TV Highlights

What's on Saturday 23rd August

Animal Gladiators

Quest - 9pm

Who's in it?

Shrieking tigers, panting panthers and lots of golden-hued men who look like they've stepped straight out of 300 all feature in this docu-romp about the days of the gladiators.

In a nutshell

When you stop to think about it, it's pretty incredible that gladiatorial combat actually happened, and isn't just a mythologised misconception – hyped up by Hollywood – of less bloodthirsty historical facts. Nope: there really WERE gladiators who hacked each other to bits while crowds roared their approval, and they really DID fight all kinds of big and fearsome animals on those bloodied sands.

From big cats to bears, all manner of animals were brought into the arenas for scenes of carnage that counted as prime, mainstream entertainment. Well, it was probably less morally iffy than the average episode of TOWIE. But anyway – question is, what was it REALLY like, arranging battles between man and beast? What rituals took place, and how did the gladiators actually hope to survive the onslaught? Courtesy of expert commentary from historians, and surging CGI reconstructions, this documentary throws us into the ring.

What's the verdict?

A reminder of just how strange the world of the Romans was, you can think of this documentary as a cheesy, swords-and-sandals action movie that also happens to teach you stuff. Win win, we say.

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