Gladiator died because of ref’s error, says archaeologist

gladiator, gladiatorsA gladiator who fought 1,800 years ago may have died because of a bad call from a ref.

Archaeologists have long puzzled over a line in the epitaph of Diodorus the gladiator’s gravestone. It reads, “After breaking my opponent Demetrius I did not kill him immediately. Fate and the cunning treachery of the summa rudis killed me.”

The summa rudis was a referee who oversaw gladiator games. Unlike what we see in the movies, real gladiator fights were highly ritualized and had strict rules. One rule was that if a man pleaded for mercy, it was up to the sponsor of the fight (a local bigwig or even the Emperor) to decide if the defeated gladiator should live or die. Another rule was that if a gladiator fell without being pushed down by his opponent, he was allowed to get up and retrieve his weapons before the match continued.

Now gladiator expert Prof. Michael Carter says he knows what this inscription means. His theory is that Diodorus knocked down his opponent and backed off, waiting for the sponsor’s orders to either kill him or let him go. The referee, however, ruled his opponent fell down on his own. He was allowed to pick up his weapons and fight on. . .and ended up killing Diodorus.

Whoever wrote Diodorus’ epitaph seems to have believed the ref did it on purpose. We’ll never know for sure, but it just goes to show that among the countless dusty old inscriptions preserved in museums and archives, there are stories of real people and how they lived, and died. So next time you’re shouting at a ref for making a bad call, think of poor Diodorus and remember that some bad calls are worse than others.

The gravestone was originally found in Turkey and is now in the Musee du Cinquanternaire in Brussels, Belgium. The best place to see where gladiators fought and died is, of course, Rome, where the Colosseum has opened its underground tunnels to show where gladiators, prisoners, and wild animals waited their turn to entertain the crowd. There’s also a well-preserved amphitheater in Mérida, Spain.

[Photo of gladiator grave courtesy Wikimedia Commons. No photo of Diodorus’ grave was available at press time, but you can see a photo of it here.]

Tour Belgium breweries by bike

A new Belgium bike tour will take you to the country's best breweriesCycling tours continue to grow in popularity as active travelers discover the joys of exploring a destination in a slower, yet very immersive fashion. Riders have the opportunity to take in more scenery, commune with nature, and interact more directly with locals, as they pedal their way through a variety of countries all over the world. But a company called ExperiencePlus! is putting their own spin on the cycling tour, offering travelers a chance to visit the best breweries in Belgium by bike.

Beginning and ending in Brussels, the 8-day tour will feature daily rides of 30 to 45 miles. The route will take the riders into the Flanders region in the first few days, before winding through the French-speaking Wallonia area near the end. Along the way, they’ll sample a number of popular beers in Bruges and visit historic breweries run by Trappist monks in the idyllic countryside. The tour will also pass through historic World War II battlefields as well, giving visitors a chance to experience history of a completely different kind.

Joining the riders will be Jeff Lebesch, founder and former owner of New Belgium Brewing, makers of the popular Fat Tire beers. Lebesch is himself a master beer brewer, and he’ll help introduce the riders to the wide variety of beers they’ll be sampling on the tour.

ExperiencePlus! says that this tour doesn’t require any special cycling skills nor do riders need to be in great shape. The terrain is described as “gentle,” which opens this particular tour up to just about anyone who would like to experience Belgium, and its beer, in a unique way.

I think this sounds like an incredibly fun tour and it sounds like it will appeal to a wide variety of travelers. After all, who doesn’t like bikes and beer? Lets just hope that they give you plenty of time to enjoy the latter before climbing back aboard the former. Make sure you have your travel insurance paid up before setting off on this one folks!

For more on this bikes and beers tour, click here.

[Photo credit: Brosen via WikiMedia Commons]

Top ten overrated international travel destinations

Laurel brought us the US’s top ten overrated travel destinations, and we thought it was time to go global. Here are ten international sites, in no particular order, that just aren’t worth a two-hour wait in line, fighting the crowds, or covering long distances to get there:

1. Eiffel Tower, Paris
Seriously, your photos of Paris are going to look much better with the Eiffel Tower in them. If you feel like getting high, Notre Dame is a much cooler spot.

2. Oktoberfest, Munich
If getting drunk with a bunch of American college student is your idea of a good time, then be sure to hit up the Hofbrauhaus tent.

3. The Blarney Stone, Ireland
Don’t do it. Stay away from the nasty, germ-infested piece of rock. Surely no luck can come of kissing that stone cold sore, right?

4. Cancun, Mexico
Crammed with spring-breakers and holiday makers, Cancun is party-central and really no different than, say, any other beach city in the States.5. Niagara Falls, Ontario
The volume of water thundering over Niagara’s limestone cliffs is arguably amazing, but the neon lights under the falls and Vegas-like cacophony built up around them are over-the-top.

6. Stonehenge, United Kingdom
Crowds jostle for space not to get close to the monoliths, but to capture them on film from a distance. That’s right; you can’t even get up close anymore. And a major highway runs right by it, ruining any ambiance that might remain.

7. Hoi An, Vietnam
This little town popped up again and again among the Gadling crew as one that has shoved out any local culture in favor of coddling tourists – if “coddling” can also encompass aggressive selling.

8. The Atomium, Brussels
Another Gadling un-fave, the Atomium is, in the words of our esteemed editors, “boring.” There’s no real reason to visit it other than to take a couple of pics and say you’ve been there.

9. Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
Here you’ll find a tower that is cabled up so it won’t lean any further, and tourist posing for photos where they pretend to hold it up. It’s not worth the journey.

10. Universal City Walk, Los Angeles
Not much more than an attempt to dazzle with bright lights and big screens, Universal City Walk is three blocks of cheese. There’s shopping for “memorabilia” and whatnot, and lots of families vacationing. Skip it and spend the day at Disneyland.

Did we miss any? What places do you think are overrated?

[Photo Credit: Flickr user Al Ianni]

VIDEO: Inside new German high-speed train


In 2013, Europe could become even easier to navigate, with a new high-speed train connecting Germany with other major cities in Western Europe. The new Deutsche Bahn train would travel at 200 miles per hour from London through the Euro Tunnel, arriving in Amsterdam in four hours (currently only reachable with a connection) and Frankfurt in five hours (down from seven hours on DB). Additional services are planned for Brussels, Cologne and Rotterdam and officials are hopeful this could pave the way for additional high-speed routes.

The above video from BBC goes inside a prototype train currently at London’s St. Pancras Station for safety checks and a test run. Reporter Richard Scott shows off the train’s reclining seats, real-time travel information, and even multi-country emergency stops. Let’s hope they work out any air conditioning problems for the new trains.

Aloft Hotels expands global presence in 2010


Aloft Hotels
, the newest brand from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, announced it would expand its overseas presence in 2010. The hotel plans to open 10 new properties in 2010, half of them internationally.

Aloft is planning to open three new hotels in India and one in Brussels, in addition to adding hotels throughout the U.S., including two New York City properties – one in Brooklyn and the other in the heart of Harlem.

Aloft was created to offer a low-cost, high-style option for travelers. The Aloft brand has been testing out new technology that aims to ease the hotel check-in process, including introducing wireless check-in service at its Lexington, Massachusetts hotel.

Since launching in June 2008, the Starwood brand has opened 40 hotels worldwide, including China’s Aloft Beijing Haidian and Aloft Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.