Gladiators: Another Funny Teaching Story

The good news is that as long as I keep teaching, there will always be funny stories to share with my blog’s readers.

I was talking about the rise of the Inquisition in Medieval Spain. (The Spanish Inquisition was established by the Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabella in 1478). A student raises her hand.

Me: Yes?

Student: When are you going to talk about the gladiators?

Me: You want me to talk about the gladiators?

Student (enthusiastically): Yes, I’d love to hear about them.

Me: Does anybody else want me to talk about the gladiators?

Students (all speaking excitedly at the same time): Yes! The gladiators! They are so cool!

Of course, the gladiators were around about a millenium and a half before the rise of the Inquisition. But hey, why should I dampen this kind of enthusiasm for history?

So I talked about the gladiators and managed to connect this discussion to the topic of our course on Hispanic civilization (the Roman Empire, Spanish as a Romance language, the consolidation of Spanish as a language in its own right and not just a degraded version of Latin, etc.)

I can’t tell you, people, how much I love teaching. When I stand there, in front of a classroom, talking about this stuff that interests me so much and see the rapt, curious, young faces of my students (and, of course, anybody is young while they are receptive to new knowledge), there is nothing that can compare to this feeling. It feels a little bit like flying. They’ll have to cart me off to the funeral home straight from a classroom because I’m never giving this up.

12 thoughts on “Gladiators: Another Funny Teaching Story

      1. you shouldn’t be sarcastic on the internet, it doesn’t carry 😉

        I thought of the Russell Crowe ‘Gladiator’ thing too… I scoff, but most of my mental picture of the Roman Empire is from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (as performed by Marlon Brando and James Mason) and ‘I, Claudius’ with Derek Jacobi, which may be more culturally elevated, but hardly much better as a historical primer 😉


  1. OK, I know it’s perilous to try to recreate the mental processes of other people, and I probably can’t really get into the mindset of our student, but:

    1. Did you happen to say, at some point, the phrase “Roman Catholic Church”?
    Roman Catholic Church = Roman Empire = Romans = Gladiators

    2. fwiw, in the movie “Gladiator,” Russell Crowe’s character is from the province Hispania, and other characters call him “the Spaniard” for about 20 minutes.


  2. Les étudiants:

    Etudiants: Do you have me on the roll? I do not mean to be late but I have to walk from Military Science and it is off campus, I hope you understand I mean no disrespect.
    Prof Z: Yes I have you on the roll. Military Science, you know though, you have got to watch them.
    Student: I know, but we are from one of the US murder capitals, I can be killed here.
    Prof Z: Yeah, I guess you right, but you still watch them, y’heah?
    Student: Yes, Ma’am, I will watch.


  3. “Am I too young to despair at the youth of today when I’m only 23?”

    I don’t see that as ridiculous. There are not many differences between Roman murderers and Inquisition muderers. This confusion is understandable.


  4. The Spanish made excellent light cavalry for the Romans, and before that for the Carthaginians. I would have wanted to know about them instead in a course on Hispanic civilization. 😉


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