Roman gladiators (2nd century)

Roman gladiators (2nd century)

Gladiators were combatants who entertained audiences in fights against each other or wild animals in ancient Roman arenas.



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The word ‘gladiator’ comes from the Latin word ‘gladius’ meaning sword. Gladiators were combatants who entertained audiences at public events in fights against each other or wild animals.

Gladiator fights originate from an Etruscan tradition: they fought over the graves of the deceased, as a part of the burial ceremonies. Gladiator combat was common in the Republican era, but the heyday of this cruel tradition was during the Roman Empire. Most gladiators were prisoners of war, slaves or volunteers, who fought for their lives in amphitheaters for the enjoyment of the spectators.

Gladiators were trained in gladiator schools. They were armed with various weapons. Rules of gladiator combat usually stated which types of gladiators could fight each other.

A Murmillo, who carried a large rectangular shield and short sword, usually fought a Thraex, wielding a small square shield and a short, curved blade.

Another popular type was the Retiarius, equipped with a fishnet and a three-pointed trident.

He usually fought a Secutor, who was only different from the Murmillo in his helmet: a Secutor only had two eye-holes in his helmet.

There were also some women among the gladiators, having appeared during the reign of the Emperor Nero.

Gladiator fights became an integral part of the history and culture of ancient Rome. The memory of this cruel and violent form of entertainment is preserved by the famous, or infamous, Colosseum in Rome, where thousands of people and animals were killed in the fights.

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