Tonight I heard an excellent AIA lecture about the role of the arena in Roman politics, identity, and religion.
While the lecture was good, I think there is still much to be explored in this area.
Here is some vocabulary to be expounded upon:
libitinarii: term for "guides of the dead," included Hermes (like Futrell mentioned), and Charon.
Hermes: in Greek mythology guided departed souls to Hades. He was also the herald and messenger of the gods and was known for his cunning. In the Roman arena, Hermes was portrayed by a person carrying a red-hot caduceus, with which he prodded people to make sure they were dead (a caduceus is the herald's staff carried by Hermes- it had two serpents twined around it and wings at the top).
Charon: In the Roman arena, Charon was portrayed by a person wearing a beaked mask and wielding a mallet. This portrayal was a combination of Greek and Etruscan beliefs. To the Greeks, Charon was a figure of death and the boatman who ferried the dead across the river Styx and Acheron in Hades (but only for a fee and if they had a proper burial). To the Etruscans, Charun (Charon) was the one who struck the death blow. In the arena his role was to absolutely kill those were to die if they were, say, on the sand convulsing.
andabata: term for a gladiator who fought on horseback, wore a helmet with the visor closed, which meant they fought blindfolded.
thracian: a gladiator who fought with a curved dagger (or scimitar) and used a small round shield... usually paired with a mirmillo.
mirmillo: means a type of fish. A gladiator who was armed in Gallic fashion with a helmet having fish- shaped crests, a sword, and a shield.
retiarus: "net man"- a gladiator who would try to trap or entangle his opponent with a net and then dispatch him with a trident. A retiarus usually only wore a short tunic and was usually paired with a secutor.
secutor: a gladiator who was fully armed and considered the "pursuer." He was supposed to chase his opponent down and kill him.
essedarius: "chariot man" - a gladiator who fought from a chariot pulled by two horses and usually decorated.
dimachaerus: "two- knife man" - gladiator who fought with a sword in each hand.
Anybody got any more fun terms related to the arena?