A historical novel in Roman times, based on a historical figure quoted in the Talmud.
Yes, a rabbi who started out as a Jewish gladiator, but turned to the Torah. The man is known to history as Resh Lakish, “Head of Thieves,” but his real name was Shimon ben Lakish.
Here’s the novel: Shimon, by John Steinberg.
Here’s a book review that talks about the history.