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Their Campanian allies stage a dinner entertainment using gladiators who may not be Samnites, but play the Samnite role.So the Romans made use of the splendid armour of their enemies to do honour to their gods; while the Campanians, in consequence of their pride and in hatred of the Samnites, equipped after this fashion the gladiators who furnished them entertainment at their feasts, and bestowed on them the name Samnites.(Livy 9.40) Livy's account skirts the funereal, sacrificial function of early Roman gladiator combats and reflects the later theatrical ethos of the Roman gladiator show: splendidly, exotically armed and armoured barbarians, treacherous and degenerate, are dominated by Roman iron and native courage.They were celebrated in high and low art, and their value as entertainers was commemorated in precious and commonplace objects throughout the Roman world.
The origin of gladiatorial combat is open to debate.
There is evidence of it in funeral rites during the Punic Wars of the 3rd century BC, and thereafter it rapidly became an essential feature of politics and social life in the Roman world.