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The First Ever Salary Cap in Sports

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A thread on one of my favorite social news sites about gladiators inspired me to read up on the subject in Wikipedia. There, I found this:

Gladiatorial games, usually linked with beast shows, spread throughout the Republic and beyond.[45] Anti-corruption laws of 65 and 63 BCE attempted but signally failed to curb their political usefulness to sponsors.[46] Following Caesar’s assassination and the civil war, Augustus assumed Imperial authority over the games, including munera, and formalised their provision as a civic and religious duty.[47] His revision of sumptuary law capped private and public expenditure on munera – claiming to save the Roman elite from the bankruptcies they would otherwise suffer – and restricted their performance to the festivals of Saturnalia and Quinquatria.[48] Henceforth, the ceiling cost for a praetor‘s “economical” but official munus of a maximum 120 gladiators was to be 25,000 denarii ($500,000). “Generous” Imperial ludi might cost no less than 180,000 denarii ($3.6 million).[49][50] Throughout the Empire, the greatest and most celebrated games would now be identified with the state-sponsored Imperial cult, which furthered public recognition, respect and approval for the Emperor, his law, and his agents.[51] Between 108 and 109 CE, Trajan celebrated his Dacian victories using a reported 10,000 gladiators (and 11,000 animals) over 123 days.[52] The cost of gladiators and munera continued to spiral out of control. Legislation of 177 CE by Marcus Aurelius, which did little to stop it, was completely ignored by his son, Commodus.[53]

Obviously the difference is that the gladiators were being purchased as slaves and not paid these amounts. But even 2000 years ago, we had sports budgets spinning out of control, and rules to curtail them which were subsequently ignored.

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