Disclaimer: Once again, this is something I have been sitting on for some time now, but just couldn’t find time to complete the draft. However, unfortunately in this long wait, I have managed to lose all the references I had used. Thus please keep in mind that most of what is presented here is not unique or original.
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins is definitely a series that has captured the imagination of many around the world. I finally got around to reading it last year, and absolutely refused to watch the movies (I didn’t hear glowing reviews and did not want to spoil the mental imagery I had). Since then I have thought a lot about the universe Suzanne Collins set up and realised the very obvious connection the hunger games had with Rome and the Gladiator Games.
The gladiator games were formulated basically as a means of sacrificing prisoners of war through a “burial of a warrior”. The first recorded gladiator fight in Rome is reported to have been held in 264 BC in the honour of the deceased Junius Brutus. As part of that fight, three pairs of slaves had fought each other. These slaves were called “Bustuarii” which is derived from the latin expression “Bustum” which means ‘tomb’ or ‘funeral pyre’. It is reported that these Bustuarii were armed with a rectangular shield, a short sword, a helmet and greaves. The popularity of these games eventually led them to becoming a secular sport.
Some connections between the hunger games and roman gladiator games are pretty obvious, such as the use of names from Ancient Rome including Cato, Portia, Octavia, Flavia and of course, Cinna. Cinna is the name of two guys who are reported to have had connections to Julius Caesar. One was a politician involved in the assassination plot against Caesar and the other was a poet who was murdered following the assassination, after having been mistaken for the other one. Suzanne Collins is also reported to have said that Panem was supposed to be like ancient Rome, and those who have seen the movies can’t miss the similarity of the arena with the Colosseum.
Apart from this, the hunger games also resembled the gladiator games in the sense that they were games involving ‘slaves’. While yes, the hunger games did not include actual acknowledged ‘slaves’, they were picked from the 12 districts, for the purpose of entertain of the residents of the Capitol. The ones whose names were picked as part of the reaping had no right to decline, they had no rights. The games also ended only when one contestant was left standing, thus it required the ‘sacrifice’ of the other contestants, while the viewers bayed and rejoiced at their deaths. The contestants were also dressed in exotic costumes. The difference here was that while in the gladiator games, the slaves were usually dressed as barbarians, in the hunger games, it was about the absurd fashion of that universe.
The gladiator games initially originated as a means of sacrificing prisoners of war at the burial of a warrior, and to make the sacrifice less cruel, the prisoners were given a ‘chance’ of surviving by fighting. The hunger games were invented as a means of reminding the districts of their servitude and the districts ‘sacrificing’ one of their young ones. To make it seem less cruel than plain murder, it was turned into a ‘sport’ which was telecast and viewed by all. The ones who survived became celebrities, but remained enslaved to the capitol for their entire lives.
Thus it is safe to say, that while Suzanne Collins, surely painted an impressive and captivating picture, it was mostly a re-invention of the historical gladiator games!