Glass gladiator cup

Period: Early Imperial, Neronian or early Flavian

Date: ca. A.D. 50–80

Culture: Roman

Medium: Glass; blown in a two-part mold

Dimensions: H. 3 1/8 in. (7.9 cm)

Classification: Glass

Credit Line: Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1881

Accession Number: 81.10.245


Sports cups such as this one, typically depicting scenes of chariot races, gladiatorial battles, and athletes, are sometimes inscribed with the names of those shown, and these inscriptions are almost always in Latin. These cups have been found almost exclusively in the northwestern provinces of the Roman empire such as France, Britain, and Germany, despite the fact that they seem to show people and events known in Italy.
The fighting gladiators on this cup are all named, each with a Latin inscription near his head and identified individually as Gamus, Merops, Calamus, Hermes, Tetraites, Prudes, Spiculus, and Columbus. They form four fighting pairs, and the winner of each battle is clearly discernible. Spiculus stands over a fallen Columbus with his shield outstretched and sword poised; Gamus stands in a similar posture over Merops, who leans on his left shield arm and raises his right sword hand in defense. Calamus and Hermes both stand facing each other, Calamus in the same basic pose demonstrated by Spiculus and Gamus, Hermes with his sword outstretched. Tetraites faces Prudes, who seems to have dropped his shield behind him and has turned away from Tetraites, presumably to retrieve his shield.
The design of this cup is also reminiscent of relief-decorated metalwares typical of the early imperial period, such as two skyphoi (1994.43.1-.2) in the Museum's collection.