Carnelian intaglio of a gladiator fighting a lion

Period: Early Imperial, Julio-Claudian

Date: 1st half of 1st century A.D.

Culture: Roman

Medium: Carnelian

Dimensions: H. 9/16 in. (1.5 cm)

Classification: Gems

Credit Line: Bequest of W. Gedney Beatty, 1941

Accession Number: 41.160.710


Although many carved gems carried portraits, others depicted popular scenes from life, such as the venator pitted against a rearing lion in this intaglio. Like gladiators, their more famous counterparts, most venatores were prisoners of war, condemned criminals, or slaves. Animal hunts took place either in the circus or the amphitheater, and they were usually staged in the morning before the main show of the games–the gladiatorial combats or the chariot races.