To Kill a Gladiator | Teen Ink

To Kill a Gladiator

May 28, 2019
By seven_worlds GOLD, Lakewood, Ohio
seven_worlds GOLD, Lakewood, Ohio
17 articles 0 photos 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
"That's what the voices in your head are for, to get you through the silent parts."
-David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Though she was only four foot two, she always pushed her nose into the air, making sure that you knew that you were inferior.  

Yes, I knew her.  Recognized her from the moment she walked out into the pit.  She still walked out confidently, with her nose in the air despite the chains strangling her free will.  Despite how it crushed me to see her, I couldn't say I was surprised. Her father was a troublemaker, constantly loitering over the border that slaves weren’t supposed to cross and testing his luck to see how much he could get away with before his master had had enough.  I was surprised the two of them hadn't been thrown in here earlier, still somehow out of reach from the treacherous claws of the Colosseum.

The crowd gave a thunderous roar, as per usual.  I could feel the noise grip my bones and shake them violently.  

Children, that’s what it was today.  The children of some disobedient slaves.  Commodious had decided to kick it up a notch after yesterday's disappointment.  It turns out that the crowd just isn’t as enthusiastic about the slaughtering of tigers as they are of their own people.  

I forced myself to watch him.  I had a perfect view, front and center, specially reserved by him.  I watched the whole thing. I didn't so much as glance at the children, especially Mariam.  I only wanted to see the raw, merciless fury in his eyes as he took their lives like it was sport.  They say that the eyes are the window to the soul, and I had peered into the fiery, evil pit that was his soul more than enough times.  

Still, I forced myself to watch.


“O Hercules, Son of Zeus, I kneel before you!”  I threw myself dramatically at his feet. “Yet again, you claim your place as our rightful ruler, superior to all of Rome!”

I dared not look up at his face, but I could imagine the malicious smile that was smeared across it.  “Rise, my dearest Marcia.¨ he milked the words. I rose, keeping my eyes level. “I, Hercules, have yet again rendered another victory, a sacrifice to the Gods!  The slave-children have been damned to the underworld, and you and I remain on the plentiful Earth, the garden given to us by the Gods. We must rejoice!” He took my face in his calloused hands, and my heart stopped as I looked into his eyes.  “We must celebrate.”

I had seen many a gladiator in my days as Commodious’ mistress, and even before.  Most of their eyes were dead; empty, soulless, eternal black holes that could never be filled or rejuvenated.  Their souls had been claimed by the life they had chosen; stealing other lives.

Commodious’, his were different.  I'm sure they had once been as empty and dead as the others.  But now, it was filled. It was like somehow, the pit had been filled with fire and rage, a fire hotter than those of hell.  Behind all of his wrath, I could still see the empty pit.

Laetus, Commodious’ head royal guard, stood outside of the dining room, eyes blank as he stared ahead.  Commodious didn’t so much as glance at him as we walked by. He was so entranced by the feast before us and his own gluttony that he didn’t notice Laetus give a brief nod at me.  

He had it.  We were ready.  

His feast couldn’t seem to move along fast enough.  He took his sweet time soaking in his wealth, boasting about the screams that he had earlier emitted from the children.  The was beginning to set, and I stared at it through the open window, willing it to go faster.

“I'm off to the baths, dearest Marcia,” he said through a mouthful of pig.  “Have a slave deliver my post-bath wine.” With that, he wiped his mouth, stood up, and left.  

The stone-wall dining room was empty and quiet without the sounds of his barbaric eating.  Laetus stood still by the wall, ready at attention. Panic surged through me as I swiftly ran over to him.

“Laetus, we must hurry.” I said frantically, hushed.  “Do you have the poison?”

He nodded and pulled a small vial from his pocket.  “Be swift, Marcia.” He said, looking at me with his sturdy but gentle eyes.  He pressed the yellow vial into my hand. “The fate of Rome rests on us. We must not let anything slip.”  With defiant arms, he ushered me towards the kitchen entrance.

I enclosed the vial in my sweaty palm.  Though I feared it would be noticed, I couldn't bring myself to let go of it.  It felt like a ticket to freedom. Freedom from Commodious for Rome and myself.  I had waited too long for this, debated over it too many times. But how, I asked myself again, could I not kill him?  How could I let this monster of an emperor live after what he had done? Commodious had driven even himself into insanity, fearlessly convinced that he was a reincarnation of Hercules.  I couldn't not do it.  The small vial that fit so petitely into my hand held so much power.  

With much protest, I managed to get the slave girl to let me take the wine to him.  She seemed both terrified and confused, and if it weren't for it she would have reminded me of Mariam in the Colosseum.  They looked very much alike. I took the wine from her and when she had left, I opened the vial and poured out the clear liquid into the deep red wine.

On the way, I promised myself to remember the girls face in case she decided to talk.  If it retained my innocence, I knew I wouldn't hesitate to kill her.

When I arrived at the bathhouse, I wasn't surprised to find Laetus there, guarding the entrance.  I walked in, the tray with wine and bread shaking slightly.

“Hercules, Son of Zeus, I have come with your wine.”  I dipped my head and set the tray down by his bath. “I will leave you now.”

“O sweet Marcia,” he said as I quickly walked away.  I ignored him, heart pounding. I continued to walk. “What has brought you to do a dirty maid’s work?” the monster asked, genuinely confused.

But I was already gone.  I scurried out the door as fast as I could, not caring whether or not it made Commodious suspicious.  I could feel Laetus´ eyes on me as I ran out the entrance, but I didn't stop. Soon, I told myself.  Just a few sips of non-conspicuous wine and it will be over with.  Still, I couldn't help but want to get as far away from him as possible.  To a place, any place where he wouldn't be able to reach me.

A thud and sharp ringing erupted through the broad halls.  I stopped, curiosity getting the best of me. Had he already died?  Was it finally over?

My blood froze when I heard him scream.  I stayed where I was, and though I wanted to run away I couldn't.  His thunderous voice ricocheted off the walls. Another of clatter of metal joined him.  My heart was pounding in my ears, the constant thrumming reminding me that the next one could be my last.  His voice was growing louder, closer, it seemed. He was screaming profanities and names through a voice that was clearly in pain.  Instant regret consumed me, and I wanted nothing more than to take back what I had just done if it meant saving my life.

Then, it all stopped.  

There was no more screaming, just the fragments of his voice still echoing in my head.  Did I dare think it was over now?  My hand grasped the tapestry on the wall, and I leaned against it like it was an anchor.  Was the evil finally dead?

I fell to the floor when footsteps sounded around the corridor.  They were light, soft, and I couldn't tell whether they intended to come in peace to for silent revenge.  If the footsteps belonged to Commodious, I knew I was done for. I had already accepted my fate.

My heart stopped as a figure turned the corner, then broke free from relief when I saw his face.  Laetus made his way towards me, his armor ruffled and red on his hands. Blood or wine, I couldn't tell.  He kneeled on the floor next to me.

“It is done.” He said, relief stricken.  “The emperor is dead. Rome is free.”



“Colosseum.”, A&E Television Networks, 2009,

“Gladiators, Chariots, and the Roman Games.”, Independence Hall Association,

Mrreese. “Commodus – the Outrageous Emperor Who Fought as a Gladiator.” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, 25 Sept. 2018,

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