Ancient History Research Paper of Mighty, Glorious and Courageous Favorites of the Publics

At a time, when the Romans were still barbarians, Etruscans were the bastion of civilization in Italy. Except that their customs were not very civilized and humane. For example, after a good person left this wicked world it was a tradition to make a sacrifice at the tomb. The victims, in general, were people imprisoned during combats. Gradually the ritual was replaced by a fight between two prisoners. The winner could even receive freedom. With the lapse of time, Etruscans were assimilated by the future rulers of all Italy (and not only), which borrowed a plenty of customs due to it. Since that time, the Romans began to settle fights on the graves. Active Roman conquest of neighboring lands allowed to constantly raise the number of prisoners and the religious rite became massive.

A little later, men of power began to run fights with viewers implication, with intention to eradicate the Greek culture. Thus, to the first century B.C., ceremonial and even sacral games of the private ritual became mass entertainment.

It is considered that men were becoming gladiators forcibly and they were mostly slaves (thanks to Hollywood). It is not true. Of course, slaves were also present but the first gladiators were prisoners of some sort, like Spartacus. Later, in the days of the Empire, for heavy crimes (such as treason, the desecration of the temple or the worship of Jesus) they were also condemned ad gladium, ad bestias or ad ludum (to the sword, to beasts or to (gladiatorial) school). In the first two cases, the convicted was not a gladiator, and was more like cannon fodder for gladiators and animals respectively. In the latter variant, the condemned was taught to be a scenic murderer, at that this option was much more preferable, even than hard labor.

Many gladiators were free people before and it was their own desire to make their names unforgettable for chiliad (Romans really loved glory back in those days). The volunteers were:

  • Former gladiators who deemed ordinary life boring;
  • Poor people who wanted to earn money;
  • Rich young men, in order to brag and get thrills;
  • Even emperors sometimes (such as Commodus).

Naturally, these gladiators were not forced to fight: everything is voluntary, and the myth that they were forced to fight with whips was true only for the criminals. On the other hand, the Romans resented everyone who earns with a body (prostitutes, slaves, gladiators, actors, acrobats, athletes etc.) considering them infames (infamia (in-, "not," and fama, "reputation") which led to a loss of legal or social standing). All Romans despised them and they were deprived of all civil rights. Gladiators as well as suicides were not allowed to be buried normally. The gladiator was essentially even lower than a slave. A helot could get freedom and citizenship, though bare fighters rights were not restored even after career ending. That’s why there was a law prohibiting people of high social status to became gladiators.


Obviously, at the beginning nobody trained gladiators. But over time, the activity has become popular among the population and random fighters were replaced by professionals – there is much more fun in it this way. It led to creation of the whole industry.

The industry needs qualified specialists, and there have to be someone to create such specialists. Lanista was a special guy, who sought strong and healthy slaves and taught them how to kill. Then, accomplished superslaves were sold or rented. Lanista can be compared to nowadays managers or music producers. By the way, lanista was almost as shameful profession as a gladiator.

Gladiators attended special schools – ludi gladiatorii. No matter who the gladiators were: slaves, free people who have given Sacramentum Gladiatorum (gladiator’s vow), or sentenced criminals, they risked their lives the same way, were kept in the same conditions and lived in the same cuddies. Perhaps, only "superstar" class gladiators could lay claim to luxury apartments. However, the conditions weren’t that bad: doctors, masseurs, nutritious and delicious food. The reason is that nobody wants to watch a thin guy die from the first hit. The same reason caused a fact that gladiators weren’t learning the true art of sword fight – the crowd doesn’t want to watch a guy die from one plain and accurate hit, they want to see rotation, graceful sweeps and effective attacks.

Ludi Gladiatorii

Weapons and Outfit

A show-loving Roman public always appreciated foreign warriors on the arena. They even made them fight in authentic clothing and with national weapons. That’s how three main sorts of gladiators appeared:

  • Samnites –  heavily armed men with big square shield, a helmet with feathers and a short sword or spear;
  • Thracians – a little round shield and lame Thracian sword;
  • Murmillo (formerly known as galls) – were standardly armed: legionary shield and gladius. The only clothes were leggings, loincloth and a helmet with a fish on the crest.

Despite the types of gladiators classified by nationality, there were others:

  • Retiarius – light armed fighters (almost without armor), which used a net and a trident;
  • Secutor – traditional retiarius opponents, equipped with round helmet, loincloth, legionary shield and gladius;
  • Bestiary – originally were perpetrators sentenced to become a dinner for lions. Later became professional big cats’ killers on the arena. Were equipped with javelins.
Types of Gladiators

The real amount of types is huge, and there is no need to describe them all now.

Some Interestingness

After multiple reconstructions of historical battles on the arena, Romans guessed that battles can be not only terrestrial. The first one who arranged gladiator’s battles on ships was Cesar. Naumachia included 16 galleys, 2000 participants (and twice as many rowers) and there was a pond on the field of Mars dug specially for the occasion.


Exotic happening on the arena was women fighting. They were not allowed to fight men, howsoever, they were aimed to look like a man – female mounts of muscled killing machines.

Once upon a time there was an emperor-gladiator. Commodus, the last of Antonine dynasty. Known generally from the “Gladiator” movie, he didn’t look like Joaquin Phoenix at all. Some say that he was really big and supernaturally strong. Commodus took part in 735 gladiator fights, which won honestly, more or less.

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