Gladiatores (Gladiators)

“Death smiles at us all; all we can do is smile back.”

― Marcus Aurelius

Many kinds of men and women entered the arena. Captured barbarians, slaves, and criminals often fought side by side with young noblemen, former soldiers, and thrillseekers. Some never have a chance to survive while others enjoy long, prosperous lives and become legends in their own times. A gladiator's expectations of his occupation depend mainly on his origins. The lowest class of gladiators consists of criminals condemned to death. Most are thrown unarmed or lightly armed against trained gladiators or wild beasts. Purchased slaves become gladiators under similar conditions. Some are barbarians who refuse to fight for the entertainment of their captors and kill themselves before the event. Others try to revolt and storm the amphitheater walls, which amounts to suicide as well.

The other group are free citizens of all classes, including young noblemen. Some are volunteers, but others are coerced into becoming gladiators by powerful patrons or enemies, or to expiate debts or offenses. Because of the stigma of social sports, however, members of prominent families hid their identities under masks or closed helmets to avoid scandal.

Gladiator Schools
The ludus serves as both home and training center for gladiators. Ludi are run by a lanista, who is usually a retired gladiator. Living conditions are usually meager; each person had a small single suite. Mistreatment of reluctant, incompetent, or disobedient gladiators was a common occurrence. Each school had cells complete with shackles on the walls and other torture implements.

Gladiators typically train for the better part of the day, but they also have ample time for leisure. In their free time gladiators are often given jobs as bodyguards, political muscle, rent-collectors, criminal enforcers, or street fighters, sometimes even earning enough money to buy their freedom. Gladiators are not allowed to carry weapons except during training or in the arena, but most people in the streets still leave them alone; even an unarmed gladiator could be dangerous.

If criminals, prisoners of war, or slaves survive two years of gladiatorial school, and three to five years of combat, they’re freed. Few survive this long, though, and those who do are often so popular that public demand calls them out of retirement. These gladiators demand huge sums of money and can receive up to one thousand sestertii a fight. By comparison, the average gladiator earns only 300 sestertii a fight.

Gladiator Classes
Gladiators are trained to fight in a specific style, as detailed below:

  • Retiarius: These fighters are chosen for speed and agility. They are armed with trident, net and dagger and wear manica.
  • Murmillo: These large-helmeted warriors are equipped with gladius (shortsword) and scutum and wear samnite armor.
  • Thraex: This gladiator class wears thracian armor and uses a parma shield. Their traditional weapon was a falx (sickle).
  • Dimachaeri: These warriors fight with a gladius (shortsword) in each hand. They wear any kind of light armor.
  • Essedarii: These warriors fight in pairs from war-chariots. They are armed with pilum (javelin) and hasta (spear), and armored in scale or leather. They typically charged their opponent until the opposing gladiator was either impaled by javelin or spear, trampled by the horses, or run over by the wheels of the chariot.
  • Equites: These fighters charge their opponents on horseback (or any other type of mount). They wear scale armor and carry both spatha (longsword) and hasta (spear).


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Gladiatores (Gladiators)

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