Abstract

In this article, I dwell on the blurring of the lines between gladiators and athletes in the first and second centuries c.e., showing that attention to gladiators, athletes, and the spaces in between helps one to see interesting processes by which identities are constructed—Greek, Roman, and Christian alike. The material and literary “texts” that I examine here show wealthy Greeks using gladiatorial games in the construction of provincial identity, Greek gladiators resignifying themselves as athletes, and a Paul who blurs the lines between athletes and gladiators in his correspondence with the Corinthians (particularly 1 Cor 9:19–27 and 2 Cor 4:7–13). In each case, I argue that we can locate the production and reception of these texts in a context in which Greek athletics and Roman games had begun to blur, both discursively and practically, for those discerning audiences who flocked to the amphitheater to see physical and violent enactments of virtue and vice. In this broader context, Paul's own ambiguous appropriations of the stadium and the arena emerge as one site among many where the language of sport and spectacle opened up spaces for rethinking and refashioning identity.

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