Reading for TOEFL – Roman Gladiators

Reading for TOEFL – Roman Gladiators

Questions 1 – 10 refer to the following passage.

Roman gladiators are intriguing figures in history. We get “gladiator” from the Latin word gladius, which means sword. Gladiators were professional combatants who originally performed, to the death, at Etruscan funerals. The losers became armed attendants in the next world to the person whose funeral was being held.

In Rome, these exhibitions became very popular and increased in size from 3 pairs at the first known exhibition in 264 B.C. to 300 pairs in the middle of the first century B.C. These spectacles increased to as many as 100 pairs under the emperor Titus, while the emperor Trajan in 107 A.D. had 5,000 pairs of gladiators for his triumph.

There were various classes of gladiators, distinguished by their arms or modes of fighting. The Samnites fought with the national weapons—a large ob-long shield, a visor, a plumed helmet, and a short sword. Thracians had a small round shield, called a buckler, and a dagger curved like a scythe. They usu-ally fought the Mirmillones, who were armed in Gallic fashion with helmet, sword, and shield. Similarly, a Retiarius, or net man, was often matched with a Secutor, or pursuer. The netman wore nothing but a short tunic or apron and tried to entangle the fully armed pur-suer with the cast net he carried in his right hand. If successful, the netman dispatched the pursuer with a large, threepronged weapon called a trident, which the netman carried in his left. Others fought on horseback, and some carried a short sword in each hand. There were also gladiators who fought from chariots and others who tried to lasso their antagonists.

Gladiators came from a variety of social classes. Though they were usually slaves and criminals, a ruined man of high social position might hire himself out as a gladiator. Emperor Domitian had unusual gladiators, dwarfs and women, and the half-mad emperor Commodus fought in the arena, where he won his bouts with the aid of his Praetorian Guard.

To a victorious gladiator was given branches of palm and sometimes money. If they survived a number of combats, they were often freed from gladiatorial service. However, many gladiators re-entered after discharge. Some became politically important bodyguards to con-troversial politicians.

1. What is the main topic of the passage?

  • a. The life of Roman gladiators
  • b. The emperors of Rome
  • c. The weapons used in the Roman arena
  • d. The social status of gladiators

2. According to the passage, where did gladi-ators originally perform?

  • a. In Roman arenas
  • b. At Thracian cities
  • c. At Etruscan funerals
  • d. In Trajan’s triumph

3. According to the passage, when did the first known gladiatorial exhibition take place in Rome?

  • a. In 50 B.C.
  • b. In 264 B.C.
  • c. In 107 A.D.
  • d. In 157 B.C.

4. Which of the words below is closest in meaning to the word “spectacles” as used in line 14?

  • a. Eyeglasses
  • b. Displays
  • c. Prospects
  • d. Corpses

5. The word “they” in line 26 refers to which of the following?

  • a. Samnites
  • b. Gladiators
  • c. Thracians
  • d. Daggers

6. All of the following were used as weapons by gladiators EXCEPT:

  • a. a buckler
  • b. a cast net
  • c. a tunic
  • d. a trident

7. Where would the following sentence fit best in the passage?

In the 2000 film Gladiator, Joaquin Phoenix played the role of Commodus and fought Maximus, the gladiator.

  • a. At the end of paragraph 1
  • b. At the end of paragraph 2
  • c. At the end of paragraph 3
  • d. At the end of paragraph 4

8. Which word is closest in meaning to the word “antagonists” as used in line 43?

  • a. Enemies
  • b. Injured soldiers
  • c. Horsemen
  • d. Fighters

9. From the passage, it can be inferred that

  • a. gladiators could become Emperor
  • b. emperors enjoyed fighting gladiators
  • c. gladiators sometimes gained their freedom
  • d. emperors fought on horseback

10. Where could the following sentence best be added to the passage?

Some, in turn, became trainers of new gladiators.

  • a. After the word “history” in paragraph 1
  • b. After the word “shield” in paragraph 3
  • c. After the word “classes” in paragraph 4
  • d. After the word “service” in paragraph 5

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