Gladiators of Rome

By Bartek Sliwa

Gladiators were trained warriors who fought each other to the death to

entertain the Roman people. Most of these matches took place at a large

Amphitheater called the Colosseum. The majority of them were slaves who

were sold to gladiator schools where they were trained to become gladiators.

There they were put in different classes that determined what type of a

gladiator they would be. Even tough many of them became rich by winning

fights most died in the following matches and never enjoyed their new fame

and fortune.


Emperor Titus wanted to create more entertainment for the people of

Rome by providing more Amphitheaters and other public facilities. A huge

Amphitheater was built in the center of Rome called the Colosseum. It was

50 meters high, 86 meters long and 54meters long. It took over ten years to

construct and could house almost 50,000 spectators. Most of it is still

standing today. Many other amphitheaters were set up all over the empire

but none of them even compare to the Colosseum. It was opened on 80 A.D.

with emperor Titus there to begin the first games, which lasted 100 days.

Most emperors enjoyed gladiator matches and often attended them at the

Colosseum. They would be the President of the games and sometimes be the

final say in weather the loser is to be executed. A huge feast was held for the

gladiators. For many it was their last meal. The day would usually begin

with fights between animals or other activities. But the biggest attraction at

the Colosseum was the gladiator contests, where hundreds of men would die

every day for the amusement of the audience. Rome was a very violent

society and Gladiators became renowned through out the empire.

Gladiator School

The Gladiators schools were well equipped with trainers, doctors and

training equipment to keep the men fit. Most of them enjoyed their life at the

school and as a gladiator much better then when they were free, Because

they were kept comfortable, well fed and cloth and were able to leave the

school sometimes. Gladiators were placed under the control of their trainers.

They were all skilled warriors who spent most of their time with their trainer

getting ready for their next fight, which could very well be their last. The

trainers were often former gladiators them selves and passed the knowledge

of their experience down to their students. They were first taught the main

fighting skills and then the particular class of fighting which they were the

best at. Also they were taught navel warfare for when the Colosseum was

flooded with water and boats were brought in.

Types of Gladiators

Not all gladiators had the same weapons and armor. There were

different classes of gladiators based on size, strength and skill, which

determined his weaponry. The large, strong men were usually trained to

become Murmillo or Sammnite gladiators. The Murmillo was heavily

armored, carried a rectangular shield and a short sword. The Sammnite class

was very similar except that he carried a much larger shield. Then there was

the Retiarrii and Thracian gladiators who were usually smaller and lightly

armed. The Retiarrii had a net, trident and dagger, while the Thracian was

armed with a small round shield and a curved razor-sharp dagger. Most

matches were between fighters of different classes to add variety to the fight.

Such as a Sammnite would fight a Retiarrii, where the more lightly armed

Retiarrii would have more speed and agility. The heavily armed Sammnite

would be slower but more protected by his armor. There four the Sammnite

was better equipped for defense and the Retiarrii for attack. All of the

classes had advantages and disadvantages to their style but overall they were


Life of a Gladiator

Most gladiators were usually Slaves, criminals or prisoners of war

who had little choice in weather or not they wanted to be a gladiator. But

some of them were wealthy citizens of the Roman Empire who volunteered

to become a gladiator to gain fame. Very few of them lived to fight more

than two or three matches. When a gladiator won a match the emperor

would reward him with prizes of gold and silver. A poor slave gladiator

could suddenly become rich. If he won five fights in a row, he won wooden

sword called a "Rudis" which made him a free man. But many of them

didn't leave with their money because of the trill of winning and the thought

of more gold and silver made them want to fight again. As a gladiator

survived more fights he became more and more famous, much like famous

athletes are today. The gladiators really enjoy the fame and most decided to

stay and risk their live to maintain it. Most of them didn't live long enough

to enjoy their new fortune. Some men did chose freedom and to enjoy their

fortune, they often became trainers of the next generation a gladiators.

Gladiators were brave warriors who were willing to die for the

entertainment of the emperor and Roman people. Most of these matches

took place at a large Amphitheater called the Colosseum. Usually most of

them were slaves who were sold to gladiator schools where they were

trained to become gladiators. The size of the Gladiator determined what

class he would fall under. Even tough many of them became rich, most died

in the following fight. Basically by staying they exchanged their life for sort

lived fame and a small fortune they would never collect. When they retired

they would collect the wealth and freedom they had earned but they would

lose the fame. But if they stayed then the fame would be maintained as long

as they live but the fortune never used. For these brave men no amount of

freedom or fortune can replace being admired and respected by thousands.


Peter Amey: Pax Roma: Greenhaven Press, Inc: Copyright 1980: Great Britain

Anne Steel: A Roman Gladiator: Wayland Publishers: Copyright 1988: Belgium

Pierre Miquel: Life in Ancient Rome: Silver Burdett Company: copyright 1978: United States

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