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In Gittin 46b-47a it discusses the laws when one sells himself to a non-Jew. There it recounts that Reish Lakish sold himself to the Ludai (לודאי). Rashi (end of 46b) and Sefer haAruch explain that this was a race of cannibals. However the translation on Sefaria offers the term gladiator instead (this translation is also used by the Jewish Encyclopedia). I know that the town of Lud us mentioned frequently in the gemarah but do not know if that is related to לודאי.

I am asking for sources which explain who the לודאי were other than those I have listed here or sources which explain why the term was translated as cannibals or gladiators. If there is a source which explains לודאי as both (cannibal gladiators) I will accept that as well.

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    Jastrow translates לודאה as "people hiring men for gladiatorial contests". – ezra Dec 20 '17 at 6:23
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    Ludus (similar to the Hebrew word luda'ah) means several things related to gladiators in Latin. See here. – ezra Dec 20 '17 at 6:26
  • Sorry to comment once again, but I have heard many people say that Reish Lakish joined a circus, so maybe they've found a connection between circus and ludai? – ezra Dec 20 '17 at 6:31
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    Graetz has dealt with the inaccurate transl. of cannibal in his History of The Jews (here, in the Hebrew ed.) and cites Sachs as having demonstrated its correct interpretation: a (circus) member who performed as gladiator. – Oliver Dec 20 '17 at 17:17
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After having researched the matter it appears that gladiator is the preferred translation by scholars. In an extensive footnote (6) professor Marc Brettler traces the roots of this translation. He opines that Rashi's translation of cannibals is based on a faulty text, but does not explain if Aruch had the same text or not. He mentions professor Jastrow as the first to 'correctly' translate the term. He also offers a possible explanation for the translation of 'circus' mentioned in a comment as deriving from the Greek for games/stage performers.

The reading of gladiator seems to be confirmed from the implication of the rest of the paper, in that the ritual that Reish Lakish participated in (cena) was in line with what took place during gladiator banquets/events.

There does not seem to be a connection to the town of Lud but rather Lydia.

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    There's no connection to Lydia either, to my knowledge. The word is connected to the Latin word ludus, meaning "game" or "sport" and in Roman culture referred to gladiatorial games as well. See my second comment above. – ezra Dec 20 '17 at 17:27

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