Roman Culture/Gladiators

In Ancient Rome, gladiatorial fights were a form of entertainment. These fights were housed in structures called amphitheaters. One of the most famous amphitheaters is called the Coliseum. Gladiators consisted of condemned criminals, slaves, prisoners-of-war, or volunteers that were bound by an oath. There were many types of gladiators. Some of these types were the Murmillo, the Thraex, the Hoplomachus, the Provocator, the Secutor, and the Retiarius. The gladiators were separated into these types by body type and the weapons they used. Some gladiators, like the Murmillo, used a sword and a shield and some, like the Retiarius, used nets. In rare occasions women would fight as gladiators. Dunkle says about female gladiators, “Aristocratic women and men fought as an entertainment for Nero in 63 AD. Domitian had women fight by torchlight and on another occasion had women fight with dwarves. Romans loved these exotic gladiatorial combats." [1]

The gladiatorial training was a serious business. The gladiators both lived and trained in gladiator schools. There were four major gladiator schools in Ancient Rome. The names of these schools were Magnus, Dacius, Gallicus, and Matutinus. These schools were run by a "Lanista", who was often an ex-gladiator. Later, these schools were taken over by the state. The gladiators were kept under lock and key when they were not training or fighting. Some of the ceilings in the schools were so low that the gladiators could only sit or lay down. The barracks were also very unclean. The foods gladiators often ate were very healthy, although gross.

Many gladiators were forced to learn the concept of death. When the gladiators were fighting, the emperor would give a Verso Pollice which was a twist of the thumb to tell the gladiators if he wanted the other to die or live. Most of the time the emperor would spare the gladiators’ lives, but when he sentenced them to death, the Gladiators would have to die honorably. The gladiatorial games were a major source of entertainment for the Roman people, and people from all over Rome would come to watch them fight.

EDIT: 12-10-11 Rojen: scanned for spelling and plagiarism. Work Cited

Dunkle, Roger. Gladiators: Violence and Spectacle In Ancient Rome. Great Britain: Pearson Education Limited, 2008. Print. Dunkle, Roger. "The Gladiator." Roman Gladiatorial Games. Web. 23 Nov. 2011.

Grant, Michael. Gladiators. Barnes & Noble, Inc, 1995. Print.

Meijer, Fik. The Gladiators: History's Most Deadly Sport. Netherlands: Atheneum- Polak & Van Gennep Amsterdam, 2003. Print.


  1. The Gladiator, by Dunkle, R.