This special edition of The Gladiators combines all three volumes of this substantial historical novel of ancient Rome into one book. It is the story of a young Briton of the First Century captured in battle by the Roman legions invading his homeland. He is transported to the 'Eternal City' at the time of Vitellus and Vespasian. There he is forced into 'gladiator school' to become a gladiator destined to fight to the death in the arena. Combat, assassination, intrigue, love and war follow in this superb and highly regarded historical trilogy. This epic and exciting story embraces many of the important events of the time culminating in the siege of Jerusalem by Titus and the fall of the Temple in A.D. 70.
Effectual assistance had come at last. From the Tower of Antonia to the outworks of the Temple, a broad and easy causeway had been thrown up in the last hour by the Roman soldiers. Where every man was engineer as well as combatant, there was no lack of labour for such a task. A large portion of the adjoining wall, as of the tower itself, had been hastily thrown down to furnish materials, and while the gladiators were storming the Court of the Gentiles, their comrades had constructed a wide, easy, and gradual ascent, by which, in regular succession, whole columns could be poured in to the support of the first assailants. <br>
These were led by Julius Placidus with his wonted skill and coolness. In his recent collision with Esca, he had sustained such severe injuries as incapacitated him from mounting a horse; but with the Asiatic auxiliaries, were several elephants of war, and on one of these huge beasts he now rode exalted, directing from his movable tower the operations of his own troops, and galling the enemy when occasion offered, with the shafts of a few archers who accompanied him on the patient and sagacious animal.<br>
The elephant, in obedience to its driver, a dark, supple Syrian, perched behind its ears, ascended the slope with ludicrous and solemn caution. Though alarmed by the smell of blood, it nevertheless came steadily on, a formidable and imposing object, striking terror into the hearts of the Jews, who were not accustomed to confront such enemies in warfare.<br>
The Tribune’s arms were more dazzling, his dress even more costly than usual. It seemed that with his Eastern charger he affected also something of Eastern luxury and splendour; but he encouraged his men, as he was in the habit of doing, with jeer and scoff, and such coarse jests as soldiers best understand and appreciate in the moment of danger.<br>
No sooner had he entered the Court, through its battered and half-demolished gateway, than his quick eye caught sight of the still glowing embers, scattered by the Prophet of Warning on the pavement. These suggested a means for the destruction of the barricade, and he mocked the repulsed gladiators, with many a bitter taunt, for not having yet applied them to that purpose.
Calling on Hirpinus, who now commanded the remnant of the Lost Legion, to collect his followers, he bade them advance under the testudo to pile these embers against the foundations of the wooden barrier.<br>
“The defenders cannot find a drop of water,” said he, laughing. “They have no means of stifling a fire kindled from without. In five minutes all that dry wood will be in a blaze, and in less than ten, there will be a smoking gap in the gateway large enough for me to ride through, elephant and all!”<br>
Assisted by fresh reinforcements, the gladiators promptly obeyed his orders. Heaps of live embers were collected and applied to the wooden obstacle so hastily erected. Dried to tinder in the scorching sun, and loosely put together for a temporary purpose, it could not fail to be sufficiently inflammable; and the hearts of the besieged sank within them as the flame began to leap, and the wood-work to crackle, while their last defences seemed about to consume gradually away.<br>
The Tribune had time to lean over from his elephant and question Hirpinus of his commander. With a grave, sad brow, and a heavy heart, the stout old swordsman answered by pointing to the ground where Hippias lay, his face calm and fixed, his right hand closed firmly round his sword.