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Friday, October 17, 2014

Now on view: Helmet for a Gladiator

As curator of the Higgins Collection of arms and armor, I can’t avoid the occasional shudder when I think about the blood in which many of these artifacts were once soaked. There’s no object that gives me that feeling more than the one we’ve just put on display —an outstandingly rare gladiator’s helmet, one of very few such objects to be found today outside of European museums. It was probably worn by a hoplomachus, a gladiator whose equipment imitated the arms of a Greek heavy infantryman.

At their height, the gladiatorial combats were akin to Deadliest Warrior: the games pitted stylized versions of various nationalities against each other to enhance the drama of the fight. The combats were always asymmetric, which also enhanced their crowd appeal. But the blood and death were very real, and I can’t help wondering what brutality this helmet witnessed during its day.

Still, these events happened very long ago, and today amidst the serenity of the Worcester Art Museum, this object has much to teach us about the harsh realities of times past—and about the dark and twisting recesses of the human mind that still haunt us today.

Click to read more about Helmet for a Gladiator

- Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art

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