It is quite possible that the Christian martyrdoms that occurred in the amphitheaters played a significant role in spreading knowledge of Christianity throughout the Pagan world. The deaths that these people experienced were spectacle and noble, which appealed to the Roman crowd. Because of the nature of their deaths and the location, many writers compared the Christian martyrs to Roman gladiators, or somehow related their deaths to The Games. It is interesting to me that Christian writers used this kind of language to describe Christian martyrs, when Christians were generally discouraged from attending the games. Writers like Seneca and Tertullian painted a very negative portrait of the Roman Games.
While the Roman Games were a visible sign of Greco-Roman beliefs, glory, and power, Tertullian wrote that they encouraged people to act without self control. It’s interesting that in a place dominated by power-dynamics and masculine noble deaths that the onlookers would act in such a feminine way. In Tertullian’s eyes, they became slaves to their emotions, while they watched and admired the Christian martyrs who would look up and them and refuse to cry out in pain. Tertullian believed that the Games went against Christian beliefs because of their celebration of violence brought about by the fallible judgment of those who worshipped false gods. They encouraged a frenzied people to revel in pleasure, desire, and violence. Tertullian argued that all of this was, by its very nature, the opposite of the values coming from the Holy Spirit.
For many early Christians, the martyrdoms that took place were not just about Christian and Roman relationships. For the Christians, it was also a cosmic battle against the devil. The places that these events occurred in were places filled with evil, and the martyrs were to fight against the temptation to deny God and their Christian beliefs. To die with their heads held high and without crying out was a good death, which separated them from the common criminals. So while many Christians viewed the Games in a very negative light, the quality and nature of the gladiator was positive enough to inspire Christian writers to use this comparison in a way to promote Christian values in a largely Greco-Roman world.