Ancient Roman Gladiators: Romans entertained themselves with a variety of games of which the most famous was the gladiator fights. The gladiatorial fights were similar to the modern boxing.
Deaths during fights were common, and it was considered a natural consequence by the Romans.
Ancient Roman Gladiators
The word gladiator comes from gladius, the Latin word for a short sword. It was around 264 BC that the first gladiator contest of Rome took place as part of a funeral ritual. There were both professional and amateur fighters in ancient Rome.
Why did gladiators fight
Gladiators were generally recruited from criminals, slaves, and prisoners captured in war if they satisfy the physical abilities. But of course, there were people who were willing to be a part of the gladiator group and took to it as a profession. The gladiator contests took months to complete.
Most gladiators would not fight more than three or four times a year. The gladiator contests took months to complete. Different gladiators trained in different weapons. They fought in single pairs. But there were also teams and sponsors. There was a gladiatorial oath to be taken.
The profession brought the fighters wealth, fame and status. But the status of an ancient gladiator in Rome is often debated. Sometimes, they were regarded as lower as the slaves. But on the other hand, some gladiators were praised and rose to the status of a hero among the people.
A champion Gladiator could understandably become quite a heart-throb and be known as “Decus Puellarum” or “Suspirium Puellarum”
Maintaining and replacing a gladiator was not an easy task. There were special schools called Ludi to train the gladiators. There were four schools in the country, the largest was Ludus Magnus. One of the largest schools was in Ravenna.
Roman gladiators facts
There were amphitheaters where the gladiator fights would take place. Initially, the wealthy class organized gladiatorial combats in order to gain fame the organizer of the show was called the editor, or Moderator, or dominos. The people were to buy tickets and enjoy the show as we do in the theatres today. There were substitutes for gladiators if the required one did not turn up.
In a gladiator fight, if one was overpowered by the other, the winner would turn to his audience to ask what their opinion was. If the spectators showed a downward thumb, the defeated was not harmed any more, if otherwise, the defeated could even be killed by the opponent. Therefore, it was the crowd who decided whether he should be alive or not.
Employing as a gladiator often was a method of capital punishment. Sometimes prisoners of war were given an option of signing a contract as a gladiator. Gladiators often belonged to a troupe that traveled from town to town. There were also female gladiators.
Emperor Trajan organized as many as 5000 gladiator fighting pairs. Though these gladiatorial fights were outlawed by the Constantine I in 325 AD, it is said that they further continued until the mid 5th century.