Gladiator dagger and greaves

Gladiator dagger and greaves

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A retiarius (plural retiarii literally, "net-man" in Latin) was a Roman gladiator who fought with equipment styled on that of a fisherman: a weighted net (rete (3rd decl.), hence the name), a three-pointed trident (fuscina or tridens), and a dagger (pugio). The retiarius was lightly armoured, wearing an arm guard (manica) and a shoulder guard (galerus). Typically, his clothing consisted only of a loincloth (subligaculum) held in place by a wide belt, or of a short tunic with light padding. He wore no head protection or footwear.

The retiarius was routinely pitted against a heavily-armed secutor. The net-fighter made up for his lack of protective gear by using his speed and agility to avoid his opponent's attacks and waiting for the opportunity to strike. He first tried to throw his net over his rival. If this succeeded, he attacked with his trident while his adversary was entangled. Another tactic was to ensnare his enemy's weapon in the net and pull it out of his grasp, leaving the opponent defenceless. Should the net miss or the secutor grab hold of it, the retiarius likely discarded the weapon, although he might try to collect it back for a second cast. Usually, the retiarius had to rely on his trident and dagger to finish the fight. The trident, as tall as a human being, permitted the gladiator to jab quickly and keep his distance. It was a strong weapon, capable of inflicting piercing wounds on an unprotected skull or limb. The dagger was the retiarius's final backup should the trident be lost. It was reserved for when close combat or a straight wrestling match had to settle the bout. In some battles, a single retiarius faced two secutores simultaneously. For these situations, the lightly armoured gladiator was placed on a raised platform and given a supply of stones with which to repel his pursuers.

Retiarii first appeared in the arena during the 1st century AD and had become standard attractions by the 2nd or 3rd century. The gladiator's lack of armour and his reliance on evasive tactics meant that many considered the retiarius the lowliest (and most effeminate) of the gladiators, an already stigmatised class. Passages from the works of Juvenal, Seneca, and Suetonius suggest that those retiarii who fought in tunics may have constituted an even more demeaned subtype (retiarii tunicati) who were not viewed as legitimate retiarii fighters but as arena clowns. Nevertheless, Roman artwork, graffiti, and grave markers include examples of specific net-men who apparently had reputations as skilled combatants and lovers.

Schools and Standing of the Gladiators

Gladiators did not fight in the Roman army, but after the Spartacus revolt in 73 BCE, some were professionally trained to perform in the arena. Training schools (called ludus gladiatorius) taught prospective gladiators. The schools—and the gladiators themselves—were owned by a lanista, who would lease the men out for upcoming gladiatorial events. If a gladiator was killed during the battle, the lease would convert to a sale and the price might be as high as 50 times the rent.

There were many types of gladiators in ancient Rome, and they were trained at the ludus by a specialist (doctores or magistrii) skilled in that form of fighting. Each type of gladiator had his own set of traditional weapons and armor. Some gladiators—like the Samnites—were named for opponents of the Romans other types of gladiators, like the Provacator and Secutor, took their names from their functions: challenger and pursuer. Often, certain types of gladiators fought only specific foes, because the best type of entertainment was thought to be an evenly matched pair with contrasting fighting styles.

Types of Gladiators

There were a range of different gladiators, who were matched carefully in traditional pairings. Some were rarer than others, like the essedarius , a type of gladiator who fought from a war chariot. Others, like the Thracians , were far more common. Unfortunately we’re not always that sure how some of the gladiators fought, because some like the scissor were so rare. And the types of gladiators changed over the years some early forms, like the Samnites , were dropped once the Roman people and the Samnites became allies.

The following inscription from near Rome and dating to 117 CE gives a record of different types of gladiators, organised into decuria, groups of ten men.

In the consulship of the Emperor Caesar Lucius Aurelius Commodus and Marcus Plautius Quintillus. The leaders of the collegium of Silvanus Aurelianus, overseers Marcus Hilarus, freedman of Augustus and Coelius Magnus the cryptarius.

Borysthenes, [1] veteran Thracian

Clonius, veteran hoplomachus

Callisthenes, veteran Thracian

Zosimus, veteran essedarius

Plution, veteran essedarius

Pertinax, veteran contraretiarius

Carpophorus, veteran murmillo

Crispinus, veteran murmillo

Pardus, veteran provocator

Felicianus, novice retiarius

Servandus, novice retiarius

Iuvenes, murmillio with one fight

Ripanus, novice contraretiarius

Silvanus, novice contraretiarius

Decuria III

Barosus, novice contraretiarius

Proshodus, novice contraretiarius

Zosimus Thracian with one fight…

This following inscription lists the members of a gladiatorial familia and was found in Venusia, a town in Southern Italy. Some of these gladiators, like the scissor, were incredibly rare.

Oceanus, slave of Avilius, novice.

Sagittarius : Dorus, slave of Pisius, 6 wins, 4 crowns

Veles: Mycter, slave of Ofilius, 2 wins

Hoplomachus: Phaeder, slave of Avilius, novice.

Thracians: Donatus, slave of Nerius, 12 wins, 8 crowns Hilario, Arrius’ slave, 7 wins, 5 crowns Aquilia, slave of Pisius, 12 wins, 6 crowns Quartio, slave of Munilius, 1 win Gaius Perpenius, novice

Murmillones: Amicus, slave of Munilius, 1 win Quintus Fabius, 5 wins, 3 crowns Eleuther, slave of Munilius, 1 win Gaius Memmius, 3 wins, 2 crowns Anteros, slave of Munilius, 2 wins Atlans, slave of Donius, 4 wins, 1 crown

Essedarius: Inclutus, Arrius’ slave, 5 wins, 2 crowns

Samnite: Strabo, slave of Donius, 3 wins, 2 crowns

Retiarius: Gaius Clodius, 2 wins

Scissor: Marius Caecilius, novice

Gallus: [4] Quintus Granius, novice

A Thracian (left) fights a murmillo (right) in a mosaic of the 3rd century CE from Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach, Germany.

In his Dream Book, an ancient guide on how to interpret dreams, Artemidorus gives a little information of the fighting style of the Thracian.

I have often observed that this dream [of fighting gladiators] indicates that a man will marry a woman whose character matches the weapons that he dreams he is using or the type of opponent he is fighting…For example, if a man fights a Thracian he will marry a rich, cunning wife, fond of being first. She will be rich because the Thracian’s body is covered all over by his armour cunning because his sword is curved, and fond of being first because the Thracian advances when he fights.

Artemidorus, Dream Book 2.32

Other types of gladiators: andabata and laquearius .

How many different types of gladiators did an average gladiatorial school have?. What does that mean about how many an audience would have expected to see at a show?

Bibliography and Further Reading

  • Coulston, J. C. N. 1998. Gladiators and soldiers: Personnel and equipment in ludus and castra. Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies 9:1–17
  • Carter, Michael. 2008. (Un)dressed to kill: Viewing the retiarius. In Roman dress and the fabrics of Roman culture. Edited by Jonathan Edmondson and Alison Keith, 113–135. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press
  • Kanz, Fabian, and Karl Grossschmidt. 2006. Head injuries of Roman gladiators. Forensic Science International 160:207–216

Media Attributions

  1. The single name indicates that the gladiator was a slave. &crarr
  2. A type of gladiator who tried to manacle his opponent. &crarr
  3. An unctor was someone who oiled up or provided oil for the gladiators. &crarr
  4. A type of gladiator based on Gallic soldiers. It did not survive the early imperial period, being replaced by the murmillo. &crarr

A gladiator who fought from a British style war chariot. This type may have been introduced by Julius Caesar after his ‘conquest’ of the island.

A type of gladiator who fought with a small shield (called a parmula) and a curved, short sword.

A very rare type of gladiator about which we know little.

One of the original types of gladiators, named after an Italian tribe that was once an enemy of the Romans when the Romans became friendly with them, this type vanished, to be replaced by the Thracian.

This is a stub and will be updated soon.

A “shield-fighter” the word is originally Greek. This gladiator carried a short round shield, a spear, and a dagger, which was adapted from Greek infantry equipment. He had a helmet and greaves as well.

A heavily armed gladiator whose helmet had a decorative murmillo, a type of salt-water fish, on it. He had a large oblong shield behind which he crouched and used a gladius, a short thrusting sword.

A net fighter, perhaps the most iconic gladiator type of all. His weapon was a trident and he tried to trap opponents in his net. He had very little protective equipment and wore no helmet.

A rare type of gladiator who fought with a bow and arrows. If you think this is not a terrifying type, then you’ve never heard of Katniss Everdeen.

A rare type of gladiator who fought blindfolded. On horseback. No one really knows how that worked, but one hopes the horses were well-trained.

Gladiator’s life

A man captured during the battle was taken prisoner and became as a house servant or laborer in a quarry. Being a servant, he did not have much chance of getting into the arena, as he was usually not good enough for it. On the other hand, strong and resilient men who could withstand hard work were being taken to the quarries. From time to time, a merchant (owner of gladiators) appeared in the quarries, who bought selected slaves and then put them in the arena.

In ancient Rome, there were special schools for the gladiators in which slaves were trained and cared for. Each of them received medical care, housing and food. They learned how to use the weapon properly, according to their specialization, but also to accept with the dignity of death. Every day, they trained blows on a 180 cm high palus, a wooden training pole. At the end of a few months of training there was a test, which was to judge whether the gladiator is ready to fight in the arena. To this end, he fought wooden swords on a platform with an armored rival. If the slave won, he became a gladiator and could represent his master in prestigious battles. If the gladiator had been lucky, he could have met a novice, but if he had not been so fortunate, his future would have been uncertain.

Gladiators’ fights were fought between the schools from which their came . Before the fight, they armed themselves with the equipment they used the most. It should be emphasized again that the death of any gladiator rarely occurred. Unless we talk about the games organized during Titus‘ (the son of Vespasian) reign. Titus, after the construction of the Colosseum, organized the games in honor of his father. At that time, no one was spared in the arena, of course, to the delight of the viewers.

Gladiators enjoyed enormous popularity and, therefore, and success among women. There were even situations where the sweat of Roman gladiators was sold in vials as an aphrodisiac!

The death of the protégé was a huge financial burden for the owner. He had to be replaced by a new, well-trained warrior, which unfortunately cost a fortune. Therefore, the gladiator’s life was in the hands of the most outstanding doctors. It is worth mentioning about Galen of Pergamon, later a personal physician of Marcus Aurelius. He worked in one of the gladiatorial schools in Asia Minor from the first half of the 2nd century. It is him who is credited with healing Commodus from the mysterious epidemic brought to Rome from the East by his uncle Verus.
According to the latest research, it was found that gladiators ate mainly chickpeas, peas, beans and lentils. Legumes were also a basic component of the diet of Roman soldiers, because, like today’s military pea soup, it is an easy-to-obtain food, a satisfying and cheap meal.

Before entering the arena, the gladiators were swearing (autocratusa) that they would not be spared in the fight. It is also a myth that before the fight, the gladiator paraded in front of the audience with his hand raised in a welcome gesture, reciting the quote “Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant!” (“Hail, Emperor, those who are about to die salute you”), Because this is confirmed by only one message from Suetonius. Fights did not last longer than a few minutes, though there were sometimes many hours of duels. Duels rook place mostly in the afternoon. The fight could not be avoided because passive gladiators were whipped or pricked with burning hot rods.

Among the fighters there was an referee (summa rudis) who supervised the fight and could stop it if any of the gladiators were seriously injured or used illegal “plays”, encourage gladiators to fight bolder or give the decision to win to the sponsor of the games (editor). The judges wore long sticks/rods (rudes) to indicate illegal movements or to urge fighters. They were dressed in white tunics with maroon trim (clavi). Additionally, there could be a second referee secunda rudis in the arena.

Fights, but not a slaughter!

The costs of training a warrior were huge. Gladiator training amounts to dozens of thousands of sestertii. Few schools would allow pointless fights in which dozens of gladiators would die. In addition, it should be emphasized that the doctor was often admitted to the arena to quickly heal the wounds. The doctor then assessed which gladiator could fight, and which one, after the wounds he suffered, was useless. Of course, the gladiators died. There are cemeteries of gladiators, but it was not so tragic as we are told by the literature , which has nothing to do with reality. Many gladiators received freedom after winning dozens of fights, and many Romans treated battles as an opportunity to make a good career and make money.

It is believed that the struggles between the gladiators were carried out according to certain rules. We do not know them much, but some are clear. For example, the Referee could announce a duel (diludium) if the shield or piece of armor broke or fell. Then the armored man could repair the damage. Summa rudis also had responsibilities. He gave loud advice and instructions regarding attack or defense. If the gladiator did not play a straight bat or avoided the fight, he the fight could have been stopped and the gladiator – whipped.

A defeated opponent could ask for mercy with raising a finger, to which the crowd observing the fight responded with their thumbs up (which meant giving life) or directing it down (death) – so-called pollice verso or verso pollice (literally “with a turned thumb”). However, this is a debatable matter, some scientists believe that they were pointing their thumbs down to give life, and to their throat when they wanted the gladiator to die. There is also another theory saying that the finger-pointing up after the gladiator’s defeat most likely did not mean giving life, but rather was a signal to kill him quickly as an evidence of mercy for a brave attitude. In turn, the thumb was directed towards the neck, which meant death with a sword in the neck, or actually in the back, to damage the cervical vertebrae and in this way cause the warrior’s quick death.

According to the current state of research, the hypothesis is most likely that a thumb pressed to the index finger (a hand curled into a fist) or a thumb hidden in a fist meant a request for grace , while a thumb protruding above a folded fist (the direction does not seem to matter) or an extended hand meant a deadly blow skillfully and cowardly he could not count on mercy. Enraged people shouted: “pierce him!” (lugula). At that time it was expected that the defeated, kneeling, would raise his head and wait for death in cold blood, as he was trained to. The winner made the blow with both hands, thrusting the sword in the back in the area of the left shoulder or in the heart, between the left collarbone and the neck. When the defeated could not continue fighting, he performed a following ritual: he threw the shield and the sword, kneeled on his knees, putting his hands on his back. In this position, he waited for mercy. Another gesture was throwing the weapon and kneeling before the winner with his head bowed, embracing his leg.

From the audience you could also hear the words: Mitte! (“Save it!”) Or Iugula!(“Kill!”).

If any of the fighters eventually died, two men entered the arena. One represented Mercury, the other one was Charon. The first hit his body with a hammer, and the other touched it with hot iron. The body was then carried to the dospoliarium, where it was stripped of armor and clothing. The corpse was thrown onto the wagon and together with other killed people were taken outside the city to mass graves. The winner received a palm, later also cash prizes, release from further participation in the battles, and even freedom . The fights ended usually in the evening. The Gladiators who won that day received the palm branches and cash prizes. The organizer received a kind of report – a list of gladiators with markings by their names. V (vicit) meant victory, P (perrit) death, and M (missus) meant defeat and pardon.

The weaker gladiators usually became the first to fight. They were displayed in pairs of several from each school. Then, exotic animals were used that fought between themselves or with gladiator (venationes). Especially desirable were huge Germanic aurochs, bears, African tigers, lions and panthers, which were imported from the most distant parts of the Empire. At the end there was a fight of the day, in which two best gladiators from two different schools met. Some gladiators were promoted, giving them easy – to – beat opponents, so – called. hares. In this way, fighting was set up.

Gladiators’ performances were also of a different nature. From the middle of the 1st century BCE the games often ended the fights of the andabates, scrabbling in helmets with a visor without holes for eyes. It gave their performances a comic character. Over time, gladiators were also used to entertain guests in private estates during feasts.

Before the proper fights of gladiators, so – called paegiarii who had the task of warming up the crowds before the battles of the evening. The warriors were armed with a wooden sword (rudis), and the body protected the imposed bands. Their fighting was accompanied by dulcimer, trumpet and so – called hydraulis – water organs. Paegiarii were extremely popular at the Olympics in the Colosseum during the reign of Commodus. These Gladiators did not die in the arenas.

During the breaks between the fights proper in the arena, paegniarius appeared, who was a clown dressed in parodies of gladiatorial armor. Often their shields were decorated with humorous or erotic patterns, while the armor was full of bizarre decorations. Their task was to entertain the crowd during breaks or during the gladiators’ preparation. It seems that most of them parodyed the fights between different types of gladiators and made all sorts of clowning. They also made harsh allusions about the current events in Rome and performed some scenes based on mythical events, such as the fight of cupids and satires.

Gladiators during their short lives could count on professional medical care of those who had great experience and knowledge after years of education. In addition, they were entitled to masseurs (unctor), often slaves who took care of the condition of the body. In their free time, warriors had the chance to go to term or satisfy their sexual desire. They did not have to look specifically for their chosen ones, because many wealthy women paid a lot, just to be able to spend an amazing night with a great gladiator. In Rome, among women, there was the ideal of a strong and courageous man who the gladiators perfectly impersonated.

More wealthy gladiators could even afford an epitaph to commemorate their lives. Forged in stone, a short inscription could not, of course, skip the balance of accomplishments: the number of fights fought or the laurels won. On the tombstone of a certain Urbicus who died in his thirteenth fight, there was engraved a piece of advice for his inexperienced colleagues: “I advise you to kill, those whom you have knocked down”.

Gladiators’ fights were an extremely popular entertainment among Romans and any attempts to prohibit the organization of fights led to social unrest. It is worth mentioning Julius Caesar, who instead of spending time together with the people watching fights, devoted himself to studying laws and protocols, which negatively affected his popularity. Some of the rulers were also reluctant towards the fights: Claudius and Marcus Aurelius, who, however, did not prohibit the organization of the games, afraid of the reaction of the crowd.

For comparison, huge fans of gladiatorial fights were, for example: Caligula, Nero and Commodus, where the latter loved to stand in the arena. Commodus fought in the arena with the gladiators, which he trickedly murdered. There is a message about the duel of the emperor with gladiator Sceva, who detected the emperor’s scheme. After this fact, the scared emperor did not take up the fight but dismissed the powerful gladiator.

Types of Roman gladiators:

Dressed in heavy chain mail and a helmet with a visor without holes for eyes.
He fought either on foot or horseback. They probably fought blindly, inflicting cuts and searching for a rival trying to hear his sounds. This type of gladiators was popular in the middle of the 1st century BCE and its main aim was to entertain the spectators. We know little about this category.

Equipped only with a dagger or a spear. He fought with wild animals (in fights called venatio), often suffering death.


The following list includes gladiators as typed by fighting style and equipment, general terms for gladiators, fighters associated with gladiatorial spectacles who were not strictly gladiators, and personnel associated with training or presentation.

Andabata Edit

A "blindfolded gladiator", or a "gladiator who fought blind". Cicero jokingly refers to andabata in a letter to his friend Trebatius Testa, who was stationed in Gaul. The passage associates the andabata loosely with essedarii, chariot fighters. [6] The word is extremely rare in classical sources, and of doubtful etymology Delamarre suggests it as a Latinised borrowing from Gaulish. [7]

Arbelas Edit

The arbelas as gladiator type is mentioned only in the Oneirocritica of Artemidorus, which discusses dream-symbols and their significance in dream interpretation. [8] It may be related to the Greek word arbelos (ἄρβηλος), a cobbler's semicircular blade used to cut leather. [8] [9] [10]

Bestiarius Edit

The bestiarius was a beast-fighter. See also Damnatio ad bestias.

Bustuarius Edit

Bustuarius was a "tomb fighter," from bustum, "tomb", a generalised reference to the association of gladiatorial combat with funeral games (munera). Servius notes that it had once been "the custom to put captives to death at the graves of strong men, which later seemed a bit cruel, so it was decided to have gladiators fight at the tombs." [11] Even among gladiators, it was an unflattering term: Cicero used it to liken the morals of his enemy Clodius to those of the very lowest gladiator class. [12]

Cestus Edit

The cestus was a fist-fighter or boxer who wore the cestus, a heavy-duty type of knuckleduster, but otherwise had no armour. [13]

Crupellarii Edit

The Roman historian Tacitus describes a Gaulish contingent of trainee, slave gladiators as crupellarii, equipped "after the national fashion" of Gallia Lugdunensis under Julius Sacrovir, during the Aeduian revolt of AD 21 against Rome. Tacitus has them "encased in the continuous shell of iron usual in the country", labouring under its weight, unable to fight effectively, rapidly tiring and soon dispatched by regular Roman troops. Tacitus' source could refer to a heavily armoured Roman "Gallus" type, which by Tacitus' own time had been developed and renamed as the murmillo. [14]

Dimachaerus Edit

The dimachaerus (Greek διμάχαιρος, "bearing two knives") used a sword in each hand. [15]

Eques Edit

Eques, plural equites, was the regular Latin word for a horseman or cavalryman. Early forms of the eques gladiator were lightly armed, with sword or spear. They had scale armour a medium-sized round cavalry shield (parma equestris) and a brimmed helmet with two decorative feathers and no crest. Later forms also had greaves to protect their legs, a manica on their right arm and sleeveless, belted tunics. Generally, they fought only other equites. [16]

Essedarius Edit

The essedarius (from the Latin word for a Celtic war-chariot, essedum) was likely first brought to Rome from Britain by Julius Caesar. Essedarii appear as arena-fighters in many inscriptions after the 1st century AD. No pictorial representations exist. [15] The essedarius fought from a chariot.

Gallus Edit

Literally a "Gaul" either a prisoner of war, as in the earliest forms of munus, or else a gladiator equipped with Gaulish arms and armour, who fought in what Romans would have recognised as a "Gaulish style". Probably a heavyweight, and heavily armoured, the Gallus seems to have been replaced by, or perhaps transformed into, the murmillo, soon after Gaul's absorption as a Roman province.

Gladiatrix Edit

A modern term, referring to a female gladiator of any type. They were very rare and their existence is poorly documented.

Hoplomachus Edit

The hoplomachus (Greek for "armed fighter") wore quilted, trouser-like leg wrappings, loincloth, a belt, a pair of long shin-guards or greaves, an arm guard (manica) on the sword-arm, and a brimmed helmet that could be adorned with a plume of feathers on top and a single feather on each side. He was equipped with a gladius and a very small, round shield. He also carried a spear, which the gladiator would have to cast before closing for hand-to-hand combat. The hoplomachi were paired against the myrmillones or Thraeces. They may have developed out of the earlier '"Samnite" type after it became impolitic to use the names of now-allied peoples. [17]

Laquearius Edit

The laquearius was a kind of retiarius who tried to catch his adversaries with a lasso (laqueus) instead of a net. He was equipped also with a dagger for use once he snared his opponent. [15]

Murmillo Edit

The murmillo (plural murmillones) or myrmillo wore a helmet with a stylised fish on the crest (the mormylos or sea fish), as well as an arm guard (manica), a loincloth and belt, a gaiter on his right leg, thick wrappings covering the tops of his feet, and a very short greave with an indentation for the padding at the top of the feet. They are heavily armoured gladiators: the murmillo carried a gladius (64–81 cm long) and a tall, oblong shield in the legionary style. Murmillones were typically paired with a Thracian opponent, but occasionally with the similar hoplomachus. [18]

Parmularius Edit

A parmularius (pl parmularii) was any gladiator who carried a parmula (small shield), in contrast to a scutarius, who bore a larger shield (scutum). To compensate for this reduced protection, parmularii were usually equipped with two greaves, rather than the single greave of a scutarius. The thraex would have been named as parmularii. [19] [20]

Provocator Edit

In the late Republican and early Imperial era, the armament of a provocator ("challenger") mirrored legionary armature. In the later Imperial period, their armament ceased to reflect its military origins, and changes in armament followed changes in arena fashion only. Provocatores have been shown wearing a loincloth, a belt, a long greave on the left leg, a manica on the lower right arm, and a visored helmet without brim or crest, but with a feather on each side. They were the only gladiators protected by a breastplate (cardiophylax) which is usually rectangular, later often crescent-shaped. They fought with a tall, rectangular shield and the gladius. They were paired only against other provocatores. [21]

Retiarius Edit

The retiarius ("net fighter") developed in the early Augustan period. He carried a trident and a net, equipment styled on that of a fisherman. The retiarius wore a loincloth held in place by a wide belt and a larger arm guard (manica) extending to the shoulder and left side of the chest. He fought without the protection of a helmet. Occasionally a metal shoulder shield (galerus) was added to protect the neck and lower face. A tombstone found in Romania shows a retiarius holding a dagger with four spikes (each at the corner of a square guard) instead of the usual bladed dagger. A variation to the normal combat was a retiarius facing two secutores at the same time. The retiarus stood on a bridge or raised platform with stairs and had a pile of fist-sized stones to throw at his adversaries. While the retiarius tried to keep them at bay, the secutores tried to scale the structure to attack him. The platform, called a pons (bridge), may have been constructed over water. [22] Retiarii usually fought secutores but sometimes fought myrmillones. [23] There was an effeminate class of gladiator who fought as a retiarius tunicatus. They wore tunics to distinguish them from the usual retiarius, and were looked on as a social class even lower than infamia. [24] [25]

Rudiarius Edit

A gladiator who had earned his freedom received a wooden sword (a rudis) or perhaps a wooden rod (another meaning of the word rudis, which was a "slender stick" used as a practice staff/sword). A wooden sword is widely assumed, however, Cicero in a letter speaks of a gladiator being awarded a rod in a context that suggests the latter: Tam bonus gladiator, rudem tam cito accepisti? (Being so good a gladiator, have you so quickly accepted the rod?) If he chose to remain a gladiator, he was called a rudiarius. These were very popular with the public as they were experienced. Not all rudiarii continued to fight there was a hierarchy of rudiarii that included trainers, helpers, referees, and fighters. [26] [27]

Sagittarius Edit

The sagittarius was a mounted archer, armed with a reflex bow capable of propelling an arrow a great distance.

Samnite Edit

The Samnite was an early type of heavily armed fighter that disappeared in the early imperial period. The Samnites were a powerful league of Italic tribes in Campania with whom the Romans fought three major wars between 326 and 291 BC. A "Samnite" gladiator was armed with a long rectangular shield (scutum), a plumed helmet, a short sword, and probably a greave on his left leg. It was frequently said that Samnites were the lucky ones since they got large shields and good swords. [28]

Scissor Edit

The scissor (plural scissores) used a special short sword with two blades that looked like a pair of open scissors without a hinge. German historian and experimental archeologist Marcus Junkelmann has suggested that this type of gladiator fought using a weapon consisting of a hardened steel tube that encased the gladiator's entire forearm, with the hand end capped off and a semicircular blade attached to it. [29]

Scutarius Edit

A scutarius was any gladiator who used a large shield (scutum), as opposed to any gladiator who used a small shield (parmularius). A murmillo or a secutor would be a scutarius the additional protection or advantage afforded by the large shield was typically offset by the use of only one short greave, in contrast to the two greaves of a parmularius.

Secutor Edit

The secutor ("pursuer") developed to fight the retiarius. As a variant of the murmillo, he wore the same armour and weapons, including the tall rectangular shield and the gladius. The helmet of the secutor, however, covered the entire face with the exception of two small eye-holes in order to protect his face from the thin prongs of the trident of his opponent. The helmet was also round and smooth so that the retiarius net could not get a grip on it. [30]

Thraex Edit

The Thraex (plural Thraeces, "Thracians") wore the same protective armour as the hoplomachi with a broad rimmed helmet that enclosed the entire head, distinguished by a stylized griffin on the protome or front of the crest (the griffin was the companion of the avenging goddess Nemesis), a small round or square-shaped shield (parmula), and two thigh-length greaves. His weapon was the Thracian curved sword (sica or falx, c. 34 cm or 13 in long). They were introduced as replacements for the Gauls after Gaul made peace with Rome. They commonly fought myrmillones or hoplomachi. [31]

Veles Edit

There's limited information, but it's believed the veles (pl. velites, "skirmishers") fought on foot, each holding a spear with an attached thong for throwing. Named for the early and similarly armed Republican army units of the same name. [32] [33] [34] [35]


Objects | A Day in Pompeii

Decorated shield, Bronze and silver, Quadriporticus of the Theatres, Pompeii. A hoplomachus gladiator fought with a spear, a long dagger and a small shield like this one. Encircled by laurel wreaths for victory, the medallion in the centre bears the head of the legendary Gorgon, Medusa, whose look is said to have turned men into stone. SAP No: 5669 Decorated shield Source: © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli.

Gladiator dagger and greaves - History

All of our functional Medieval Armours you can choose which type of steel you would like it made from and can be made in different gauges of steel. All our Medieval Armor are fully functional and are adjustable for a comfortable fit. We have a variety of options that you can choose from to design your Medieval Armours.

This page highlights full medieval armor wearable. All the medieval armor are handmade in Italy and each armor sets up in minutes on its own wood base. Our medieval replica armor follow original designs very closely of the museums. Each Medieval armor comes complete with stand on its own wood base as show.

The Functional Armour during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance have undergone many changes, because in the Middle Ages the art of making medieval battle ready Armour was highly developed, the various knights and nobles of the time had developed his own style in the armor, as if they participate in a competition well as military also style. And it is for this reason that in the section medieval armor is so large and full of different styles. This armours is produced in Italy, faithful to the ancient artisan tradition of Italian gunsmiths, from the Middle Ages that has been passed down from generation to generation and has come down to us.

This page highlights medieval armor decorative. All the medieval armor are handmade in Italy or Spain and each armor sets up in minutes on its own wood base.

Each Medieval armor comes complete with stand on its own wood base as show.

A Functional Cuirass and breastplate is a device worn over the torso to protect it from injury. All of our functional Cuirasses and breastplate, you can choose which type of steel you would like it made from.

The Cuirass refer to the complete torso-protecting armour.

The Breastplate is the front portion of plate armour covering the torso

The breastplate is the front portion of plate armour covering the torso, in ancient times was usually made of leather, bronze or iron in antiquity.

Around 1000 AD knights of the period were wearing mail in the form of a hauberk over a padded tunic.

During the 13th century, Plates protecting the torso, plates directly attached to a knightly garment known as the surcoat. True breastplates reappear in Europe in 1340 first composed of wrought iron and later of steel.

Around 1400, these early breastplates only covered the upper torso with the lower torso not being protected by plate until the development of the Fauld (Faulds) are a piece of plate armour worn below a breastplate to protect the waist and hips. They take the form of bands of metal surrounding both legs, potentially surrounding the entire hips in a form similar to a skirt.

Around 1450, the breastplate had expanded to cover the entire torso and could consist of one or two plates: the French term pancier, which became English pauncher and German panzer.

Components of medieval armour - protection of the torso: Breastplate, Brigandine, Cuirass, Culet, Pauncer, Plackart, Fauld, Hauberk.

All of our functional Medieval Protection of the arms, you can choose which type of steel you would like it made from and can be made in different gauges of steel. All our steel Arm Armour are fully functional and are adjustable for a comfortable fit.

Spaulders are pieces of armour in a harness of plate armour, they are steel covering the shoulder with bands (lames) joined by straps of leather or rivets.

Pauldrons cover the shoulder area, tend to be larger than spaulders, covering the armpit and parts of the back and chest. A pauldron typically consists of a single large dome-shaped piece to cover the shoulder (the "cop") with multiple lames attached to it to defend the arm and upper shoulder. On some suits of armour, especially those of Italian design, the pauldrons would usually be asymmetrical, with one pauldron covering less (for mobility) and sporting a cut-away to make room for a lance rest.

The usage of a lance rest can be more readily gleaned by looking at the French term "arrêt", or "arrest". The lance rest was not used to simply hold the weight of the lance, as the English name might suggest, but to arrest the rearward movement of the weapon.

All of our functional Medieval Protection of the Legs, you can choose which type of steel you would like it made from and can be made in different gauges of steel. All our steel Leg Armour are fully functional and are adjustable for a comfortable fit.

Poleyn - Plate that covers the knee, often with fins or rondel to cover gaps.
Schynbald - Plate that covered only the shins, not the whole lower leg.
Cuisse - Plate that cover the thighs, made of various materials depending upon period.
Sabaton or Solleret - Covers the foot, often mail or plate.
Tasset or Tuille - Bands hanging from faulds or breastplate to protect the upper legs.

These wearable functional Medieval Gauntlets are fully articulated plate armour. You can choose the size, color, steel and gauge thickness. Functional gauntlets with an extended cuff covering part of the forearm. We have a variety of options that you can choose from to design your gauntlets.

Chainmail is a type of armour consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh.

With these rings may form different types of armor: an aventail or camail is a flexible curtain of mail attached to the skull of a helmet that extends to cover the throat, neck and shoulders. Part or all of the face, with spaces to allow vision, could also be covered. Butted Mild Steel, Butted Spring Steel, Round Rings Riveted, Flatring Round Rivets, Flatring Wedge Rivets, Light mail, Roman mail

Gorgets, Bevors, Collins and Chainmail Médiéval, collar designed to protect the throat, a set of pieces of plate armour, or a single piece of plate armour hanging from the neck and covering the throat and chest.

Reproduction medieval shields of iron and wood for historical re-enactment of medieval and exposure. Heraldic shields and almond scapezzati, and also the famous wheels of war with battle scenes engraved with a burin or etching. Battle shields, armor shields to be used with armor, medieval, Shields, cross and shield, Templar shields, medieval shields.

List of the helmets in production: Cervelliere, Spangenhelm, Nasal helmet, Bascinet, Barbute, Close helmet, Combat helmet, Great helm, Coppergate Helmet, Coventry Sallet, Frog-mouth helm, Horned helmet, Kettle hat, Visor (armor).

The Medieval helmet of the ninth and tenth century do not differ substantially from those of the Romans. Typical of this period is the Cervelliere Helmet. Towards the end of the 12th century. He begins the dualism between Bascinet, which is linked to the helmet Cervelliera and from which derive the following helmets to war, and the real combat helmet, which will develop the helmets knight tournament, and parade. In the 13th century. helmet became more closed and eventually cover the entire scalp characteristic is the helmet cylinder-conical holes for breathing, with one or two horizontal slits for the eyes. In the 14th century. the helmet is developing increasingly perfecting the defensive point of view often with the addition of the Cervelliere chainmail was reinforced, which grew into Barbute Bascinet was added to the visor, it is particularly heavy helmets used in the most brutal fighting. This page highlights medieval helmets wearables. Our medieval replica helmet follow original designs very closely of the museums.

reproductions of medieval helmets looks like it came out of a museum.

- Medieval Helmets - SALLETS HELMETS
- Elmi Medievali - Elmo Celata o Bigoncia
- Casques Médiévaux - Casques Salade
- Helme Ritterhelme - Schaller Helme

A cervelliere is a helmet hemispherical, close-fitting skull cap of steel, It was worn as a helmet during the medieval period.

Gladiators: Origins, Armour, Fights, Techniques

  • Invented architecture primarily for these combats
  • Amphi- going all the way around the theatre in the round
  • Coliseum- colossal
  • Performance space with people sitting all around is a Roman invention
  • Arena= sand (that’s what you needed to soak up the blood)
  • 45m x 20m (performance space)
  • 200x 150m
  • 9 storeys tall
  • Equipped with actual retractable roofs (rolled down curtains)- took a team of a thousand sailors (each strip was a different colour)- first retractable roof
  • Coliseum could sit 45,000 people

o Incredibly easy to get in and out- can evacuate within 5 minutes- so many exits

o Senators didn’t trust large groups of people so when they built things they wanted to be able to get people out of there- get in and get out (didn’t want them trapped together for any amount of time)

  • No one ever paid to go in you got a token and it had printed on it your section, row, seat number and then you would find it and at the end of the show you had to dump your token
  • Trick was finding someone well connected to get you a token
  • Trickles down to the masses- I give my friend some, he gives his clients some etc
  • At the top it used to be standing seats but wooden seats were put in (the rest was marble)
  • Seating wasn’t according to how much you paid, but your rank in society
  • Senators up front, then the aristocrats, lower classes, women and female slaves, and then later it became mixed up there (bottom top- top seats were the worst)
  • Seating was hierarchical
  • Nets at the front to protect them from animals
  • Underneath had an underground tunnels throughout the entire structure
  • Passageways, cells for holding gladiators, scenery
  • Main corridor that runs along the main axis and it runs outside (hypogeum)- connected to the training ground where the gladiators worked out and lived
  • On the day of the performance, no one would see them- travel underground through the hypogeum
  • Trapdoors
  • Cranks to open the doors
  • Engineering cranks that could lift up a catapult

Editor: pays for everything rents the armour, gladiator, pays for the animals it was a competition with other aristocrats to have this opportunity you were competing against the guy who ran the last games as well as against others who wanted to host the games
Games were funded by wealthy people and then eventually the emperor

Advertising: bring back animals from wars the evening before the gladiatorial combat kicks off, you have a banquet for the gladiators so everyone can go and see them

Roman Gladiator Armour

The valor, bravery, and toughness of Roman gladiators have intrigued and captivated the minds of generations. The Roman armour of the gladiators have come to not only be a popular kid&rsquos costume but has become the icon of the Ancient Roman military.

Over the decades the lure of gladiators has increased due to books, movies and plays that feature them. With their popularity, the ancient Roman armour worn by gladiators have become popular for both kids and adults to wear to costume parties as well as by play and movie actors. Authentic, traditional Roman gladiator armour, however, is not easily replicated. Many cheap knock-offs are sold and used in historical re-enactments, plays and movies. To the untrained eye, these non-authentic pieces of armour can look impressive. Real history enthusiasts, especially those of Ancient Rome and its gladiators will be quick to spot the fakeness of knock-off gladiator armour. The inaccurate gladiator armour also disrespects the history of the gladiator profession.

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We also have a variety of Medieval armour available for those interested in more modern history. Contact us to learn more about our inventory.


Gladiator: professional (or slave) fighter who engaged in combat in a Roman amphitheater.

Gladiator – nearly everybody has heard this word before and thinks they know what a gladiator is. But very often people have gained their knowledge only from Hollywood movies or TV series. These shed a totally wrong light on the gladiators and their lives. Indeed, we have a very good knowledge about the gladiators from artefacts, e.g. gravestones with inscriptions about their victories, fan articles like oil lamps, literature, and from excavations of amphitheaters and gladiator schools.


For a long time it was assumed that gladiatorial games came from the Etruscans. Depictions from Etruria do not show fights man against man though. Instead, they show fights of animals against men or even executions by animals like the Phersu game. Here, the convict is covered by a bag and attacked by a vicious dog.

/> Ritual fight on a wall painting from Paestum

Executions of noxii (condemned criminals) were indeed part of a munus (show) after the reform of emperor Augustus, where they took part at noon time. The beast fights (i.e, beast against beast or against a professional beast fighter, venator) took place in the morning. The highlight was the gladiator fights in the afternoon, in which trained professionals fought against each other in duels. Only very rarely did they fought in mass fights, the so called gregatim.

The first recorded gladiatorial combat took place in 264 BC at the funeral of Decimus Junius Brutus Pera, where three pairs fought against each other. In Paestum in Southern Italy, painted sarcophagi of rich, noble Lucanians have been found, which show ritual fights of two combatants, of which some show wounds. These could be assumed as predecessors to gladiatorial combat, although these combatants seem to be noble warriors fighting for the honor of their deceased chieftain, whereas the bustuarii at the funeral of Decimus Junius Brutus Pera were prisoners of war. Proposedly, the fights of the Lucanians were only until the first wound, while the three pairs in Rome had to fight to the death.

In the years to come the number of pairs increased, and since the fights became very popular among the people of Rome, the nobility used them to raise their popularity especially when running for office. That is why the fights became more and more detached from the actual funeral. Julius Caesar hosted a gladiatorial show in honor of his father and aunt, who both had died five years earlier. At this time he was candidate for the office of aedile.

Augustus reformed the gladiatura, and from his time on it was either the emperor who was allowed to host a munus, or a magistrate in a provincial town who was requested to do so by law. It was also during Augustus’ reign that a senatorial decree stated that Roman citizens should not appear publicly in the arena under a certain age. It was also disgraceful for the senatorial and equestrian classes to do so, since fighting for money as a gladiator was considered as infamis (dishonorable). This meant you lost your rights as a citizen to vote, run for office, and serve in the legions. Poor citizens did not care for these rights, and therefore the gladiatura attracted auctorati (volunteers) from the lower classes.

Gladiator Types

Augustus also reformed the types of gladiators. The first known gladiator types were derived from conquered peoples like the gallus resembling a Gaul and the samnis a Samnite from Southern Italy. Unfortunately, not much is known about these, since we do not have depictions which clearly identify them.

Better known is the murmillo, whose armatura was also derived from South-Italian peoples and who could be a successor to the samnis. The murmillo was equipped with a large scutum (big rectangular shield) similar to that of Roman legionaries. Because of the size of his shield, only a small greave on the left leg was necessary. He fought with a short sword or gladius. Most impressive was his helmet with a high angled crest. Some scholars assume that his name comes from a type of fish, but applied depictions of fish have never been found on helmets of murmillones.

Sirmium, Tile with a retiarius

Ephesus, Theater decoration, Murmillo

Ephesus, Theater decoration, Hoplomachus

Thyatira, Relief of a gladiator (thraex)

The armatura of the thraex was derived from the Thracians, a people coming from what is now Bulgaria. Their panoply was modified for fighting in the arena, e.g. the curved sica (a dagger-like sword) became angled. The thraex had a small rectangular shield and two high greaves to give him proper protection. The crest of his helmet was decorated with a griffin, a mythological animal associated with Thrace.

Another one of the older types of gladiators is the provocator. He was equipped with scutum and a gladius. He is the only gladiator type who wears breast protection. With this equipment he resembles a Roman legionary. The hoplomachus looked like a version of the Greek hoplite fighting with round shield and hasta (spear). Like the thraex he also had two high greaves.

/> Relief of a retiarius and a secutor (from Cibyra)

In the mid-first century CE, the strangest gladiator appeared, and soon became highly popular: the retiarius. He was the only gladiator fighting without a helmet and was equipped with net, trident, and pugio. His only armor was a shoulder guard, the galerus. He was paired against the murmillo, but it was soon discovered that the net got entangled easily in the crest of the murmillo’s helmet. So a new shape of helmet was developed. This specialized murmillo was named secutor. The net was not just a gimmick. Properly thrown it could make it hard for the secutor to move his shield and wield his sword.

Equites were gladiators, who opened the munus in the afternoon by beginning the fight on horseback. After a while they dismounted to continue the combat on foot. They were equipped with a leather parmula (small round shield).

Another gladiator was the essedarius, who may have entered the arena in a chariot because his name is derived from essedus (chariot). However, there is no existing depiction of a gladiator on a chariot. There is also a debate among scholars how he was equipped.

/> Statuette of a gladiator from Emona

There were even more unusual gladiator types, e.g. the dimachaerus meaning “two-sword-man”. An inscription in Pompeii announced a fight between dimachaerus and hoplomachus. Reliefs dating to the third and fourth centuries found in Asia Minor (nowadays Turkey) show a fighter holding two swords, but because one of them is behind his head, it is not clear whether he holds a sica (like the one in the other hand) or a straight gladius.

Female Gladiators

There is evidence that women fought as gladiators. The famous relief of Amazon and Achillia from Halicarnassus (today’s Bodrum in Turkey) is now on display at the British Museum in London. It shows two female fighters in the kit of provocatores.

Roman writer Petronius mentions an essedaria and there is literary evidence of venatrices (animal fighters) as well as legal texts forbidding high class women of a certain age to fight in the arena. Therefore we can assume that women could have fought in all classes of gladiators and that their combats were as serious as the men’s.

Daily Life of a Gladiator

Before a gladiator could appear publicly in the arena he had to get proper training. Although the majority of them were slaves or prisoners of war they were well cared for: they were fed, had a roof above their head, and even received medical treatment. These circumstances might also have attracted volunteers, because many poor citizens could not be sure about the next meal or accommodation, not to mention medical treatment.

The ludus (gladiator school) was run by a lanista (gladiatorial manager). He most probably hired former gladiators as trainers, called magistri or doctores. The gladiators received specialized training in their classes, but also general training like weight lifting.

The most basic training was against the palus. This was a post two meters high, against which the trainee had to thrust his sword and shield. This exercise built up a gladiator's stamina, but also taught the newbie to get a feeling for the correct measure.

The gladiators received three meals per day: as main course puls (a type of mash) made out of barley. This gave them the nickname hordearii (barley eaters). Four pegs found on some of the walls of the cells of the ludus in Pompeii led to the conclusion that four men must have been housed in one cell instead of two. They would have easily fit into one cell because bunk beds were already known to the Romans. After harsh training days, the gladiators could enjoy a hot steam bath and a massage.

The lanista rented out his gladiators to an editor of a munus (organizer of games) since the maintenance of a ludus was costly. The more often a gladiator fought and the more popular he got, the more money the lanista could get as rent for him. The lanista demanded a reimbursement for every dead gladiator as compensation for the costs for training and accommodation.

Ancyra, Tombstone of a gladiator

Rabat, Figurine of a gladiator

Oil lamp with a gladiator

The Venue

The first gladiator fights of the so-called bustuarii took place next to the funeral pyre, which was called bustum. Soon after, the presentation of the combats was detached from the actual funeral, and hence took place at some more prominent places, e.g. the Forum Boarium (cattle market) in Rome or later at the Forum Romanum itself.

The fights became more and more popular, and candidates running for office used them to boast their popularity. Temporary wooden stands were erected to house the growing number of specatators. The first stone amphitheater was erected in 30 BC by T. Statilius Taurus on the Campus Martius (Field of Mars). Unfortunately, no traces of it remain, so it can only be assumed what it might have looked like. Suetonius mentions this amphitheater as part of Augustus’ building program. It burned down in the great fire of 64 CE.

The emperor Vespasian (r.69-79) started building the Flavian Amphitheater on a place where his predecessor, Nero (r.54-68) had had an artificial lake. By changing a lake into an amphitheater, Vespasian wanted to give back something to the people of Rome. This building became the archetype of all amphitheaters in the Roman world and is much better known under its nickname: the Colosseum. It received this nickname in Medieval times after a colossal statue of the Sun God, which used to stand in front of the amphitheater. A recent study by German archeologists suggests that the Colosseum might have been the renewal of an older building. The lake was supposedly much larger than the building area of the Colosseum, but it was still close by.

Anyhow, the Colosseum was the largest amphitheater, and many buildings all over the Roman Empire tried to imitate the grandeur of this venue. Since then, freestanding amphitheaters became the state of the art, e.g. the second amphitheaters of Puteoli (Pozzuoli) and Capua (Sta. Maria Capua Vetere). There were earlier examples of freestanding amphitheaters, e.g. the one in Verona, but most of the earlier stone amphitheaters were built partially into hill slopes. The earliest example of a stone-built amphitheater is the one in Pompeii, which is also part of the city wall.

Thysdrus, Amphitheater, Arena

Augusta Emerita, Amphitheater, arena

The amphitheater was a genuine Roman invention. The Greeks only knew theaters for scenic displays, stadia for sports events, and hippodromes for any equestrian competitions. The elliptical shaped arena in an amphitheater ensured view from every seat, while the staircases made it easy to find your seat, yet keeping the various orders (Senatorial, equestrian. ) separated. The senators with the front row seats did not need to mingle with the low class and slaves of the upper tiers. The emperor, of course, had his own box, where he and his family could watch the shows.

In the Eastern part of the Roman Empire only a few amphitheaters were built, although gladiator games were popular there as well. Instead, by building walls to separate the seating area from the arena, stadions and theaters were adjusted to house venationes and gladiator fights.

Disk with the beginning of a fight between two gladiators

Side, Relief of two gladiators

Cibyra, Relief with fighting gladiators

Villa of Dar Buc Ammera, gladiator mosaic, Intervention by a referee

Tatarevo, A secutor defeats a retiarius

Cumae, A victorious gladiator and a gladiator asking for release

Icosium, Bab el-Oued cemetery, Glass bowl with the death of a gladiator

Cologne, Bottle with the end of a gladiator fight

The End of Gladiator Games

The gladiator games did not come to an end suddenly. On the contrary, there was a slow decline, which ended in the West earlier than in the East. The deepest cause of the demise was not Christian opposition to the games, but the declining Roman economy. For instance, a decree of CE 325 by the emperor Constantine declared that all criminals should be sent to the mines and not ad ludos, because he needed mine workers. That Contantine did not oppose gladiatorial games in general is shown by his response in 337 CE to the request of the Umbrian town Hispellum, in which he granted the inhabitants permission to hold munera, so that they did not have to go to the rival city of Volsinii.

Further, the old symbolism of granting outcasts a return into society was not needed anymore in Late Roman society, which was mainly Christian. Outcasts now had a chance to return into community by receiving the sacraments of baptism and repentance. Gladiator games were still popular at the end of the fourth century when the monk Telemachus traveled from the eastern part of the Empire to Rome, where he attended a gladiatorial show at the amphitheater. He wanted to stop the fights, so he stepped down into the arena. This enraged the audience and they stoned him to death. Consequently, the emperor Honorius banned gladiatorial games, not because he was against them, but as a punishment for the stoning. This was similar to what Nero did after the hooligan fights in 59 CE, which took place in Pompeii.

Reports mention that the last gladiatorial combats in the Colosseum took place in 434 or 435, whereas venationes continued until 523, when a Roman consul hosted them, while the Ostrogoths under Theoderic were already reigning in Rome and Italy.