This is slightly different from anything previously as it requires some explanation. You see, I have been busily writing today on my Romans novel but not for new material. No, I have just made a major change to one of my characters. I wasn’t happy with him – he was almost a blend of two of the other characters: the no-nonsense approach of Seneca and the gruffness of Nero. I was starting to feel he would be quickly forgotten and I had struggled to write a back story for him. So I took proverbial surgical tools to him today and gave him a sex change.
Tiberius Tadius Saturninus – the owner of the gladiator school – is now Livia Saturnia and still the owner of a gladiator school. I’ve been doing some digging around about female gladiators. Though these were not common, nor were they unheard of. Around the middle of the 2nd century (about 75 years after my book is set) the Senate introduced a law to outlaw citizen women entering the arenas. It didn’t work.
The profile of a typical gladiatrix was different from that of her male counterpart. He was often a slave, defeated in battle, or fallen down on his luck and needing to earn some money. In short… a male gladiator often had no other choice. The gladiatrix often had no reason to go into the arena. Typically, she was high society and didn’t need the money. She did it for the thrill. Also, the fact that women were not barred from taking part in business or working in Roman society (in the lowest class they had to work to survive, in the middle class they were often bookkeepers or secretary for the family business and in high society, women were expected to be able to assist with the management of the family estate), has opened up some intriguing possibilities for her now.
Her profile is indeed just that: a citizen woman of noble descent who entered the arena for the thrill. Her family is annoyed at her choice to fight instead of marrying within high society. Yet there is also another reason, something I haven’t fully decided on but it involved family honour which will be her reward for success of the mission (for the others are not citizens and have asked to be granted it). I have a few ideas and will see how each plays out. Anyway, here is the snippet. It’s a bit ropey as all I have done is change the character’s gender and a few superficial textual changes.
I hope they are better than the last lot! You bring me cheap slaves and charge me a premium for them Calvus!’ shouted Livia Saturnia, nobody would have believed that a woman of such small stature could have such a powerful voice but Calvus was used to it.
The crowd that had just witnessed the amusing site of one semi-naked man chasing another out of the Baths of Nero was now witnessing an argument between the owner of a private gladiator school and one of her primary supplier of slaves for the arena.
‘Livia Saturnia, you are being unfair! They were good quality specimens – it isn’t my fault they all died against superior opponents.’
‘For somebody who says he chooses only the best slaves, they should have very few superiors. You sold me inferior merchandise. The last German slave you sold me couldn’t raise his axe. Now I get two for the price of one or I stop buying from you.’
The slave trader hesitated a minute before throwing his hands into the air. ‘I cannot allow that! If you buy one, you get a second half price.’
Saturnia cocked her head to one side and rubbed her chin. ‘Yes. But if I find a defect with either one, you give me two more to compensate.’
The slave trader sighed. ‘You drive a hard bargain
‘Goes with Patrician blood. Plus, I have to – my gladiators keep dying. If they die, I don’t make money.’
‘You could always talk that Jew of yours out of retirement. They say he was invincible!’
‘He doesn’t want to test the theory any more. Besides which, he is the best trainer I have. If he could make the skinny African you sent me last until a third fight, Joseph must be doing something right.’ Saturnia walked along the line and dismissed the first few without so much as a second glance. She stopped at a stocky red-haired and pale skinned man, lifted his chin and pushed his head left and right. ‘Open your mouth.’ The slave complied.
‘Where is this one from?’ She asked the slave trader, then turned to the slave again. ‘Raise your sword arm.’
The slave looked on blankly.
‘He’s a Briton.’
‘Does he not speak Latin?’
‘A little. He’s strong as ox but twice as stupid.’
Saturnia raised her sword arm and mocked the swing of a Gladius.
The red-haired slave responded in kind.
‘I’ll take the Rufus.’
‘Very good choice! I am told he attacked an off-duty Centurion in Glevum. Fearless and stupid – perfect for entertaining the masses.’ The slave trader came to Saturninus’ side. ‘Now can I interest you in on of these young men from Africa?’
‘They look either too old or too young. Can any of them fight?’
‘Sadly I doubt it.’
Saturnia then spotted the large barrel-chested man. ‘What about him?’ She could almost hear the slave-trader’s heart sink. This was a prime specimen.
‘He’s is uh – he is not for sale. Already sold.’
‘To whom?’ Asked Saturnia but the slave-trader remained silent. ‘Thought not. He looks as though he can swing an axe without breaking a sweat. I’ll take the barrel-chest.’ She pointed to the slave and beckoned him over.
‘When will I get my money?’
‘Come to the school tomorrow.’
‘Very good!’ The slave-trader led his remaining slaves away. Saturnia watched him go before pushing the two men ahead of him and directing them through the streets and to the school. ‘Congratulations men. You are now in the care of the best gladiator school in all of Rome! You will fight in the arena. If you keep winning, you will have riches that would put the average Equite to shame!’
‘Is something funny?’
By his accent, Saturnia could tell the man was a Gaul. His Latin though, was perfect. ‘Perhaps when we make you rich you will spend it all again, no?’ He leaned forward and gave her a smirk.
As he went to turn his back on her, Saturnia swiftly swung her leg and tripped him. The big man looked surprised to have fooled so easily, and comically toppled to the floor. Leaping on top of him, Saturnia drew her knife and pointed it at his chin. The Gaul did not fear, he looked on in defiance. ‘You’ve got the fighting spirit but do you have the arms to match? Don’t disappoint me. Now get up.’ Saturnia climbed off of the man and offered him her hand. Rufus stood with a look that was half bemused and half entertained by the spectacle.
‘Now move. The school is over there.’