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Although the Romans made beast hunting into a public event, its origins can be traced back to the Near East, where the kings of Egypt, Assyria and other kingdoms killed lions to demonstrate their power and virility. <ref> Kyle, Donald G. <i>Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World.</i> (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 2007), p. 264</ref> The first public beast hunt to be held in Rome took place in 186 BC and from that point on they became a regular occurrence in the amphitheaters around the city. The men hunting and killing the animals were usually free and professionals, but part of the entertainer class so they were low on the Roman social scale. <ref> Kyle, pgs. 268-9</ref> The development of the gladiatorial games is a bit harder to trace, although they also became a part of Roman culture at an early point.
The earliest depictions of gladiatorial combat in Italy are the so-called Campanian gladiator frescoes, which are dated to the fourth century BC. Although there is no text that accompanies the frescoes, it is believed that they show part of a funeral game probably fought by volunteers to the first bloodshed. Many other early gladiators were probably prisoners of war forced to fight in funeral games, which then evolved into skilled, professional fighters. The name “gladiator” is derived from the name of the sword many of the early gladiators used in the names, the <i>gladius</i>,
indication the martial background of the activity. <ref> Kyle, p. 271</ref>
===Gladiator Games in the Roman Republic===