ההוא גברא דזבין נפשיה ללודאי אתא לקמיה דרבי אמי אמר ליה פירקן
A certain man sold himself to the Lydians and then appealed to R. Ammi saying, Redeem me.
This translation comes from the Soncino Talmud, available online here:
So the question is, who or what were the לודאי?
One possible translation is that they came from a place called Lod, hopefully not the modern Lod which is close to Modi'in, and a pretty scary place but doesn't seem to be as scary as the "Lydians" of the Gemara seem to be.
Rashi describes them as cannibals (אומה שאוכלים בני אדם), this would help us understand the story of Reish LaKish who was captured by these Ludim and was granted a final request before they would kill him (he requested the right to "bop" each one over the head 1.5 times, unfortunately for them, the first "bop" was enough to kill them so Reish lekish managed to escape.)
The problem with Rashi's approach is that if they were cannibals is that why would anyone sell himself to cannibals? I understand that if someone falls on hard times, he may sell himself to slavery, but to sell yourself to be eaten sounds like an unusal practice.
If you can explain how Rashi would understand the concept of selling yourself for dinner, please leave a comment.
One of the other guys at the shiur last night, who is a tour guide and is studying history, said that he understood the Ludai as Gladiators.
With a bit of research on line, I found that the poeple who arranged galdiator fights were known as "Ludarii", so it would seem that the man in our Gemara sold himself as a contestant in a battle to the death as a Gladiator. This makes a little more sense, although contradicts Rashi.
The Soncino has the following footnote, which quotes both approaches:
[H] A tribe of cannibals (Rashi). [Or 'ludarii' [ludi], people who arrange and hire men for gladiatorial contests to kill off with the finishing stroke the enraged beasts; v. Graetz, Geschichte, IV, p. 238, and Krauss, AT, I. p. 701.]
Jastrow (which i hadn't taken off my bookcase for a VERY long time), also thinks that the Ludim were organizers for Galdiators, and even has a "Jastrow Jackpot" (i.e., he quotes our daf) - see for yourself:
(BTW - Did you know that Jastow is available on line here: http://tabs-online.com/TABS/Jastrow/ )
Anyway, if you are interested in who these Ludim were, and whether you should avoid Lod just in case you get eaten, there is a very interesting article by Eliezer Segal available here: