Status in Japan: 18 volumes (ongoing)
Dae's Status: 18 volumes
This series is still running in Japan, so consider this page still under construction :3 !

I think that it's a pity that CESTVS, one of my favourite series out there, has such a tiny fandom and is practically non-existent on the internet.
I hope that this tiny page will help rising its popularity ;_;

This series merges wonderfully two of my favourite things when it comes to fiction: series about fighting, and series about Ancient Rome.
Since I'm not only Italian, but Roman, too, I'm quite picky when it comes to Roman-flavoured fiction: Cestvs is probably my favourite one (yes, Roma and Spartacus TV series made me want to cry over their stupidity, and sorry, Thermae Romae didn't do the magic because of the heavy Japanese point-of-view over the whole thing, that as much as I can appreciate as a cultural boost, made me go MEH way too many times), because of its historical accuracy and the deep knowledge of the author on the subject.
It's really interesting and well-made, and contrary to these kind of productions, you can tell that the author made a serious effort into studying not only the typical fighting settings of the time, but also the social, political and geographical issues.

But let's meet the main recurring characters, now:

The protagonist of this story.
Cestus is as modest as strong, and he's used to cover for his tiny body with dedication in training, that easily favoured him in his matches.
Cestus's origins are unknown, but it's hinted that he may come from some Middle-Eastern region. He was captured as a slave once Romans invaded his country, and since then he's been raised by his mentor, Zafar, a fellow fighter who's taking care of him since he was a kid.
At first Cestus "worked" as a gladiator for Valente's palaestra, then, after the slaves rebellion there, he was captured and sold to Nero to serve as his personal slave, but Cestus' need for self-realization and pride in gaining his freedom with his fists, made him choose the life of the nomad fighter under Dorisco's company of travelling fighters.
Right now Cestus has been selected by Nero to take part in a championship to celebrate the victory against Armenia, where he has the chance to win his freedom. As this is Cestus's long-waited chance, it gives him also the sense of inability to escape Nero's will.

Zafar is Cestus's personal trainer and tutor, a strong and serious crippled man from Middle East.
He was once a skilled, wild gladiator but Demetrios managed to hurt him critically, and since then he just works as a trainer.
I have the impression that Zafar is much more than a strict friend who watches over Cestus: he's close to Cestus since his childhood (they lived in the same village) and Cestus' mother from a boy's dream, shares the same dark skin... I think that he may be his uncle or such :o !
Anyway, returning to the actual story, Zafar is quite paternal to Cestus, but he's also strict and quite harsh on him when it comes to serious training and motivation.
After a short separation as when Cestus was bought by Nero, the two met again in Dorisco's company.

Lusca is a young Roman officer, the son of the commander of the personal guards of the emperor, Demetrios.
In his childhood acted as Nero's double, granting himself a terrible scar across his chest during an attempt to kill the future Emperor; Lusca regards now that scar as a proof of his loyalty to the Imperial family.
A proficent pankration fighter, Lusca is a firm boy who values justice and loyalty with a gentle heart.
Lusca makes a point of being a completely different person than his father, but when in the arena he fells he can easily get swayed by Demetrios wild blood in his veins.
The boy has a terrible family situation, his mother being crazy, and it's better if we don't talk about his love life: his fiancè, the beautiful Valeria, Valente's kind only daughter, was killed during the gladiators riot, and he's currently into a required, platonic yet illicit relationship with Octavia, the current neglected wife of Nero. One could really say that the boy has quite shitty tastes when it comes to women, because of this last choice =_=
Anyway! He was quite friendly and respectful towards Cestus at the beginning, then, since the boy was unwillingly in the pictures when Valeria died during the riot at Valente's palaestra, Lusca associated him to the same gladiators who killed his beloved, thus starting to consider him an enemy, more than a proper rival.
As a member of the Chimaera corp and Imperial Guard, Lusca is currently employed in the Imperial Palace as Octavia's personal guard, this task rising many doubts among his friend and direct superior Draisen and Agrippina, Nero's mother...
To be honest, I have a very bad opinion of Lusca. He was quite awesome at the beginning, then all romantic crap totally spoiled him :/ Seriously, it's as if he can't do nothing and he has no reason to live unless he's in love with some retard!

Demetrios was a young, strong Greek boy of noble birth when he came to Rome with his friend Draisen, looking for a adventure.
He started as a gladiator, gaining the nickname of "Lion" in the arena, and he easily managed to rise to the role of Imperial Guard because of his strenght and loyalty.
Despite his merits as a soldier, Demetrios is what you'd call a blood-thirsty beast: he shows no pity towards his enemies and he's extremely harsh towards his own son too, nurturing homicidal instincts and hate towards him.
He acknowledges Zafar as a worth rival, and the two still manages to get nostalgic and emotional over their fights in the arena.

Nero is another recurring character in the story.
At first he was introduced as a shy boy who loved music and art and wished to turn Rome into a new Athens, a cradle of culture and civilization, but his priorities shifted once he had to deal with the harsh of politics and intrigues and the influence of his mother, Agrippina.
He's shown as a good friend of both Cestus and Lusca, but their relationships deteriorated as time passed by...
Right now Nero is promoting a tournament across the empire to celebrate the victory over Armenia, as he's busy keeping his mother and all the people who wants to kill him in place...
To be honest I'm intrigued, I wanna know how his character will be dealt with in the future.

Speaking of the actual plot, CESTVS manga is currently divived into two series.
The first one, Kento Ankokuden (拳闘暗黒伝, "The Legend of Boxing in the Dark Ages") is composed of 15 volumes and narrates the fighting development of Cestvs during his teen years, but also what is happening in the world around him: Lusca's determination and Nero's issues.
The second series, Kendo Shitouden (拳奴死闘伝, "The Legend of the Desperate Struggle"), is still running in Japan: this is about Nero's tournament and it starts with Cestus dealing with the preliminaries matches.
It's interesting how this series turned from an episodic format about formation into a classic tournament series. It's also interesting to note how the plot and character's development doesn't suffer from it, also if "crybaby" Cestus didn't really changed so much over the years XD

The general plot is actually pretty simple, it's mostly about Cestus dealing with his fights, and how fighting for his life gives him important lessons.
Like every healthy shonen series, of course it deals with the generical, positive concepts of friendship and the importance of hard work, but I guess that the stronger selling point of this series is how it's genuinely imbued with Roman history, and how the story of important characters like Nero and his family, get into the big picture mixing fiction with reality quite effectively. Surely the Wazarai did his homeworks, and it's genuinely fun to see how he manages to get a hold of so many characters and sub-plots.

Speaking of the "moral of the story", the main point of the story is working hard to self-realization. Cestus finds himself in the pitiful condition of a slave, but even if he refuses the "help" of Nero and of Poppea later on, he definitely loaths his position.
This means that he's desperate to raise from the slave status, but he's not willing to compromise his "freedom" with petty tricks: it's true that if he'd serve Nero or Poppea he won't have to fight and suffer anymore, but at the same time he understands that he'd be still a slave. To him fighting his way to freedom, even if he hates it and it makes him suffer, is way preferable because this way he could manage to buy his own life and live like a proper free man, who gained honorably his own statuswith his own strenght and will.

The author is quite up for a harsh moral lesson that probably not the most of us could properly put in action, but this is sure inspiring.

CESTVS is the only series that I summarize (almost!) regularly on my blog.
If you wanna check how the story develops in the next volumes (Vol.1 scanlated by WildFang), you can find my posts about it over here.

And this is all. I hope that these few words of mine managed to get you interested in the series :3