5 interesting facts about Gladiators in Ancient Rome

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Gladiators in Ancient Rome

In ancient Rome, gladiators were the professional fighters who used specialized weapons and armour. These people fought in front of the public in various events that were organized in large purpose-built arenas throughout the Roman empire. As these fights were taken very seriously, it also led to the death of most of the gladiators. Therefore, these people had short life expectancy as well, and so this profession was considered a glamorous profession. Also, most of these fighters were slaves, former slaves or condemned prisoners who were armed in these special armours and sent to fight in the majority of the events. In the Roman world, a Gladiator fight was the most popular and enjoyable form of entertainment. 

Also, Roman gladiator games gave a chance to the emperors and rich aristocrats to show off their wealth and power to the audience. Most of the gladiator games were even organized in order to celebrate birthdays, mark visits from important officials and other reasons. These events were so popular that there were about 40-50 thousand spectators from all sections of society. Gladiators were also trained to fight in special schools, and they practised their art at the Colosseum, and they generally fought one another for entertainment. Popular skilled gladiators were also allowed to have families and can become very wealthy. 

Also, the gladiators were referred to as hordearii or “barley men”, and they had to maintain diets that were high in carbohydrates with an emphasis on beans and barley. Gladiatorial games ended in one of the three ways, i.e. one of the combatants called for mercy by raising his finger, the crowd asked for the end of the game, or one of the combatants was dead. A referee known as the editor made the final decision about how a particular game ended.  There is no evidence that the crowd requested for the life of the combatants by holding their thumbs up. However, a waving handkerchief signified mercy, and it also signified” dismissed” also worked in order to save the gladiator from death. In order to know more, you can read it on this colosseum info website.

Interesting facts about Roman Gladiators

1. Gladiators were originally part of funeral ceremonies, and most of the ancient chronicles described the Roman games as a part of Etruscans, but there are historians who argue that gladiator fights were organized in the funerals of wealthy nobles. However, according to other Roman writers, they also mentioned that the Romans believed that human blood helped to purify the deceased person’s soul, and they have also acted as a substitute for human sacrifice. The funeral games later increased the scope during the reign of Julius Caesar, and the spectators proved that by the end of the 1st century the Government started hosting for state-fund games in order to attract more audiences. Also, not all gladiators were slaves, and they were not always brought to the arena in chains. Even though most of the combatants that were conquered were slaves and people who have committed crimes, but there were also other people who willingly signed contracts with a hope of winning glory and prize money. There were also freelance warriors who were ex-soldiers who were skilled in fighting. Apart from this, there were also upper-class patricians, knights and even senators that participated as a gladiator in various events.

2. As most of the Hollywood movies and television shows that the gladiatorial events are often the fight to the death, but it is not so. There are many fights that are operated under strict rules and regulations. These contests were typically single combat between two men of similar size and experience. The referees oversaw the action, and as soon as they saw it, they would stop the fight. They would even stop the fight when they saw that the audience is getting bored, and in such cases, both the warriors would have to leave the arena with honour. Also, the gladiators were expensive to feed, and train and their promoters were loath to see them killed. The trainers were known to give the gladiators training in which they were taught to wound but not to kill their opponents. However, it cannot be denied that the life of the gladiators is brutal and short. For more information, you can read it on this colosseum info website. 

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3. These gladiator games were organized into different classes and types, and by the time the Colosseum opened in 80 A.D. the gladiator games evolved from the battle of death into a well-organized sport. The fighters were placed in classes based on their skills and experience. Most of the fighters were those who fought with sword and shield, and there were other fighters who entered the arena on horseback, chariots, or there were fighters who fought with two swords at once. Out of all these types of gladiators, the most popular one was the warriors who were armed with net and trident, and these warriors ensured that they fought the opponents with their net, but if they failed they were left defenceless.

4. There were also gladiator events that also organized events where the fighters had to fight against animals. But, there were only some of the fighters who rarely fought against the animals. Fighting with the wild beasts was only reserved for the special classes of a warrior who would fight with animals like deer, lions, crocodiles and even elephants. One of the most popular ways to open the events was through animal hunting. According to various historians, more than a thousand animals were slaughtered in order to mark the opening of the Colosseum. Apart from that, the animals were also slaughtered for sports or for other reasons like doing tricks. Wild animals were also served as a popular form of execution. Also, hosting these gladiator events was an easy way for the Roman emperors to attract audiences. This is the reason; various rulers performed the gladiator acts that were done under controlled conditions with dull blades. A few of the Roman emperors got into action and fought amongst the gladiators. Two of the most known emperors who enjoyed fighting were Caligula and Titus. Also, the Historians argue that these were highly styled, and the opposing gladiators were even shot down to panthers and bears in a protected platform.

5. Another interesting fact is that women also fought as gladiators, but they were almost all slaves. The female gladiators were pitted against one another as well as male gladiators and even against dwarfs. Female slaves were, however, condemned to the arena, but few citizens took up the sword of their free will. The historians were not sure that the females were suited up to fight as gladiators, but it was seen that by the 1st century A.D. they had started fighting at many of the gladiator games. Even though the female warriors were not taken seriously, fewer of them have proven their worth in the combat. Women were also engaged in animal hunts, but it came to an end around 200 A.D. This ban was done by Emperor Septimius Severus in the participation of such games. To know more facts about gladiator events you can read more about the gladiators here.

Weapons used by the Gladiators

  • The first weapon is the Samnite that was named after the Samnite warriors that were fought and beaten in Roman history. They were considered as a heavily armed warrior that used swords, lances and shields. The other weapon was Thracian gladiator that used curved swords that were short and had small shields.
  • The Myrmillo gladiator was also known as the fisherman as they had a fish-shaped crest that the fighters used to wear it on their helmet. In their arms and legs, they would wear paddings and would carry a short sword and scutum. These gladiators would fight in a lesser protected ground in order to provide more entertainment. Apart from this, the only weapon they would carry is a light weighted net, and some of them also depicted carrying the tridents as well as their nets.

The Roman gladiator Colosseum games were, therefore, an opportunity for the rich people to display their power of the empire. Also, these games were also organized to distract people from serious economic and political issues. In order to appeal to the Roman’s need, these games became life and death contests. It was only later that these games became more desolate. Rome’s Colosseum has always been a symbol of the eternal city and the stories about the activities that happened in the Colosseum has always been a famous sight of the ancient structure. Therefore, the Gladiator games are also one of the important activities that took place on the Colosseum. Gladiatorial battles date back to centuries and have been a source of entertainment for the people back then. As it was a bloody-death game, there were also many questions that were raised by many of the Historians. However, to know more, you can read on this colosseum info website.

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