Cover of the Week / Historical / Reviews

Cover of the Week: Those About To Die by Daniel P. Mannix (Mayflower, 1972)

Daniel P. Mannix - Those About To Die Daniel P. Mannix - Those About To Die

“Hail Caesar! We who are about to die salute you!”

Mannix’ “Those About to Die” probes deep into the bloody games of imperial Rome. A  provocative work of historical fiction, Those About to Die provides a disturbing account of the lives of the Gladiators. The sadism and torture which ancient Rome forced on its Gladiators have been described with minute detail.

5000 men fought to death, women fed to crocodiles, leopards taught to rape girls. Intensely shocking, yet a true story of savage Rome. May be the Nazis aren’t qualified to make it to the top of “Most Disgusting People Ever” list.

11 thoughts on “Cover of the Week: Those About To Die by Daniel P. Mannix (Mayflower, 1972)

  1. I first read this when I was about 14. I suppose 1958. Most unsettling yet I could not put it down for the unbelievable shocking cruelty portrayed. I have reread this a number of times since. Some years ago after having seen “Gladiator”, and most recently having been in Rome in 2013 visiting the actual sites iof these events, Circus Maximus etc. Standing within the walls of the Coliseum the sheer epic scale of these savage spectacles really strikes home. And yes, this horrible sadism still abides the hearts of many men.

      • Thanks for your response. More than this, the games drove the relentless economic decline of Rome. They had ruled the world for approaching 13 centuries. A period is longer than since England lost the Battle of Hastings to the French in 1066 until this p`resent day. The whole Roman economy was focussed on feeding this cruel & savage spectacle. No-one could, or was willing, to stop the rot, until finally it collapsed & do dd the Roman Empire. That too seems to be a lesson to us all. Hitler lost Germany not through his fanatical & merciless persecution of Jews & gypsies, but total warmongering megalomania in taking on Russia too, at the height of his conflict with Britain & the Allies. He could not continue to feed his war machine forever, any more than Rome could continue pouring money into the games. History may not exactly repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme. So what´s in store for us all next?

        • Great insight.

          History does rhyme. The shocking war between Israel and Palestine is a testimony to the fact. One wonders how long they can continue the mutual assault ignoring their critical socio-economic problems.

          History will never forgive people who butchered innocents and minors in the name of absurd patriotic ideals. In view of this, the Romans, Hitler and the modern war gurus share the same platform smeared with blood.

  2. I o realise this is off topic & perhaps not the forum but I must add a little more based on my own experience. I am English, have worked in US, Europe & Africa, and now live in Valencia area of Spain. I have backpacked through parts of South America, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos. I have travelled to several Muslim countries including Morocco, Tunisia, UAE ( Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Umm al Quwain, Fujierah, Ras al Khaimah) also Muscat & Oman, the Maldives. The contrast between some of these neighbouring countries is staggering. For example. Dubai is a playground for the wealthy. My son & family live & work in UAE. Unless you overstep the mark it seems very little different to Europe. In Sharjah next door however the police will break into an apartment & demand the marriage certificate of any couple living there. If they don´t have one they will be flogged for adultery, lucky not to get stoned. My sone travelled to Syria ( not now of course), Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iraq (not now) both parts being Kurdistan & Basra. I have visited Nigeria ( mainly Lagos & surrounding areas) which is 50% Muslim & 50% Christian. . It is difficult to come up with a “one size fits all” summary of these various people. But the thread is always the Koran, there some magnificent mosques built in honour of Mohammed. Regarding Israel. There are so many arguments for and against the legality of Israel as a state created after the Second World War. I think it is no pointless & of little value to get into the discussion as to whether it was right or wrong. It is a de facto situation, and not Hamas or anybody else is going to change this now. So accepting the Realpolitik of the situation Hamas are doing no favours to their own people by hiding in the thick of the cities, with bombs, missiles, and mining buildings next door to schools. Then capturing three Israeli teens, murdering them, then firing forty missiles into Israel. Israel´s response is in my opinion, has gone from legitimate to way over the top. The divide between Muslims & Jews goes back thousands of years, and this barrier needs to be broken down in order to co exist. But it´s not just religion. In UK we had the problem of the IRA terrorists. Four hundred plus of whom have now accepted amnesty & walk free despite their crimes of murder etc. It had to be done to break the cycle & for the better good. However in it´s heyday of violence the fealty was IRA ran protection rackets, drugs, all sorts. The key was the people who ran it would be nobodies in normal life. They would be working on a building site. But as generals in the iRA they were feared & respected like the Knights Templar drug barons in Mexico. They were “somebodies”. So human hubris has much to answer for. Putin suffers from it. He´s another one to watch. The rope id tightening around his neck & he might lash out. The reality is human nature has not changed at all since Roman times. Princes still rule through love or fear. Humans are motivated by need or greed. Intransigence in religion is a big factor. If you have read Gulliver´s Travels just think about the Big Endians & the Little Endians. All this in my very humble option. Sorry I do go on but I despair of the human race sometimes.

    • I am just in my early thirties and feel overwhelmed by your vast experience. I agree some differences are irreconcilable and may be this is how we have to live till the end of time.

      • Thanks for affording me a moment to sound off! I cam back from Cuba two months ago. I always admired Che Guevara if not his politics. He could have settled for a comfortable life as doctor in Buenos Aires, instead he chose to fight injustice on behalf of the poor. I have been to his birthplace Rosario, his teenage years were in Altas Gracias near Cordoba Argentina due to asthma. But his finest hours were fighting & administrating in Cuba. Brave man, and I felt humble at his mausoleum in Santa Clara. But he was killed in Bolivia & he would turn in his grave if he could see what Fidel Castro has subsequently done to Cuba.Castro owns ( it is reliably said) ten houses, yachts, marinas, has a vast personal fortune stashed away. The people have been kept totally ignorant of what goes on elsewhere on the planet. A fully qualified doctor earned 35US$ a month in Cuba. This is true I have met them. This great salary just doubled to 70US$ in May. But you can´t live a life on that even in Cuba. Taxi drivers earn far more. Its a topsy turvy world of quasi communism with an inner coterie who have all the privileges. All emails from the outside world are censored. A half decent car like a Renault Megane 2.0 litre saloon sells for about 100,000 US$ if you are lucky enough to be on the list. The people are happy on the whole, and apart from rampant corruption, it´s a safe enough place to live. My point here is there seems to be no ideal perfect system. And it depends if you are on the inside looking out, or on the outside looking in I reckon. The Romans were on the inside looking out. Rivalry & greed still take root everywhere. BUT so long as we appreciate that´s the way it is in the world, and we don´t get frustrated when life falls short of lofty ideals, it´s all very interesting. Biggest problem I see is the ever expanding world population. It´s exponential. And since the 67 richest people on earth are worth more than the poorest 3 billion, the gap between rich and poor is as big if not bigger than in Roman times, I really must find another of your books to read & stop bothering you with this stuff! Best wishes.

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