out and he was allowed to get up, retrieve his weapons, and continue the fight.


   As far as archaeologists and historians can tell, the inscription strongly suggests that Diodorus had beaten Dimitrius in a fair fight, had at least knocked him down, and had captured his weapons.  Dimitrius had surrendered, and so the fight was over, and that should have been that.


   Unfortunately for Diodorus, the summa rudis called a slip for Dimitrius.  This apparently nullified his surrender, allowed him to get back up, and allowed him to reclaim his weapons and shield. It also meant the fight had to continue.  


   It did resume, and it seems that Diodorus ended up on the short end of a fight he might have won:  he was either killed on the spot by Dimitrius, or so badly wounded that he died shortly thereafter.


Here's the link:

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