A gladiator (Latin: gladiator, "swordsman", from gladius, "sword") was
an armed combatant who entertained audiences in the
Roman Republic and
Roman Empire in violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild
animals, and condemned criminals. Some gladiators were volunteers who
risked their lives and their legal and social standing by appearing in
the arena. Most were despised as slaves, schooled under harsh
conditions, socially marginalized, and segregated even in death.
Irrespective of their origin, gladiators offered spectators an example
of Rome's martial ethics and, in fighting or dying well, they could
inspire admiration and popular acclaim. They were celebrated in high
and low art, and their value as entertainers was commemorated in
precious and commonplace objects throughout the Roman world.
The origin of gladiatorial combat is open to debate. There is evidence
of it in funeral rites during the
Punic Wars of the 3rd century BC,
and thereafter it rapidly became an essential feature of politics and
social life in the Roman world. Its popularity led to its use in ever
more lavish and costly games.
The gladiator games lasted for nearly a thousand years, reaching their
peak between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD. The games
finally declined during the early 5th century after the adoption of
Christianity as state church of the
Roman Empire in 380, although
beast hunts (venationes) continued into the 6th century.
3 The gladiators
4 The games
4.2 The ludi and munus
4.4 Victory and defeat
4.5 Death and disposal
4.6 Remembrance and epitaphs
4.7 Life expectancy
5 Schools and training
5.1 Diet and medical care
6 Legal and social status
7.1 Factions and rivals
8 Role in Roman life
8.1 Role in the military
8.2 Religion, ethics and sentiment
8.3 In Roman art and culture
10 Modern reconstructions
11 In modern fiction
11.1 1940s–1960s peplum films
12 See also
14 External links
Relief of gladiators from Amphitheatre of Mérida, Spain
Early literary sources seldom agree on the origins of gladiators and
the gladiator games. In the late 1st century BC, Nicolaus of
Damascus believed they were Etruscan. A generation later, Livy
wrote that they were first held in 310 BC by the Campanians in
celebration of their victory over the Samnites. Long after the
games had ceased, the 7th century AD writer
Isidore of Seville
Isidore of Seville derived
Latin lanista (manager of gladiators) from the Etruscan word for
"executioner," and the title of Charon (an official who accompanied
the dead from the Roman gladiatorial arena) from Charun, psychopomp of
the Etruscan underworld. This was accepted and repeated in most
early modern, standard histories of the games.
Reappraisal of pictorial evidence supports a Campanian origin, or at
least a borrowing, for the games and gladiators.
the earliest known gladiator schools (ludi). Tomb frescoes from the
Campanian city of
Paestum (4th century BC) show paired fighters, with
helmets, spears and shields, in a propitiatory funeral blood-rite that
anticipates early Roman gladiator games. Compared to these images,
supporting evidence from Etruscan tomb-paintings is tentative and
Paestum frescoes may represent the continuation of a much
older tradition, acquired or inherited from Greek colonists of the 8th
Livy places the first Roman gladiator games (264 BC) in the early
stage of Rome's
First Punic War
First Punic War against Carthage, when Decimus Iunius
Brutus Scaeva had three gladiator pairs fight to the death in Rome's
"cattle market" Forum (Forum Boarium) to honor his dead father, Brutus
Pera. This is described as a munus (plural: munera), a commemorative
duty owed the manes of a dead ancestor by his descendants. The
development of the munus and its gladiator types was most strongly
influenced by Samnium's support for
Hannibal and the subsequent
punitive expeditions against the Samnites by
Rome and her Campanian
allies; the earliest and most frequently mentioned type was the
The war in Samnium, immediately afterwards, was attended with equal
danger and an equally glorious conclusion. The enemy, besides their
other warlike preparation, had made their battle-line to glitter with
new and splendid arms. There were two corps: the shields of the one
were inlaid with gold, of the other with silver ... The Romans
had already heard of these splendid accoutrements, but their generals
had taught them that a soldier should be rough to look on, not adorned
with gold and silver but putting his trust in iron and in
courage ... The Dictator, as decreed by the senate, celebrated a
triumph, in which by far the finest show was afforded by the captured
armour. So the Romans made use of the splendid armour of their enemies
to do honour to their gods; while the Campanians, in consequence of
their pride and in hatred of the Samnites, equipped after this fashion
the gladiators who furnished them entertainment at their feasts, and
bestowed on them the name Samnites. (
Livy's account skirts the funereal, sacrificial function of early
Roman gladiator combats and reflects the later theatrical ethos of the
Roman gladiator show: splendidly, exotically armed and armoured
barbarians, treacherous and degenerate, are dominated by Roman iron
and native courage. His plain Romans virtuously dedicate the
magnificent spoils of war to the Gods. Their Campanian allies stage a
dinner entertainment using gladiators who may not be Samnites, but
play the Samnite role. Other groups and tribes would join the cast
list as Roman territories expanded. Most gladiators were armed and
armoured in the manner of the enemies of Rome. The munus became a
morally instructive form of historic enactment in which the only
honourable option for the gladiator was to fight well, or else die
In 216 BC, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, late consul and augur, was
honoured by his sons with three days of gladiatora munera in the Forum
Romanum, using twenty-two pairs of gladiators. Ten years later,
Scipio Africanus gave a commemorative munus in Iberia for his father
and uncle, casualties in the Punic Wars. High status non-Romans, and
possibly Romans too, volunteered as his gladiators. The context of
Punic Wars and Rome's near-disastrous defeat at the Battle of
Cannae (216 BC) link these early games to munificence, the celebration
of military victory and the religious expiation of military disaster;
these munera appear to serve a morale-raising agenda in an era of
military threat and expansion. The next recorded munus, held for
the funeral of Publius Licinius in 183 BC, was more extravagant. It
involved three days of funeral games, 120 gladiators, and public
distribution of meat (visceratio data) – a practice that
reflected the gladiatorial fights at Campanian banquets described by
Livy and later deplored by Silius Italicus.
The enthusiastic adoption of gladiatoria munera by Rome's Iberian
allies shows how easily, and how early, the culture of the gladiator
munus permeated places far from
Rome itself. By 174 BC, "small" Roman
munera (private or public), provided by an editor of relatively low
importance, may have been so commonplace and unremarkable they were
not considered worth recording:
Many gladiatorial games were given in that year, some unimportant, one
noteworthy beyond the rest — that of
Titus Flamininus which he
gave to commemorate the death of his father, which lasted four days,
and was accompanied by a public distribution of meats, a banquet, and
scenic performances. The climax of the show which was big for the time
was that in three days seventy four gladiators fought.
In 105 BC, the ruling consuls offered
Rome its first taste of
state-sponsored "barbarian combat" demonstrated by gladiators from
Capua, as part of a training program for the military. It proved
immensely popular. Thereafter, the gladiator contests formerly
restricted to private munera were often included in the state games
(ludi) that accompanied the major religious festivals. Where
traditional ludi had been dedicated to a deity, such as Jupiter, the
munera could be dedicated to an aristocratic sponsor's divine or
A retiarius stabs at a secutor with his trident in this mosaic from
the villa at Nennig, Germany, c. 2nd–3rd century AD.
Gladiator games offered their sponsors extravagantly expensive but
effective opportunities for self-promotion, and gave their clients and
potential voters exciting entertainment at little or no cost to
themselves. Gladiators became big business for trainers and
owners, for politicians on the make and those who had reached the top
and wished to stay there. A politically ambitious privatus (private
citizen) might postpone his deceased father's munus to the election
season, when a generous show might drum up votes; those in power and
those seeking it needed the support of the plebeians and their
tribunes, whose votes might be won with the mere promise of an
exceptionally good show. Sulla, during his term as praetor, showed
his usual acumen in breaking his own sumptuary laws to give the most
lavish munus yet seen in Rome, on occasion of his wife's funeral.
In the closing years of the politically and socially unstable Late
Republic, any aristocratic owner of gladiators had political muscle at
his disposal. In 65 BC, newly elected curule aedile Julius
Caesar held games that he justified as munus to his father, who had
been dead for 20 years. Despite an already enormous personal debt, he
used three hundred and twenty gladiator pairs in silvered armour.
He had more available in Capua but the Senate, mindful of the recent
Spartacus revolt and fearful of Caesar's burgeoning private armies and
rising popularity, imposed a limit of 320 pairs as the maximum number
of gladiators any citizen could keep in Rome. Caesar's showmanship
was unprecedented in scale and expense; he had staged a munus as
memorial rather than funeral rite, eroding any practical or meaningful
distinction between munus and ludi.
Gladiatorial games, usually linked with beast shows, spread throughout
the Republic and beyond. Anti-corruption laws of 65 and 63 BC
attempted but failed to curb the political usefulness of the games to
their sponsors. Following Caesar's assassination and the Roman
Augustus assumed Imperial authority over the games,
including munera, and formalised their provision as a civic and
religious duty. His revision of sumptuary law capped private and
public expenditure on munera, claiming to save the Roman elite from
the bankruptcies they would otherwise suffer, and restricted their
performance to the festivals of
Saturnalia and Quinquatria.
Henceforth, the ceiling cost for a praetor's "economical" official
munus employing a maximum 120 gladiators was to be 25,000 denarii; a
"generous" Imperial ludi might cost no less than 180,000 denarii.
Throughout the Empire, the greatest and most celebrated games would
now be identified with the state-sponsored Imperial cult, which
furthered public recognition, respect and approval for the Emperor's
divine numen, his laws, and his agents. Between 108 and 109
Trajan celebrated his Dacian victories using a reported 10,000
gladiators and 11,000 animals over 123 days. The cost of
gladiators and munera continued to spiral out of control. Legislation
of 177 AD by
Marcus Aurelius did little to stop it, and was completely
ignored by his son, Commodus.
The earliest munera took place at or near the tomb of the deceased and
these were organised by their munerator (who made the offering). Later
games were held by an editor, either identical with the munerator or
an official employed by him. As time passed, these titles and meanings
may have merged. In the Republican era, private citizens could own
and train gladiators, or lease them from a lanista (owner of a
gladiator training school). From the Principate onwards, private
citizens could hold munera and own gladiators only under Imperial
permission, and the role of editor was increasingly tied to state
officialdom. Legislation by
Claudius required that quaestors, the
lowest rank of Roman magistrate, personally subsidise two-thirds of
the costs of games for their small-town communities – in
effect, both an advertisement of their personal generosity and a
part-purchase of their office. Bigger games were put on by senior
magistrates, who could better afford them. The largest and most lavish
of all were paid for by the emperor himself.
Main article: List of Roman gladiator types
The earliest types of gladiator were named after Rome's enemies of
that time: the Samnite, Thracian and Gaul. The Samnite, heavily armed,
elegantly helmed and probably the most popular type, was renamed
secutor and the Gaul renamed murmillo, once these former enemies had
been conquered then absorbed into Rome's Empire. In the mid-republican
munus, each type seems to have fought against a similar or identical
type. In the later Republic and early Empire, various "fantasy" types
were introduced, and were set against dissimilar but complementary
types. For example, the bareheaded, nimble retiarius ("net-man"),
armoured only at the left arm and shoulder, pitted his net, trident
and dagger against the more heavily armoured, helmeted Secutor.
Most depictions of gladiators show the most common and popular types.
Passing literary references to others has allowed their tentative
reconstruction. Other novelties introduced around this time included
gladiators who fought from chariots or carts, or from horseback.
The trade in gladiators was empire-wide, and subjected to official
supervision. Rome's military success produced a supply of
soldier-prisoners who were redistributed for use in State mines or
amphitheatres and for sale on the open market. For example, in the
aftermath of the Jewish Revolt, the gladiator schools received an
influx of Jews – those rejected for training would have been
sent straight to the arenas as noxii (lit. "hurtful ones"). The
best – the most robust – were sent to Rome. In Rome's
military ethos, enemy soldiers who had surrendered or allowed their
own capture and enslavement had been granted an unmerited gift of
life. Their training as gladiators would give them opportunity to
redeem their honour in the munus.
Pollice Verso ("With a Turned Thumb"), an 1872 painting by Jean-Léon
Two other sources of gladiators, found increasingly during the
Principate and the relatively low military activity of the Pax Romana,
were slaves condemned to the arena (damnati), to gladiator schools or
games (ad ludum gladiatorium) as punishment for crimes, and the
paid volunteers (auctorati) who by the late Republic may have
comprised approximately half – and possibly the most capable
half – of all gladiators. The use of volunteers had a
precedent in the Iberian munus of Scipio Africanus; but none of those
had been paid.
For the poor, and for non-citizens, enrollment in a gladiator school
offered a trade, regular food, housing of sorts and a fighting chance
of fame and fortune.
Mark Antony chose a troupe of gladiators to be
his personal bodyguard. Gladiators customarily kept their prize
money and any gifts they received, and these could be substantial.
Tiberius offered several retired gladiators 100,000 sesterces each to
return to the arena.
Nero gave the gladiator Spiculus property and
residence "equal to those of men who had celebrated triumphs."
From the 60s AD female gladiators appear as rare and "exotic markers
of exceptionally lavish spectacle". In 66 AD,
Nero had Ethiopian
women, men and children fight at a munus to impress King Tiridates I
of Armenia. Romans seem to have found the idea of a female
gladiator novel and entertaining, or downright absurd; Juvenal
titillates his readers with a woman named "Mevia", hunting boars in
the arena "with spear in hand and breasts exposed", and Petronius
mocks the pretensions of a rich, low-class citizen, whose munus
includes a woman fighting from a cart or chariot. A munus of 89
AD, during Domitian's reign, featured a battle between female
gladiators, described as "Amazons". In Halicarnassus, a
2nd-century AD relief depicts two female combatants named "Amazon" and
"Achillia"; their match ended in a draw. In the same century, an
epigraph praises one of Ostia's local elite as the first to "arm
women" in the history of its games. Female gladiators probably
submitted to the same regulations and training as their male
counterparts. Roman morality required that all gladiators be of
the lowest social classes, and emperors who failed to respect this
distinction earned the scorn of posterity.
Cassius Dio takes pains to
point out that when the much admired emperor
Titus used female
gladiators, they were of acceptably low class.
Some regarded female gladiators of any type or class as a symptom of
corrupted Roman appetites, morals and womanhood. Before he became
Septimius Severus may have attended the Antiochene Olympic
Games, which had been revived by the emperor
Commodus and included
traditional Greek female athletics. His attempt to give
similarly dignified display of female athletics was met by the crowd
with ribald chants and cat-calls. Probably as a result, he banned
the use of female gladiators in 200 AD.
Caligula, Titus, Hadrian, Lucius Verus, Caracalla, Geta and Didius
Julianus were all said to have performed in the arena, either in
public or private, but risks to themselves were minimal. Claudius,
characterised by his historians as morbidly cruel and boorish, fought
a whale trapped in the harbor in front of a group of spectators.
Commentators invariably disapproved of such performances.
Commodus was a fanatical participant at the ludi, and compelled Rome's
elite to attend his performances as gladiator, bestiarius or venator.
Most of his performances as a gladiator were bloodless affairs, fought
with wooden swords; he invariably won. He was said to have restyled
Nero's colossal statue in his own image as "
dedicated to himself as "Champion of secutores; only left-handed
fighter to conquer twelve times one thousand men." He was said to
have killed 100 lions in one day, almost certainly from an elevated
platform surrounding the arena perimeter, which allowed him to safely
demonstrate his marksmanship. On another occasion, he decapitated a
running ostrich with a specially designed dart, carried the bloodied
head and his sword over to the Senatorial seats and gesticulated as
though they were next. As reward for these services, he drew a
gigantic stipend from the public purse.
Gladiator games were advertised well beforehand, on billboards that
gave the reason for the game, its editor, venue, date and the number
of paired gladiators (ordinarii) to be used. Other highlighted
features could include details of venationes, executions, music and
any luxuries to be provided for the spectators, such as an awning
against the sun, water sprinklers, food, drink, sweets and
occasionally "door prizes". For enthusiasts and gamblers, a more
detailed program (libellus) was distributed on the day of the munus,
showing the names, types and match records of gladiator pairs, and
their order of appearance. Left-handed gladiators were advertised
as a rarity; they were trained to fight right-handers, which gave them
an advantage over most opponents and produced an interestingly
The night before the munus, the gladiators were given a banquet and
opportunity to order their personal and private affairs; Futrell notes
its similarity to a ritualistic or sacramental "last meal". These
were probably both family and public events which included even the
noxii, sentenced to die in the arena the following day; and the
damnati, who would have at least a slender chance of survival. The
event may also have been used to drum up more publicity for the
The ludi and munus
Official munera of the early Imperial era seem to have followed a
standard form (munus legitimum). A procession (pompa) entered the
arena, led by lictors who bore the fasces that signified the
magistrate-editor's power over life and death. They were followed by a
small band of trumpeters (tubicines) playing a fanfare. Images of the
gods were carried in to "witness" the proceedings, followed by a
scribe to record the outcome, and a man carrying the palm branch used
to honour victors. The magistrate editor entered among a retinue who
carried the arms and armour to be used; the gladiators presumably came
The entertainments often began with venationes (beast hunts) and
bestiarii (beast fighters). Next came the ludi meridiani, which
were of variable content but usually involved executions of noxii,
some of whom were condemned to be subjects of fatal re-enactments,
based on Greek or Roman myths. Gladiators may have been involved
in these as executioners, though most of the crowd, and the gladiators
themselves, preferred the "dignity" of an even contest. There were
also comedy fights; some may have been lethal. A crude Pompeian
graffito suggests a burlesque of musicians, dressed as animals named
Ursus tibicen (flute-playing bear) and Pullus cornicen (horn-blowing
chicken), perhaps as accompaniment to clowning by paegniarii during a
"mock" contest of the ludi meridiani.
A duel, using whip, cudgel and shields, from the
The gladiators may have held informal warm-up matches, using blunted
or dummy weapons – some munera, however, may have used blunted
weapons throughout. The editor, his representative or an honoured
guest would check the weapons (probatio armorum) for the scheduled
matches. These were the highlight of the day, and were as
inventive, varied and novel as the editor could afford. Armatures
could be very costly – some were flamboyantly decorated with
exotic feathers, jewels and precious metals. Increasingly the munus
was the editor's gift to spectators who had come to expect the best as
Lightly armed and armoured fighters, such as the retiarius, would tire
less rapidly than their heavily armed opponents; most bouts would have
lasted 10 to 15 minutes, or 20 minutes at most. In late Republican
munera, between 10 and 13 matches could have been fought on one day;
this assumes one match at a time in the course of an afternoon.
Spectators preferred to watch highly skilled, well matched ordinarii
with complementary fighting styles; these were the most costly to
train and to hire. A general melee of several, lower-skilled
gladiators was far less costly, but also less popular. Even among the
ordinarii, match winners might have to fight a new, well-rested
opponent, either a tertiarius ("third choice gladiator") by
prearrangement; or a "substitute" gladiator (suppositicius) who fought
at the whim of the editor as an unadvertised, unexpected "extra".
This yielded two combats for the cost of three gladiators, rather than
four; such contests were prolonged, and in some cases, more bloody.
Most were probably of poor quality, but the emperor Caracalla
chose to test a notably skilled and successful fighter named Bato
against first one supposicitius, whom he beat, and then another, who
killed him. At the opposite level of the profession, a gladiator
reluctant to confront his opponent might be whipped, or goaded with
hot irons, until he engaged through sheer desperation.
Mosaic at the National Archaeological Museum in
Madrid showing a
retiarius named Kalendio (shown surrendering in the upper section)
fighting a secutor named Astyanax. The Ø sign by Kalendio's name
implies he was killed after surrendering.
Combats between experienced, well trained gladiators demonstrated a
considerable degree of stagecraft. Among the cognoscenti, bravado and
skill in combat were esteemed over mere hacking and bloodshed; some
gladiators made their careers and reputation from bloodless victories.
Suetonius describes an exceptional munus by Nero, in which no-one was
killed, "not even noxii (enemies of the state)."
Trained gladiators were expected to observe professional rules of
combat. Most matches employed a senior referee (summa rudis) and an
assistant, shown in mosaics with long staffs (rudes) to caution or
separate opponents at some crucial point in the match. Referees were
usually retired gladiators whose decisions, judgement and discretion
were, for the most part, respected; they could stop bouts
entirely, or pause them to allow the combatants rest, refreshment and
Ludi and munera were accompanied by music, played as interludes, or
building to a "frenzied crescendo" during combats, perhaps to heighten
the suspense during a gladiator's appeal; blows may have been
accompanied by trumpet-blasts. The
Zliten mosaic in Libya
(circa 80–100 AD) shows musicians playing an accompaniment to
provincial games (with gladiators, bestiarii, or venatores and
prisoners attacked by beasts). Their instruments are a long straight
trumpet (tubicen), a large curved horn (Cornu) and a water organ
(hydraulis). Similar representations (musicians, gladiators and
bestiari) are found on a tomb relief in Pompeii.
Victory and defeat
See also: Pollice verso
A match was won by the gladiator who overcame his opponent, or killed
him outright. Victors received the palm branch and an award from the
editor. An outstanding fighter might receive a laurel crown and money
from an appreciative crowd but for anyone originally condemned ad
ludum the greatest reward was manumission (emancipation), symbolised
by the gift of a wooden training sword or staff (rudis) from the
Martial describes a match between Priscus and Verus, who
fought so evenly and bravely for so long that when both acknowledged
defeat at the same instant,
Titus awarded victory and a rudis to
each. Flamma was awarded the rudis four times, but chose to remain
a gladiator. His gravestone in
Sicily includes his record: "Flamma,
secutor, lived 30 years, fought 34 times, won 21 times, fought to a
draw 9 times, defeated 4 times, a Syrian by nationality. Delicatus
made this for his deserving comrade-in-arms."
A gladiator could acknowledge defeat by raising a finger (ad digitum),
in appeal to the referee to stop the combat and refer to the editor,
whose decision would usually rest on the crowd's response. In the
earliest munera, death was considered a righteous penalty for defeat;
later, those who fought well might be granted remission at the whim of
the crowd or the editor. During the Imperial era, matches advertised
as sine missione (without remission from the sentence of death)
suggest that missio (the sparing of a defeated gladiator's life) had
become common practice. The contract between editor and his lanista
could include compensation for unexpected deaths; this could be
"some fifty times higher than the lease price" of the gladiator.
Under Augustus' rule, the demand for gladiators began to exceed
supply, and matches sine missione were officially banned; an
economical, pragmatic development that happened to match popular
notions of "natural justice". When
Claudius refused to
spare defeated but popular fighters, their own popularity suffered. In
general, gladiators who fought well were likely to survive. At a
Pompeian match between chariot-fighters, Publius Ostorius, with
previous 51 wins to his credit, was granted missio after losing to
Scylax, with 26 victories. By common custom, the spectators
decided whether or not a losing gladiator should be spared, and chose
the winner in the rare event of a standing tie. Even more rarely,
perhaps uniquely, one stalemate ended in the killing of one gladiator
by the editor himself.In any event, the final decision of
death or life belonged to the editor, who signalled his choice with a
gesture described by Roman sources as pollice verso meaning "with a
turned thumb"; a description too imprecise for reconstruction of the
gesture or its symbolism. Whether victorious or defeated, a gladiator
was bound by oath to accept or implement his editor's decision, "the
victor being nothing but the instrument of his [editor's] will."
Not all editors chose to go with the crowd, and not all those
condemned to death for putting on a poor show chose to submit:
Once a band of five retiarii in tunics, matched against the same
number of secutores, yielded without a struggle; but when their death
was ordered, one of them caught up his trident and slew all the
Caligula bewailed this in a public proclamation as a most
Death and disposal
A gladiator who was refused missio was despatched by his opponent. To
die well, a gladiator should never ask for mercy, nor cry out. A
"good death" redeemed the gladiator from the dishonourable weakness
and passivity of defeat, and provided a noble example to those who
For death, when it stands near us, gives even to inexperienced men the
courage not to seek to avoid the inevitable. So the gladiator, no
matter how faint-hearted he has been throughout the fight, offers his
throat to his opponent and directs the wavering blade to the vital
spot. (Seneca. Epistles, 30.8)
Some mosaics show defeated gladiators kneeling in preparation for the
moment of death. Seneca's "vital spot" seems to have meant the
Gladiator remains from Ephesus confirm this.
A flask depicting the final phase of the fight between a murmillo
(winning) and a thraex
The body of a gladiator who had died well was placed on a couch of
Libitina and removed with dignity to the arena morgue, where the
corpse was stripped of armour, and probably had its throat cut to
prove that dead was dead. The Christian author Tertullian, commenting
on ludi meridiani in Roman
Carthage during the peak era of the games,
describes a more humiliating method of removal. One arena official,
dressed as the "brother of Jove",
Dis Pater (god of the underworld)
strikes the corpse with a mallet. Another, dressed as Mercury, tests
for life-signs with a heated "wand"; once confirmed as dead, the body
is dragged from the arena.
Whether these victims were gladiators or noxii is unknown. Modern
pathological examination confirms the probably fatal use of a mallet
on some, but not all the gladiator skulls found in a gladiators'
cemetery. Kyle (1998) proposes that gladiators who disgraced
themselves might have been subjected to the same indignities as noxii,
denied the relative mercies of a quick death and dragged from the
arena as carrion. Whether the corpse of such a gladiator could be
redeemed from further ignominy by friends or familia is not
The bodies of noxii, and possibly some damnati, were thrown into
rivers or dumped unburied; Denial of funeral rites and memorial
condemned the shade (manes) of the deceased to restless wandering upon
the earth as a dreadful larva or lemur. Ordinary citizens, slaves
and freedmen were usually buried beyond the town or city limits, to
avoid the ritual and physical pollution of the living; professional
gladiators had their own, separate cemeteries. The taint of infamia
Remembrance and epitaphs
Gladiators could subscribe to a union (collegia), which ensured their
proper burial, and sometimes a pension or compensation for wives and
children. Otherwise, the gladiator's familia, which included his
lanista, comrades and blood-kin, might fund his funeral and memorial
costs, and use the memorial to assert their moral reputation as
responsible, respectful colleagues or family members. Some monuments
record the gladiator's career in some detail, including the number of
appearances, victories — sometimes represented by an
engraved crown or wreath — defeats, career duration, and
age at death. Some include the gladiator's type, in words or direct
representation: for example, the memorial of a retiarius at Verona
included an engraved trident and sword. A wealthy editor
might commission artwork to celebrate a particularly successful or
memorable show, and include named portraits of winners and losers in
action; the Borghese
Gladiator Mosaic is a notable example. According
to Cassius Dio, the emperor
Caracalla gave the gladiator Bato a
magnificent memorial and State funeral; more typical are the
simple gladiator tombs of the Eastern Roman Empire, whose brief
inscriptions include the following:
"The familia set this up in memory of Saturnilos."
"For Nikepharos, son of Synetos, Lakedaimonian, and for Narcissus the
Titus Flavius Satyrus set up this monument in his memory from
his own money."
"For Hermes. Paitraeites with his cell-mates set this up in
Very little evidence survives of the religious beliefs of gladiators
as a class, or their expectations of an afterlife. Modern scholarship
offers little support for the once-prevalent notion that gladiators,
venatores and bestiarii were personally or professionally dedicated to
the cult of the Graeco-Roman goddess Nemesis. Rather, she seems to
have represented a kind of "Imperial Fortuna" who dispensed Imperial
retribution on the one hand, and Imperially subsidised gifts on the
other - including the munera. One gladiator's tomb dedication clearly
states that her decisions are not to be trusted. Many gladiator
epitaphs claim Nemesis, fate, deception or treachery as the instrument
of their death, never the superior skills of the flesh-and-blood
adversary who defeated and killed them. Having no personal
responsibility for his own defeat and death, the losing gladiator
remains the better man, worth avenging.
"I, Victor, left-handed, lie here, but my homeland was in
Thessalonica. Doom killed me, not the liar Pinnas. No longer let him
boast. I had a fellow gladiator, Polyneikes, who killed Pinnas and
Claudius Thallus set up this memorial from what I left
behind as a legacy."
A gladiator might expect to fight in two or three munera annually, and
an unknown number would have died in their first match. Few gladiators
survived more than 10 contests, though one survived an extraordinary
150 bouts; and another died at 90 years of age, presumably long
after retirement. A natural death following retirement is also
likely for three individuals who died at 38, 45, and 48 years
respectively. George Ville, using evidence from 1st century
gladiator headstones, calculated an average age at death of 27, and
mortality "among all who entered the arena" at 19/100. Marcus
Junkelmann disputes Ville's calculation for average age at death; the
majority would have received no headstone, and would have died early
in their careers, at 18–25 years of age. Between the early and
later Imperial periods the risk of death for defeated gladiators rose
from 1/5 to 1/4, perhaps because missio was granted less often.
Hopkins and Beard tentatively estimate a total of 400 arenas
Roman Empire at its greatest extent, with a combined
total of 8,000 deaths per annum from executions, combats and
Schools and training
The earliest named gladiator school (singular: ludus; plural: ludi) is
that of Aurelius Scaurus at Capua. He was lanista of the gladiators
employed by the state circa 105 BC to instruct the legions and
simultaneously entertain the public. Few other lanistae are known
by name: they headed their familia gladiatoria, and had lawful power
over life and death of every family member, including servi poenae,
auctorati and ancillaries. Socially, they were infames, on a footing
with pimps and butchers and despised as price gougers. No such
stigma was attached to a gladiator owner (munerarius or editor) of
good family, high status and independent means; Cicero
congratulated his friend Atticus on buying a splendid troop –
if he rented them out, he might recover their entire cost after two
Spartacus revolt had originated in a gladiator school privately
owned by Lentulus Batiatus, and had been suppressed only after a
protracted series of costly, sometimes disastrous campaigns by regular
Roman troops. In the late Republican era, a fear of similar uprisings,
the usefulness of gladiator schools in creating private armies, and
the exploitation of munera for political gain led to increased
restrictions on gladiator school ownership, siting and organisation.
By Domitian's time, many had been more or less absorbed by the State,
including those at Pergamum, Alexandria,
Praeneste and Capua. The
Rome itself had four; the
Ludus Magnus (the largest and most
important, housing up to about 2,000 gladiators), Ludus Dacicus, Ludus
Gallicus, and the Ludus Matutinus, which trained bestiarii.
In the Imperial era, volunteers required a magistrate's permission to
join a school as auctorati. If this was granted, the school's
physician assessed their suitability. Their contract (auctoramentum)
stipulated how often they were to perform, their fighting style and
earnings. A condemned bankrupt or debtor accepted as novice (novicius)
could negotiate with his lanista or editor for the partial or complete
payment of his debt. Faced with runaway re-enlistment fees for skilled
Marcus Aurelius set their upper limit at 12,000
All prospective gladiators, whether volunteer or condemned, were bound
to service by a sacred oath (sacramentum). Novices (novicii)
trained under teachers of particular fighting styles, probably retired
gladiators. They could ascend through a hierarchy of grades
(singular: palus) in which primus palus was the highest. Lethal
weapons were prohibited in the schools – weighted, blunt wooden
versions were probably used. Fighting styles were probably learned
through constant rehearsal as choreographed "numbers". An elegant,
economical style was preferred. Training included preparation for a
stoical, unflinching death. Successful training required intense
Those condemned ad ludum were probably branded or marked with a tattoo
(stigma, plural stigmata) on the face, legs and/or hands. These
stigmata may have been text – slaves were sometimes thus marked
on the forehead until Constantine banned the use of facial stigmata in
325 AD. Soldiers were routinely marked on the hand.
Gladiators were typically accommodated in cells, arranged in barrack
formation around a central practice arena.
Juvenal describes the
segregation of gladiators according to type and status, suggestive of
rigid hierarchies within the schools: "even the lowest scum of the
arena observe this rule; even in prison they're separate". Retiarii
were kept away from damnati, and "fag targeteers" from "armoured
heavies". As most ordinarii at games were from the same school, this
kept potential opponents separate and safe from each other until the
lawful munus. Discipline could be extreme, even lethal.
Remains of a
Pompeian ludus site attest to developments in supply,
demand and discipline; in its earliest phase, the building could
accommodate 15–20 gladiators. Its replacement could have housed
about 100 and included a very small cell, probably for lesser
punishments and so low that standing was impossible.
Diet and medical care
Gladiators after the fight,
José Moreno Carbonero
José Moreno Carbonero (1882)
Despite the harsh discipline, gladiators represented a substantial
investment for their lanista and were otherwise well fed and cared
for. Their daily, high-energy, vegetarian diet consisted of barley,
boiled beans, oatmeal, ash and dried fruit. Gladiators were sometimes
called hordearii ("eaters of barley)". Romans considered barley
inferior to wheat — a punishment for legionaries replaced their
wheat ration with it — but it was thought to strengthen the
body. Regular massage and high quality medical care helped
mitigate an otherwise very severe training regimen. Part of Galen's
medical training was at a gladiator school in
Pergamum where he saw
(and would later criticise) the training, diet, and long term health
prospects of the gladiators.
Legal and social status
"He vows to endure to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten, and to be
killed by the sword." The gladiator's oath as cited by Petronius
Modern customs and institutions offer few useful parallels to the
legal and social context of the gladiatoria munera In Roman law,
anyone condemned to the arena or the gladiator schools (damnati ad
ludum) was a servus poenae (slave of the penalty), and was considered
to be under sentence of death unless manumitted. A rescript of
Hadrian reminded magistrates that "those sentenced to the sword"
(execution) should be despatched immediately "or at least within the
year", and those sentenced to the ludi should not be discharged before
five years, or three years if granted manumission. Only slaves
found guilty of specific offences could be sentenced to the arena;
however, citizens found guilty of particular offenses could be
stripped of citizenship, formally enslaved, then sentenced; and
slaves, once freed, could be legally reverted to slavery for certain
offences. Arena punishment could be given for banditry, theft and
arson, and for treasons such as rebellion, census evasion to avoid
paying due taxes and refusal to swear lawful oaths.
Offenders seen as particularly obnoxious to the state (noxii) received
the most humiliating punishments. By the 1st century BC, noxii
were being condemned to the beasts (damnati ad bestias) in the arena,
with almost no chance of survival, or were made to kill each
other. From the early Imperial era, some were forced to
participate in humiliating and novel forms of mythological or
historical enactment, culminating in their execution. Those
judged less harshly might be condemned ad ludum venatorium or ad
gladiatorium – combat with animals or gladiators – and
armed as thought appropriate. These damnati at least might put on a
good show and retrieve some respect, and very rarely, survive to fight
another day. Some may even have become "proper" gladiators.
Mérida amphitheatre, Spain; mural of beast hunt, showing a venator
(or bestiarius) and lioness
Among the most admired and skilled auctorati were those who, having
been granted manumission, volunteered to fight in the arena. Some
of these highly trained and experienced specialists may have had no
other practical choice open to them. Their legal status — slave or
free — is uncertain. Under Roman law, a freed gladiator could not
"offer such services [as those of a gladiator] after manumission,
because they cannot be performed without endangering [his] life."
All contracted volunteers, including those of equestrian and
senatorial class, were legally enslaved by their auctoratio because it
involved their potentially lethal submission to a master. All
arenarii (those who appeared in the arena) were "infames by
reputation", a form of social dishonour which excluded them from most
of the advantages and rights of citizenship. Payment for such
appearances compounded their infamia. The legal and social status
of even the most popular and wealthy auctorati was thus marginal at
best. They could not vote, plead in court nor leave a will; and unless
they were manumitted, their lives and property belonged to their
masters. Nevertheless, there is evidence of informal if not
entirely lawful practices to the contrary. Some "unfree" gladiators
bequeathed money and personal property to wives and children, possibly
via a sympathetic owner or familia; some had their own slaves and gave
them their freedom. One gladiator was even granted "citizenship"
to several Greek cities of the Eastern Roman world.
Caesar's munus of 46 BC included at least one equestrian, son of a
Praetor, and two volunteers of possible senatorial rank.
Augustus, who enjoyed watching the games, forbade the participation of
senators, equestrians and their descendants as fighters or arenarii,
but in 11 AD he bent his own rules and allowed equestrians to
volunteer because "the prohibition was no use". Under Tiberius,
the Larinum decree (19AD) reiterated Augustus' original
Caligula flouted them and Claudius
Commodus ignored them. Even after the
Christianity as Rome's official religion, legislation
forbade the involvement of Rome's upper social classes in the games,
though not the games themselves. Throughout Rome's history, some
volunteers were prepared to risk loss of status or reputation by
appearing in the arena, whether for payment, glory or, as in one
recorded case, to revenge an affront to their personal
honour. In one extraordinary episode, an aristocratic
descendant of the Gracchi, already infamous for his marriage, as a
bride, to a male horn player, appeared in what may have been a
non-lethal or farcical match. His motives are unknown, but his
voluntary and "shameless" arena appearance combined the "womanly
attire" of a lowly retiarius tunicatus, adorned with golden ribbons,
with the apex headdress that marked him out as a priest of Mars. In
Juvenal's account, he seems to have relished the scandalous
self-display, applause and the disgrace he inflicted on his more
sturdy opponent by repeatedly skipping away from the
Main article: List of Roman amphitheatres
Colosseum in Rome, Italy
As munera grew larger and more popular, open spaces such as the Forum
Romanum were adapted (as the
Forum Boarium had been) as venues in Rome
and elsewhere, with temporary, elevated seating for the patron and
high status spectators; they were popular but not truly public events:
A show of gladiators was to be exhibited before the people in the
market-place, and most of the magistrates erected scaffolds round
about, with an intention of letting them for advantage. Caius
commanded them to take down their scaffolds, that the poor people
might see the sport without paying anything. But nobody obeying these
orders of his, he gathered together a body of labourers, who worked
for him, and overthrew all the scaffolds the very night before the
contest was to take place. So that by the next morning the
market-place was cleared, and the common people had an opportunity of
seeing the pastime. In this, the populace thought he had acted the
part of a man; but he much disobliged the tribunes his colleagues, who
regarded it as a piece of violent and presumptuous
Towards the end of the Republic,
Cicero (Murena, 72–3) still
describes gladiator shows as ticketed — their political
usefulness was served by inviting the rural tribunes of the plebs, not
the people of
Rome en masse – but in Imperial times, poor citizens
in receipt of the corn dole were allocated at least some free seating,
possibly by lottery. Others had to pay. Ticket scalpers (Locarii)
sometimes sold or let out seats at inflated prices.
Martial wrote that
"Hermes [a gladiator who always drew the crowds] means riches for the
The earliest known Roman amphitheatre was built at
Pompeii by Sullan
colonists, around 70 BC. The first in the city of
Rome was the
extraordinary wooden amphitheatre of Gaius Scribonius Curio (built in
53 BC). The first part-stone amphitheatre in
Rome was inaugurated
in 29–30 BC, in time for the triple triumph of Octavian (later
Augustus). Shortly after it burned down in 64 AD,
its replacement, later known as the Amphitheatrum Flavium (Colosseum),
which seated 50,000 spectators and would remain the largest in the
Empire. It was inaugurated by
Titus in 80 AD as the personal gift of
the Emperor to the people of Rome, paid for by the imperial share of
booty after the Jewish Revolt.
Roman arena at Arles, inside view
Amphitheatres were usually oval in plan. Their seating tiers
surrounded the arena below, where the community's judgments were meted
out, in full public view. From across the stands, crowd and editor
could assess each other's character and temperament. For the crowd,
amphitheatres afforded unique opportunities for free expression and
free speech (theatralis licentia). Petitions could be submitted to the
editor (as magistrate) in full view of the community. Factiones and
claques could vent their spleen on each other, and occasionally on
Emperors. The emperor Titus's dignified yet confident ease in his
management of an amphitheatre crowd and its factions were taken as a
measure of his enormous popularity and the rightness of his imperium.
The amphitheatre munus thus served the Roman community as living
theatre and a court in miniature, in which judgement could be served
not only on those in the arena below, but on their
judges. Amphitheatres also provided a means of social
control. Their seating was "disorderly and indiscriminate" until
Augustus prescribed its arrangement in his Social Reforms. To persuade
the Senate, he expressed his distress on behalf of a Senator who could
not find seating at a crowded games in Puteoli:
In consequence of this the senate decreed that, whenever any public
show was given anywhere, the first row of seats should be reserved for
senators; and at
Rome he would not allow the envoys of the free and
allied nations to sit in the orchestra, since he was informed that
even freedmen were sometimes appointed. He separated the soldiery from
the people. He assigned special seats to the married men of the
commons, to boys under age their own section and the adjoining one to
their preceptors; and he decreed that no one wearing a dark cloak
should sit in the middle of the house. He would not allow women to
view even the gladiators except from the upper seats, though it had
been the custom for men and women to sit together at such shows. Only
the Vestal virgins were assigned a place to themselves, opposite the
These arrangements do not seem to have been strongly enforced.
Factions and rivals
The Amphitheatre at Pompeii, depicting the riot between the Nucerians
and the Pompeians
Popular factions supported favourite gladiators and gladiator
types. Under Augustan legislation, the Samnite type was renamed
Secutor ("chaser", or "pursuer"). The secutor was equipped with a
long, heavy "large" shield called a scutum); Secutores, their
supporters and any heavyweight secutor-based types such as the
Murmillo were secutarii. Lighter types, such as the Thraex, were
equipped with a smaller, lighter shield called a parma, from which
they and their supporters were named parmularii ("small shields").
Trajan preferred the parmularii and
Domitian the secutarii;
Marcus Aurelius took neither side.
Nero seems to have enjoyed the
brawls between rowdy, enthusiastic and sometimes violent factions, but
called in the troops if they went too far.
There were also local rivalries. At Pompeii's amphitheatre, during
Nero's reign, the trading of insults between Pompeians and Nucerian
spectators during public ludi led to stone throwing and riot. Many
were killed or wounded.
Nero banned gladiator munera (though not the
Pompeii for ten years as punishment. The story is told in
Pompeian graffiti and high quality wall painting, with much boasting
of Pompeii's "victory" over Nuceria.
Role in Roman life
Role in the military
A man who knows how to conquer in war is a man who knows how to
arrange a banquet and put on a show.
Rome was essentially a landowning military aristocracy. From the early
days of the Republic, ten years of military service were a citizen's
duty and a prerequisite for election to public office. Devotio
(willingness to sacrifice one’s life to the greater good) was
central to the Roman military ideal, and was the core of the Roman
military oath. It applied from highest to lowest alike in the chain of
command. As a soldier committed his life (voluntarily, at least
in theory) to the greater cause of Rome's victory, he was not expected
to survive defeat.
Punic Wars of the late 3rd century BC – in particular the
near-catastrophic defeat of Roman arms at Cannae – had
long-lasting effects on the Republic, its citizen armies, and the
development of the gladiatorial munera. In the aftermath of Cannae,
Scipio Africanus crucified Roman deserters and had non-Roman deserters
thrown to the beasts. The Senate refused to ransom Hannibal's
Roman captives: instead, they consulted the Sibylline books, then made
In obedience to the Books of Destiny, some strange and unusual
sacrifices were made, human sacrifices amongst them. A Gaulish man and
a Gaulish woman and a Greek man and a Greek woman were buried alive
under the Forum Boarium ... They were lowered into a stone vault,
which had on a previous occasion also been polluted by human victims,
a practice most repulsive to Roman feelings. When the gods were
believed to be duly propitiated ... Armour, weapons, and other
things of the kind were ordered to be in readiness, and the ancient
spoils gathered from the enemy were taken down from the temples and
colonnades. The dearth of freemen necessitated a new kind of
enlistment; 8,000 sturdy youths from amongst the slaves were armed at
the public cost, after they had each been asked whether they were
willing to serve or no. These soldiers were preferred, as there would
be an opportunity of ransoming them when taken prisoners at a lower
Late 3rd century gladiator mosaic from a private residence in Kourion,
Cyprus. All the participants are named, including the referee
The account notes, uncomfortably, the bloodless human sacrifices
performed to help turn the tide of the war in Rome's favour. While the
Senate mustered their willing slaves,
Hannibal offered his dishonoured
Roman captives a chance for honourable death, in what
as something very like the Roman munus. The munus thus represented an
essentially military, self-sacrificial ideal, taken to extreme
fulfillment in the gladiator's oath. By the devotio of a
voluntary oath, a slave might achieve the quality of a Roman
(Romanitas), become the embodiment of true virtus (manliness, or manly
virtue), and paradoxically, be granted missio while remaining a
slave. The gladiator as a specialist fighter, and the ethos and
organization of the gladiator schools, would inform the development of
the Roman military as the most effective force of its time. In
107 BC, the Marian Reforms established the Roman army as a
professional body. Two years later, following its defeat at Arausio:
...weapons training was given to soldiers by P. Rutilius, consul with
C. Mallis. For he, following the example of no previous general, with
teachers summoned from the gladiatorial training school of C. Aurelus
Scaurus, implanted in the legions a more sophisticated method of
avoiding and dealing a blow and mixed bravery with skill and skill
back again with virtue so that skill became stronger by bravery's
passion and passion became more wary with the knowledge of this
The military were great aficionados of the games, and supervised the
schools. Many schools and amphitheatres were sited at or near military
barracks, and some provincial army units owned gladiator troupes.
As the Republic wore on, the term of military service increased from
ten to the sixteen years formalised by
Augustus in the Principate. It
would rise to twenty, and later, to twenty five years. Roman military
discipline was ferocious; severe enough to provoke mutiny, despite the
consequences. A career as a volunteer gladiator may have seemed an
attractive option for some.
In AD 69, the Year of the Four Emperors, Otho's troops at Bedriacum
included 2000 gladiators. Opposite him on the field, Vitellius's army
was swollen by levies of slaves, plebs and gladiators. In 167 AD,
troop depletions by plague and desertion may have prompted Marcus
Aurelius to draft gladiators at his own expense. During the Civil
Wars that led to the Principate, Octavian (later Augustus) acquired
the personal gladiator troop of his erstwhile opponent, Mark Antony.
They had served their late master with exemplary loyalty but
thereafter, they disappear from the record.
Religion, ethics and sentiment
Roman writing as a whole demonstrates a deep ambivalence towards the
gladiatoria munera. Even the most complex and sophisticated munera of
the Imperial era evoked the ancient, ancestral dii manes of the
underworld and were framed by the protective, lawful rites of
sacrificium. Their popularity made their co-option by the state
Cicero acknowledged their sponsorship as a political
imperative. Despite the popular adulation of gladiators, they
were set apart, despised; and despite Cicero's contempt for the mob,
he shared their admiration: "Even when [gladiators] have been felled,
let alone when they are standing and fighting, they never disgrace
themselves. And suppose a gladiator has been brought to the ground,
when do you ever see one twist his neck away after he has been ordered
to extend it for the death blow?" His own death would later emulate
this example. Yet,
Cicero could also refer to his popularist
opponent Clodius, publicly and scathingly, as a bustuarius –
literally, a "funeral-man", implying that Clodius has shown the moral
temperament of the lowest sort of gladiator. "Gladiator" could be (and
was) used as an insult throughout the Roman period, and "Samnite"
doubled the insult, despite the popularity of the Samnite type.
Silius Italicus wrote, as the games approached their peak, that the
degenerate Campanians had devised the very worst of precedents, which
now threatened the moral fabric of Rome: "It was their custom to
enliven their banquets with bloodshed and to combine with their
feasting the horrid sight of armed men [(Samnites)] fighting; often
the combatants fell dead above the very cups of the revelers, and the
tables were stained with streams of blood. Thus demoralised was
Capua." Death could be rightly meted out as punishment, or met
with equanimity in peace or war, as a gift of fate; but when inflicted
as entertainment, with no underlying moral or religious purpose, it
could only pollute and demean those who witnessed it.
Detail of the
Gladiator Mosaic, 4th century AD
The munus itself could be interpreted as pious necessity, but its
increasing luxury corroded Roman virtue, and created an un-Roman
appetite for profligacy and self-indulgence. Caesar's 46 BC ludi
were mere entertainment for political gain, a waste of lives and of
money that would have been better doled out to his legionary
veterans. Yet for Seneca, and for Marcus Aurelius – both
professed Stoics – the degradation of gladiators in the munus
highlighted their Stoic virtues: their unconditional obedience to
their master and to fate, and equanimity in the face of death. Having
"neither hope nor illusions", the gladiator could transcend his own
debased nature, and disempower death itself by meeting it face to
face. Courage, dignity, altruism and loyalty were morally redemptive;
Lucian idealised this principle in his story of Sisinnes, who
voluntarily fought as a gladiator, earned 10,000 drachmas and used it
to buy freedom for his friend, Toxaris. Seneca had a lower
opinion of the mob's un-Stoical appetite for ludi meridiani: "Man
[is]...now slaughtered for jest and sport; and those whom it used to
be unholy to train for the purpose of inflicting and enduring wounds
are thrust forth exposed and defenceless."
These accounts seek a higher moral meaning from the munus, but Ovid's
very detailed (though satirical) instructions for seduction in the
amphitheatre suggest that the spectacles could generate a potent and
dangerously sexual atmosphere. Augustan seating prescriptions
placed women – excepting the Vestals, who were legally
inviolate – as far as possible from the action of the arena
floor; or tried to. There remained the thrilling possibility of
clandestine sexual transgression by high-caste spectators and their
heroes of the arena. Such assignations were a source for gossip and
satire but some became unforgivably public:
What was the youthful charm that so fired Eppia? What hooked her? What
did she see in him to make her put up with being called "the
gladiator's moll"? Her poppet, her Sergius, was no chicken, with a dud
arm that prompted hope of early retirement. Besides his face looked a
proper mess, helmet-scarred, a great wart on his nose, an unpleasant
discharge always trickling from one eye. But he was a gladiator. That
word makes the whole breed seem handsome, and made her prefer him to
her children and country, her sister, her husband. Steel is what they
fall in love with.
Eppia – a senator's wife – and her Sergius eloped to
Egypt, where he deserted her. Most gladiators would have aimed lower.
Two wall graffiti in
Pompeii describe Celadus the
Thraex as "the sigh
of the girls" and "the glory of the girls" – which may or may
not have been Celadus' own wishful thinking.
In the later Imperial era, Servius Maurus Honoratus uses the same
disparaging term as Cicero – bustuarius – for
Tertullian used it somewhat differently – all
victims of the arena were sacrificial in his eyes – and
expressed the paradox of the arenarii as a class, from a Christian
On the one and the same account they glorify them and they degrade and
diminish them; yes, further, they openly condemn them to disgrace and
civil degradation; they keep them religiously excluded from council
chamber, rostrum, senate, knighthood, and every other kind of office
and a good many distinctions. The perversity of it! They love whom
they lower; they despise whom they approve; the art they glorify, the
artist they disgrace.
In Roman art and culture
Part of the
Gladiator Mosaic, displayed at the Galleria Borghese. It
dates from approximately 320 AD. The Ø symbol (possibly Greek theta,
for thanatos) marks a gladiator killed in combat.
An oil lamp found at
El Jem in Tunisia, depicting a gladiator with
shield and dagger
In this new Play, I attempted to follow the old custom of mine, of
making a fresh trial; I brought it on again. In the first Act I
pleased; when in the meantime a rumor spread that gladiators were
about to be exhibited; the populace flock together, make a tumult,
clamor aloud, and fight for their places: meantime, I was unable to
maintain my place.
Images of gladiators could be found throughout the Republic and
Empire, among all classes. Walls in the 2nd century BC "Italian Agora"
Delos were decorated with paintings of gladiators. Mosaics dating
from the 2nd through 4th centuries AD have been invaluable in the
reconstruction of combat and its rules, gladiator types and the
development of the munus. Throughout the Roman world, ceramics, lamps,
gems and jewellery, mosaics, reliefs, wall paintings and statuary
offer evidence, sometimes the best evidence, of the clothing, props,
equipment, names, events, prevalence and rules of gladiatorial combat.
Earlier periods provide only occasional, perhaps exceptional
Gladiator Mosaic in the Galleria Borghese
displays several gladiator types, and the
Bignor Roman Villa
Bignor Roman Villa mosaic
from Provincial Britain shows Cupids as gladiators. Souvenir ceramics
were produced depicting named gladiators in combat; similar images of
higher quality, were available on more expensive articles in high
quality ceramic, glass or silver.
Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder gives vivid examples of the popularity of gladiator
Antium and an artistic treat laid on by an adoptive
aristocrat for the solidly plebeian citizens of the Roman Aventine:
When a freedman of
Nero was giving a gladiatorial show at Antium, the
public porticoes were covered with paintings, so we are told,
containing life-like portraits of all the gladiators and assistants.
This portraiture of gladiators has been the highest interest in art
for many centuries now, but it was Gaius Terentius who began the
practice of having pictures made of gladiatorial shows and exhibited
in public; in honour of his grandfather who had adopted him he
provided thirty pairs of Gladiators in the Forum for three consecutive
days, and exhibited a picture of the matches in the Grove of
The decline of the munus was a far from straightforward process.
The crisis of the 3rd century imposed increasing military demands on
the imperial purse, from which the
Roman Empire never quite recovered,
and lesser magistrates found the obligatory munera an increasingly
unrewarding tax on the doubtful privileges of office. Still, emperors
continued to subsidize the games as a matter of undiminished public
interest. In the early 3rd century AD, the Christian writer
Tertullian had acknowledged their power over the Christian flock, and
was compelled to be blunt: the combats were murder, their witnessing
spiritually and morally harmful and the gladiator an instrument of
pagan human sacrifice. In the next century, Augustine of Hippo
deplored the youthful fascination of his friend (and later
fellow-convert and Bishop) Alypius of Thagaste, with the munera
spectacle as inimical to a Christian life and salvation.
Amphitheatres continued to host the spectacular administration of
Imperial justice: in 315
Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great condemned
child-snatchers ad bestias in the arena. Ten years later, he banned
the gladiator munera:
In times in which peace and peace relating to domestic affairs prevail
bloody demonstrations displease us. Therefore, we order that there may
be no more gladiator combats. Those who were condemned to become
gladiators for their crimes are to work from now on in the mines. Thus
they pay for their crimes without having to pour their blood.
A 5th-century mosaic in the
Great Palace of Constantinople
Great Palace of Constantinople depicts two
venatores fighting a tiger.
An imperially sanctioned munus at some time in the 330s suggests that
yet again, imperial legislation failed to entirely curb the games, not
least when Constantine defied his own law. In 365, Valentinian I
(r. 364–375) threatened to fine a judge who sentenced Christians to
the arena and in 384 attempted, like most of his predecessors, to
limit the expenses of munera.
Theodosius I (r. 379–395) adopted Nicene
Christianity as the
state church of the
Roman Empire and banned pagan festivals. The
ludi continued, very gradually shorn of their stubbornly pagan munera.
Honorius (r. 395–423) legally ended munera in 399, and again in 404,
at least in the Western Roman Empire. According to Theodoret, the ban
was in consequence of Saint Telemachus' martyrdom by spectators at a
Valentinian III (r. 425–455) repeated the ban in 438,
perhaps effectively, though venationes continued beyond 536. By
this time, interest in munera had waned throughout the Roman world. In
the Eastern Empire, theatrical shows and chariot races continued to
attract the crowds, and drew a generous Imperial subsidy.
It is not known how many gladiatoria munera were given throughout the
Roman period. Many, if not most, involved venationes, and in the later
Empire some may have been only that. In 165 BC, at least one munus was
held during April's Megalesia. In the early Imperial era, munera in
Pompeii and neighbouring towns were dispersed from March through
November. They included a provincial magnate's five-day munus of
thirty pairs, plus beast-hunts. A single late primary source, the
Calendar of Furius Dionysius Philocalus for 354, shows how seldom
gladiators featured among a multitude of official festivals. Of 176
days reserved for spectacles of various kinds, 102 were for theatrical
shows, 64 for chariot races and just 10 in December for gladiator
games and venationes. A century before this, the emperor Alexander
Severus (r. 222–235) may have intended a more even redistribution of
munera throughout the year; but this would have broken with what had
become the traditional positioning of the major gladiator games, at
the year's ending. As Wiedemann points out, December was also the
month for the Saturnalia, Saturn's, in which death was linked to
renewal, and the lowest were honoured as the highest.
Further information: Roman-era historical reenactment, Combat
reenactment, and Historical European martial arts § Antiquity
Some Roman reenactors attempt to recreate Roman gladiator troupes.
Some of these groups are part of larger Roman reenactment groups, and
others are wholly independent, though they might participate in larger
demonstrations of Roman reenacting or historical reenacting in
general. These groups usually focus on portraying mock gladiatorial
combat in as accurate a manner as possible.
Gladiator show fight in
Trier in 2005.
Carnuntum, Austria, 2007.
Video of a show fight at the Roman Villa Borg, Germany, in 2011
Retiarius vs. Secutor,
Thraex vs. Murmillo).
In modern fiction
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remove this template message)
1940s–1960s peplum films
Gladiator fights have been depicted in a number of peplum films (also
known as "sword-and-sandal" movies). This is a genre of largely
Italian-made historical epics (costume dramas) that dominated the
Italian film industry from 1958 to 1965. They can be immediately
differentiated from the competing Hollywood product by their use of
dubbing. The pepla attempted to emulate the big-budget Hollywood
historical epics of the time, such as Spartacus. Inspired by the
success of Spartacus, there were a number of Italian peplums that
emphasized the gladiatorial arena fights in their plots, with it
becoming almost a peplum subgenre in itself; One group of supermen
known as "The Ten Gladiators" appeared in a trilogy, all three films
Dan Vadis in the lead role.
Fabiola (1948) a.k.a. The Fighting Gladiator
Invincible Gladiator, The (1961) Richard Harrison
Seven Rebel Gladiators
Seven Rebel Gladiators (1965) a.k.a. Seven Against All, starring Roger
Seven Slaves Against the World (1965) a.k.a. Seven Slaves Against
Rome, a.k.a. The Strongest Slaves in the World, starring Roger
Spartacus and the Ten Gladiators (1964) a.k.a. Ten Invincible
Gladiators, Dan Vadis
Ten Gladiators, The (1963) Dan Vadis
Triumph of the Ten Gladiators (1965) Dan Vadis
Ursus, the Rebel
Gladiator (1963) a.k.a. Rebel Gladiators, Dan Vadis
The Arena (also known as the Naked Warriors) is a 1974 gladiator
exploitation film, starring
Margaret Markov and Pam Grier, and
Steve Carver and an uncredited Joe D'Amato. Grier and
Markov portray female gladiators in ancient Rome, who have been
enslaved and must fight for their freedom.
Gladiator is a 2000
British-American epic historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott,
Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. Crowe portrays a
fictional Roman general who is reduced to slavery and then rises
through the ranks of the gladiatorial arena to avenge the murder of
his family. Amazons and Gladiators is a 2001 drama action adventure
film directed and written by Zachary Weintraub starring Patrick Bergin
and Jennifer Rubin.
Classical Civilisation portal
List of Roman amphitheatres
Military of ancient Rome
Slavery in ancient Rome
Sword and Sandal
Aztec gladiatorial sacrifice
^ Welch 2007, p. 17; Kyle 1998, p. 82.
^ Welch 2007, pp. 16–17. Nicolaus cites Posidonius's support
for a Celtic origin and Hermippus' for a Mantinean (therefore Greek)
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 4–7. Futrell is citing Livy, 9.40.17.
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 14–15.
^ Welch 2007, p. 11.
^ Welch 2007, p. 18; Futrell 2006, pp. 3–5.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 4; Potter & Mattingly 1999, p. 226.
^ Potter & Mattingly 1999, p. 226.
Paestum was colonized by
Rome in 273 BC.
^ Welch 2007, pp. 15, 18.
^ Welch 2007, pp. 18–19. Livy's account (summary 16) places
beast-hunts and gladiatorial munera within this single munus.
^ A single, later source describes the gladiator type involved as
Thracian. See Welch 2007, p. 19. Welch is citing Ausanius: Seneca
simply says they were "war captives".
^ Wiedemann 1992, p. 33; Kyle 1998, p. 2; Kyle 2007,
p. 273. Evidence of "Samnite" as an insult in earlier writings
Samnium is absorbed into the Republic.
^ Quoted in Futrell 2006, pp. 4–5.
^ Kyle 1998, p. 67 (Note #84). Livy's published works are often
embellished with illustrative rhetorical detail.
^ The velutes and later, the provocatores were exceptions, but as
"historicised" rather than contemporary Roman types. See Gladiator
^ Kyle 1998, pp. 80–81.
^ Welch 2007, p. 21. Welch is citing Livy, 23.30.15. The Aemilii
Lepidii were one of the most important families in
Rome at the time,
and probably owned a gladiator school (ludus).
^ a b Futrell 2006, pp. 8–9.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 30.
^ Livy, 39.46.2.
Silius Italicus quoted in Futrell 2006, pp. 4–5.
^ Welch 2007, p. 21.
^ Livy, Annal for the Year 174 BC (cited in Welch 2007, p. 21).
^ a b Wiedemann 1992, pp. 6–7. Wiedemann is citing Valerius
^ The games were always referred to in the plural, as ludi. Gladiator
schools were also known as ludi when plural; a single school was ludus
^ a b Lintott 2004, p. 183.
^ Mouritsen 2001, p. 97; Coleman 1990, p. 50.
^ Kyle 2007, p. 287; Mouritsen 2001, pp. 32, 109–111.
Approximately 12% of Rome's adult male population could actually vote;
but these were the wealthiest and most influential among ordinary
citizens, well worth cultivation by any politician.
^ Kyle 2007, p. 285.
^ Kyle 2007, p. 287; such as Caesar's Capua-based gladiators,
Rome as a private army to impress and overawe.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 24.
Gladiator gangs were used by Caesar and
others to overawe and "persuade".
^ Mouritsen 2001, p. 61. Gladiators could be enrolled to serve
noble households; some household slaves may have been raised and
trained for this.
^ Mouritsen 2001, p. 97. For more details see Plutarch's Julius
^ Kyle 2007, pp. 285–287. See also Pliny's Historia Naturalis,
^ Kyle 2007, pp. 280, 287
^ Wiedemann 1992, pp. 8–10.
^ Welch 2007, p. 21. Antiochus IV Epiphanes of Greece was keen to
upstage his Roman allies, but gladiators were becoming increasingly
expensive, and to save costs, all his were local volunteers.
^ Kyle 2007, p. 280. Kyle is citing Cicero's Lex Tullia Ambitu.
^ Richlin 1992, Shelby Brown, "Death as Decoration: Scenes of the
Arena on Roman Domestic Mosaics", p. 184.
^ Wiedemann 1992, p. 45. Wiedemann is citing Cassius Dio,
^ Prices in denarii cited in "Venationes," Encyclopaedia Romana.
^ Auguet 1994, p. 30. Augustus's games each involved an average
625 gladiator pairs.
^ Richlin 1992, Shelby Brown, "Death as Decoration: Scenes of the
Arena on Roman Domestic Mosaics", p. 181. Brown is citing Dio Cassius,
^ Futrell 2006, p. 48.
^ a b Kyle 1998, p. 80.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 43.
^ Wiedemann 1992, pp. 440–446.
^ Kyle 2007, p. 313
^ Josephus. The Jewish War, 6.418, 7.37–40; Kyle 1998, p. 93.
noxii were the most obnoxious of criminal categories in Roman law.
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 120–125.
^ Ludus meant both a game and a school — see entries 1 to 2.C,
at Lewis and Short (Perseus Project).
^ Futrell 2006, p. 124. See also Cassius Dio's accusation of
entrapment by informers to provide "arena slaves" under Claudius;
Futrell 2006, p. 103. "the best gladiators", Futrell citing
Petronius's Satyricon, 45.
^ a b Futrell 2006, p. 129. Futrell is citing Cassius Dio.
^ Suetonius. Lives, "Tiberius", 7.
^ Suetonius. Lives, "Nero", 30.
^ a b Futrell 2006, pp. 153–156.
^ Wiedemann 1992, p. 112; Jacobelli 2003, p. 17, citing
Cassius Dio, 62.3.1.
^ Jacobelli 2003, p. 17, citing Juvenal's Saturae, 1.22–1.23.
^ Jacobelli 2003, p. 18, citing Petronius's Satyricon, 45.7.
^ Jacobelli 2003, p. 18, citing Dio Cassius 67.8.4, Suetonius's
Domitianus 4.2, and Statius's Silvae 1.8.51–1.8.56: see also Brunet
^ a b Jacobelli 2003, p. 18; Potter 2010, p. 408.
^ Potter 2010, p. 408.
^ Potter 2010, p. 407.
^ Jacobelli 2003, p. 18, citing Dio Cassius 75.16.
^ Potter 2010, p. 407, citing Dio Cassius 75.16.1.
^ Barton 1993, p. 66.
^ Fox 2006, p. 576. Fox is citing Pliny.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 158.
^ Cassius Dio. Commodus, 73 (Epitome)
^ Gibbon & Womersley 2000, p. 118.
^ Cassius Dio. Commodus, 73 (Epitome).
Commodus was assassinated and
posthumously declared a public enemy but was later deified.
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 85, 101, 110. Based on fragmentary Pompeian
remains and citing of Pliny's Historia Naturalis, 19.23–25.
^ a b Coleman, Kathleen (17 February 2011). "Gladiators: Heroes of the
Roman Amphitheatre". BBC. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
^ Plutarch. Moral Essays, 1099B (fully cited in Futrell 2006,
pp. 86–87): "Even among the gladiators, I see those who...find
greater pleasure in freeing their slaves, and commending their wives
to their friends, than in satisfying their appetites."
^ a b Potter & Mattingly 1999, p. 313.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 86. Gladiatorial banquet on mosaic, El Djem.
^ Welch 2007, p. 23; Futrell 2006, p. 84.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 85. See pompa circensis for the similar
procession before games were held in the circus.
^ Sometimes beasts were simply exhibited, and left unharmed; see
Futrell 2006, p. 88.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 91.
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 94–95. Futrell is citing Seneca's On
^ Wisdom & McBride 2001, p. 18. Author's drawing.
^ Carter 2004, pp. 43, 46–49. In the Eastern provinces of the
later Empire the state archiereis combined the roles of editor,
Imperial cult priest and lanista, giving gladiatoria munera in which
the use of sharp weapons seems an exceptional honour.
Marcus Aurelius encouraged the use of blunted weapons: see Cassius
Dio's Roman History, 71.29.4.
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 99–100; Wiedemann 1992, p. 14.
^ Potter & Mattingly 1999, p. 313
^ Kyle 2007, pp. 313–314
^ Dunkle, Roger, Gladiators: Violence and Spectacle in Ancient Rome,
Routledge, 2013, pp. 69 - 71; Dunkle is discussing the use of a
suppositicius (a substitute used only at need, probably to prolong a
particular scheduled fight) and a tertiarius, citing Petronius for the
latter as offering a poor quality bout.
^ Dunkle, Roger, Gladiators: Violence and Spectacle in Ancient Rome,
Routledge, 2013, pp. 70 - 71
^ Fagan, Garrett (2011). The Lure of the Arena: Social Psychology and
the Crowd at the Roman Games. Pp. 217 - 218, 273, 277: Cambridge
University Press. ISBN 9780521196161.
^ Fagan, Garrett (2011). The Lure of the Arena: Social Psychology and
the Crowd at the Roman Games. Pp. 217 - 218, 273, 277: Cambridge
University Press. ISBN 9780521196161. Fagan speculates that
Nero was perversely defying the crowd's expectations, or perhaps
trying to please a different kind of crowd.
^ Though not always: the gladiator Diodorus blames "murderous Fate and
the cunning treachery of the summa rudis" for his death, not his own
error in not finishing off his opponent when he had the chance: see
Robert, Gladiateurs, no. 79 = SgO 11/02/01
^ Futrell 2006, p. 101; based on mosaics and a
^ The gravestones of several musicians and gladiators mention such
modulations; see Fagan, pp. 225 - 226, and footnotes.
^ Wiedemann 1992, pp. 15–16.
^ Wiedemann 1992, p. 15. Wiedemann is citing Kraus and von Matt's
Pompei and Herculaneum, New York, 1975, Fig. 53.
^ Martial. Liber de Spectaculis, 29.
^ Kyle 2007, p. 112. Kyle is citing Robert.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 101
^ Futrell 2006, p. 141.
^ M. J. Carter, "Gladiatorial Combat: The Rules of Engagement", The
Classical Journal, Vol. 102, No. 2 (Dec. – Jan., 2006/2007), p. 101.
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 144–145. Futrell is citing Suetonius's
Lives, "Augustus", 45, "Caligula", 30, "Claudius", 34.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 85. This is evidenced on a roughly inscribed
^ Futrell 2006, p. 101.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 102 (The evidence is on a stylised mosaic from
Symmachus; the spectators praise the editor for "doing the right
^ a b Barton, Carlin A. (1989). "The Scandal of the Arena".
Representations (27): pp. 27, 28, note 33.
doi:10.2307/2928482. CS1 maint: Extra text (link) (subscription
^ Suetonius. Lives, "Caligula", 30.3.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 140. Futrell is citing Cicero's Tuscullan
^ Wiedemann 1992, pp. 38–39.
^ Edwards 2007, pp. 66–67.
^ Curry 2008. Marks on the bones of several gladiators suggest a sword
thrust into the base of the throat and down towards the heart.
^ By Tertullian's time, Mercury was identified with Greek Hermes
psychopompos, who led souls into the underworld.
these events as examples of hollow impiety, in which Rome's false
deities are acceptably impersonated by low and murderous persons for
the purposes of human sacrifice and evil entertainment. See Kyle 1998,
^ Grossschmidt & Kanz 2006, pp. 207–216.
^ Kyle 1998, pp. 40, 155–168.
Dis Pater and Jupiter Latiaris
rituals in Tertullian's Ad Nationes, 1.10.47:
Tertullian describes the
offering of a fallen gladiator's blood to Jupiter Latiaris by an
officiating priest – a travesty of the offering of the blood of
martyrs – but places this within a munus (or a festival)
dedicated to Jupiter Latiaris; no such practice is otherwise recorded,
Tertullian may have mistaken or reinterpreted what he saw.
^ Kyle 1998, p. 14 (including note #74). Kyle contextualises
Juvenal's panem et circenses – bread and games as a sop to the
politically apathetic plebs (Satires, 4.10) – within an
account of the death and damnatio of Sejanus, whose body was torn to
pieces by the crowd and left unburied.
^ Suetonius. Lives, "Tiberius", 75. Suetonius has the populace wish
the same fate on Tiberius's body, a form of damnatio: to be thrown in
the Tiber, or left unburied, or "dragged with the hook".
^ Kyle 1998, pp. 128–159.
^ a b HOPE, VALERIE (January 2000). "FIGHTING FOR IDENTITY: THE
FUNERARY COMMEMORATION OF ITALIAN GLADIATORS*". Bulletin of the
Institute of Classical Studies. 44 (S73): 93–113.
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 133, 149–153. The single name form on a
gladiator memorial usually indicates a slave, two a freedman or
discharged auctoratus and, very rare among gladiators, three ("tria
nomina") a freedman or a full Roman citizen. See also vroma.org on
^ Dunkle, Roger, Gladiators: Violence and Spectacle in Ancient Rome,
Routledge, 2013, pp. 70 - 71
^ Futrell 2006, p. 149. Futrell is citing Robert, #12, #24, and
^ Nemesis, her devotees and her place in the Roman world are fully
discussed, with examples, in Hornum, Michael B., Nemesis, the Roman
state and the games, Brill, 1993.
^ Garrett G. Fagan, Gladiators, combatants at games, Oxford Classical
Dictionary online, Jul 2015 DOI:
10.1093/acrefore/9780199381135.013.2845: "This refusal to concede
honest defeat in the face of superior skill again speaks to
professional pride and a certain braggadocio that is still operative
today in combat sports." (accessed April 2, 2017
^ Futrell 2006, p. 149. Futrell is citing Robert, #34.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 145
^ Futrell 2006, p. 144
^ a b Futrell 2006, p. 144. Futrell is citing George Ville.
^ Junkelmann 2000, p. 145.
^ Hopkins & Beard 2005, pp. 92–94.
^ Kyle 2007, p. 238.
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 85, 149; Auguet 1994, p. 31.
^ Ulpian. Edict, Book 6; Futrell 2006, pp. 137–138. Futrell is
citing Digest, 184.108.40.206.
^ Cicero. Letters, 10.
^ Kyle 2007, pp. 285–287, 312. This had probably began under
^ Futrell 2006, p. 103. Futrell is citing Petronius's Satyricon,
^ Futrell 2006, p. 133. See also Tiberius's inducement to
^ a b Petronius. Satyricon, 117: "He vows to endure to be burned, to
be bound, to be beaten, and to be killed by the sword."
^ Futrell 2006, p. 138.
^ palus: named after the training poles, 6 Roman feet high, erected in
the training arena.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 137. Futrell is citing Quintilian's Oratorical
Institute, 5.13.54; Futrell 2006, p. 140. Futrell is citing
Cicero's Tuscullan Disputations, 2.17; Futrell 2006, p. 139.
Futrell is citing Epictetus's Discourse, 3.15.
^ Jones 1987, pp. 139–155. Facial stigmata represented extreme
^ Futrell 2006, p. 142. Futrell is citing Juvenal's Satire, 6
[Oxford Fragment 7.13], in the translation of Peter Green.
^ Welch 2007, p. 17. The burning alive of a soldier who refused
to become an auctoratus at a Spanish school in 43 BC is exceptional
only because he was a citizen, technically exempt from such compulsion
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 148–149.
^ Follain, John (15 December 2002). "The dying game: How did the
gladiators really live?". Times Online. Archived from the original on
29 April 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2009.
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 141–142; Carter 2004, pp. 41–68.
^ Borkowski & du Plessis 2005, p. 80.
^ Borkowski & du Plessis 2005.
Manumission was seldom absolute.
Terms of release were negotiated between master and slave; Digests
220.127.116.11–6 and 18.104.22.168–12.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 123. Futrell is citing Ulpian's 8th book of
Proconsular Functions, CMRL, 11.7.
^ Richlin 1992, Shelby Brown, "Death as Decoration: Scenes of the
Arena on Roman Domestic Mosaics", p. 185.
^ Borkowski & du Plessis 2005, Preface, p. 81.
^ Coleman 1990, p. 46.
^ Wiedemann 1992, pp. 40–46.
^ Apuleius. Metamorphoses, 4.13; Coleman 1990, p. 71; Richlin
1992, Shelby Brown, "Death as Decoration: Scenes of the Arena on Roman
Domestic Mosaics", p. 185.
^ Kyle 1998, p. 94. Survival and "promotion" would have been
extremely rare for damnati – and unheard of for noxii –
notwithstanding Aulus Gellius's moral tale of Androcles.
^ Richlin 1992, Shelby Brown, "Death as Decoration: Scenes of the
Arena on Roman Domestic Mosaics", p. 186.
^ D.38.1.38 pr in Borkowski & du Plessis 2005, p. 95.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 157.
^ Smith, William. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. London:
John Murray, 1875, "Roman Law – Infamia".
^ Futrell 2006, p. 131. Futrell is citing Tertullian's De
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 86–87. Futrell is citing Plutarch's Moral
^ Carter 2004, pp. 52–56.
^ Barton 1993, p. 25. Barton is citing Cassius Dio, 43.23.4–5;
Suetonius, in Caesar 39.1, adds the two Senators.
^ Barton 1993, p. 25. Barton is citing Cassius Dio, 56.25.7.
^ David Potter (trans.), "of
The Senatus Consultum from Larinium".
^ Under Caligula, participation by men and women of senatorial rank
may have been encouraged, and sometimes enforced; Cassius Dio, 59.10,
13–14 and Tacitus, Caligula, 15.32.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 153. Futrell is citing Cassius Dio, 62.17.3;
see Cassius Dio, 59.10.13–14 and Tacitus's Caligula, 15.32 for
Caligula's extraordinary behaviour as editor; Valentinian/Theodosius,
15.9.1; Symacchus, Relatio, 8.3.
^ Kyle 1998, pp. 115–116 (Note #102)
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 153, 156
^ harvnbBarton1993p=26 . Barton is citing Juvenal, 8.199ff.
^ Steven M. Cerutti and L. Richardson, Jr., "The
of Suetonius, Juvenal, and Petronius", The American Journal of
Philology, Vol. 110, No. 4 (Winter, 1989), pp. 589-594, The Johns
Hopkins University Press, available at JSTOR, DOI: 10.2307/295282,
Stable URL: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17
September 2017. Retrieved 15 September 2017. (accessed 14 March,
^ Plutarch. Caius Gracchus, 12.3–4.
^ Some Roman writers interpret the earliest attempts to provide
permanent venues as populist political graft, rightly blocked by the
Senate as morally objectionable; too-frequent, excessively "luxurious"
munera would corrode traditional Roman values. The provision of
permanent seating was thought a particularly objectionable luxury. See
Appian, The Civil Wars, 128; Livy, Perochiae, 48.
^ Mouritsen 2001, p. 82.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 136. Futrell is citing Martial's Epigrams,
^ Welch 2007, p. 197. Welch is citing CIL, X.852.
^ Potter & Mattingly 1999, p. 226. Potter and Mattingly are
citing Pliny the Elder, 36.117.
^ Potter & Mattingly 1999, p. 226 (see also Pliny's Natural
History, 36.113–5). The amphitheatre was commissioned by T.
Statilius Taurus. According to Pliny, its three storeys were
marble-clad, housed 3,000 bronze statues and seated 80,000 spectators.
It was probably wooden-framed in part.
^ Mattern 2002, pp. 151–152.
^ Richlin 1992, Shelby Brown, "Death As Decoration: Scenes of the
Arena on Roman Domestic Mosaics", pp. 184–185. Even emperors who
disliked munera were thus obliged to attend them.
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 37–42, 105.
^ a b c Kyle 1998, p. 3.
^ Suetonius. Lives, "Augustus", 44.
^ a b Futrell 2006, p. 105
^ Examples are in Martial's Epigrams 14, 213 and Suetonius's Caligula.
^ Also scutarii, scutularii, or secutoriani.
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 96,104-105.
^ Kyle 1998, p. 111.
^ Futrell 2006, pp. 107–108. See also Tacitus's Annals, 14.17.
^ Livy, 45.32–3.
^ Kyle 1998, p. 81. It was notably fulfilled and celebrated in
the battlefield devotio of two consular Decii; firstly by the father
and later by his son.
^ Edwards 2007, pp. 19–45; Livy, 22.51.5–8, has wounded
Romans at Cannae stretch out their necks for the death blow by
comrades: cf Cicero's death in Seneca's Suasoriae, 6.17.
^ Welch 2007, p. 17.
^ Livy, 22.55–57.
^ Barton 1993, p. 15; Kyle 2007, p. 274.
^ Wiedemann 1992, p. 45.
^ Mattern 2002, pp. 126–128. Mattern is citing Tacitus's
^ Mattern 2002, p. 87. Mattern is citing Cassius Dio, 72, 73.2.3.
^ Mattern 2002, p. 87.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 16. Futrell is citing Cicero's Letters to
^ Cicero's admiration: Tusculan Disputations, 2.41.
^ Barton 1993, p. 39. Barton is citing Seneca's Suasoriae, 6.17
for Cicero's death.
^ Kyle 2007, p. 273. For bustuarius, with reference to Clodius's
alleged impious disturbance at the funeral of Marius, see Cicero's In
Pisonem (Against Piso). See Bagnani 1956, p. 26, for the
bustuarius as a lower class of gladiator than one employed in the
public munus. Cicero's unflattering references to Marcus Antonius as
gladiator are in his 2nd Phillipic.
^ Silius Italicus, 11.51 (cited in Welch 2007, p. 3).
^ Richlin 1992, Shelby Brown, "Death As Decoration: Scenes of the
Arena on Roman Domestic Mosaics", p. 185. Tacitus, in Annals 15.44,
describes the public repugnance towards Nero's punishment of
Christians, which seemed based on his appetite for cruelty, rather
than a desire for the public good.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 4. Roman commentators associated munera with
Capua's proverbial luxury and excess.
^ Cassius Dio, 43.24.
^ Barton 1993, p. 16; Futrell 2006, p. 154. Futrell is
citing Lucian's Toxaris, 58–59.
^ Kyle 1998, p. 85. This should be considered scandalous and
noteworthy, rather than common.
^ Juvenal. Satires, 6.102ff.
^ Futrell 2006, p. 146. Futrell is citing Corpus Inscriptionum
Latinarum, 4.4342 and 4.4345.
^ Servius. Commentary on the "Aeneid" of Vergil, 10.519.
^ Tertullian. De Spectaculis, 22; Kyle 1998, p. 80. Bustuarius is
found in Tertullian's De Spectaculis, 11.
^ Terence. Hecyra, Prologue II.
^ Richlin 1992, Shelby Brown, "Death As Decoration: Scenes of the
Arena on Roman Domestic Mosaics", p. 181.
^ Welch 2007, p. 2.
^ Pliny. Natural History, 30.32 (cited in Welch 2007, p. 21.
^ Mattern 2002, pp. 130–131.
^ Auguet 1994, pp. 30, 32.
^ Tertullian. De Spectaculis, 22.
^ Saint Augustine, Confessions, 6.8.
^ Constantine, 9.18.1 and 15.12.1 (see also Edwards 2007,
^ Carter 2004, p. 43.
^ See Tertullian's Apologetics, 49.4 for Tertullian's condemnation of
officials who sought their own "glory" by sponsoring the martyrdom of
^ Kyle 1998, p. 78. Compared to "pagan" noxii, Christian deaths
in the arena would have been few.
^ Codex Theodosianus, 9.40.8 and 15.9.1; Symacchus. Relatio, 8.3.
^ Codex Theodosianus, 2.8.19 and 2.8.22.
^ Telemachus had personally stepped in to prevent the munus. See
Theoderet's Historia Ecclesiastica, 5.26.
^ Codex Justinianus, 3.12.9.
^ Alison E. Cooley and MGL Cooley, Pompeii, A Sourcebook, Routledge,
2004, p. 218.
^ Wiedemann 1992, pp. 11–12.
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