Book Rreview: Philip Matyszak’s Gladiator: The Unofficial Manual

Gladiator The Roman Fighter's [Unofficial] Manual - Philip Matyszak
Following Matyszak’s 24 Hours in Ancient Rome (because, y’know, he has a great style balancing  information and readability), I sought out his other books. Gladiator touches on a subject core to the third Felix Novel – In Victrix – so I started with it.

What to Expect

A witty, lighthearted non-fiction description of the lives of gladiators in the height of the Roman empire, around the time of Commodus. Matyszak explores various aspects of Gladiatorial life, from history, through training and daily life, through fighting in the arenas, up to retirement (or, more often, funeral arrangements).

What I liked

I loved the tone and style of Matyszak’s writing. Using tongue-in-cheek humour to paint the harsh life of gladiators into vivid detail in the readers’ minds, but with academic depth nonetheless. As with his other books, Matyszak quotes many sources, from Cicero and Juvenal to graffiti and burial inscriptions.

What to be aware of

This is neither a history of grand events, nor an academic discourse or comprehensive review of evidence. If you’ve learned all you know about gladiatorial life from movies such as Gladiator – be prepared to be challenged with actual historical details.


I absolutely love how Matyszak brings ancient Rome to life. Reading his books, one walks, sees, smells, and is totally immersed in the great city. This is an excellent novel for anyone wishing to learn more about the subject, without getting into dryer-but-comprehensive academic treatises. This books does a tremendous job in educating the reader in a way that sticks.

Get your copy and start reading today, and be entertained while you learn.

(A small note to fans of Felix: this book focuses on an era three hundred years after the period I generally based Egretia on. However, anyone who read the gladiatorial games scene in Murder In Absentia knows I have modeled the games on a later period, about half-way in between).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s