) were men who fought with swords in the circus, the
forum, or in later times in the amphitheatre, for the amusement of the Roman
people. ( “Gladiator est, qui in arena, populo spectante,
pugnavit,” Quintil. Declam,
302.) They are said to
have been first exhibited by the Etruscans, and to have had their origin
from the custom of killing slaves and captives at the funeral pyres of the
deceased. (Tertull. de Spectac.
12; Serv. ad
Verg. A. 10.519
p. 893 b.
] A show
of gladiators was called munus,
and the person
who exhibited (edebat
) it, editor, munerator,
who was honoured during the day of exhibition, if a private person, with the
official signs of a magistrate. (Capitol. M. Anton. Philos.
23; Flor. 3.20
Att. 2.1. 9
Gladiators were first exhibited at Rome in B.C. 264, in the Forum Boarium, by
Marcus and Decimus Brutus, at the funeral of their father. (Valer. Max. 2.4,
17; Liv. Epit. 16
.) They were at first
confined to public funerals, but afterwards fought at the funerals of most
persons of consequence, and even at those of women. (Suet. Jul. 26
; Spartian. Hadr.
persons sometimes left a sum of money in their will to pay the expenses of
such an exhibition at their funerals (Cic. in
, 37; pro Sulla,
19, 54; Hor. Sat.
2.3, 84). Combats of
gladiators were also exhibited at entertainments by the degraded nobles of
Campania (Athen. 4.153
; Sii. Ital. 11.51),
though not at Rome, and especially at public festivals by the aediles and
other magistrates, who sometimes exhibited immense numbers with the view of
pleasing the people. (Cic. pro Mur.
, 37; de Off.
2.16, 55.) [AEDILES
] Under the empire the passion of the Romans
for this amusement rose to its greatest height, and the number of gladiators
who fought on some occasions appears almost incredible. After Trajan's
triumph over the Dacians, there were more than 10,000 exhibited (D. C. 68.15
Gladiators consisted either of captives (Vopisc. Prob.
slaves (Suet. Vitell.
12), and condemned malefactors, or of
freeborn citizens who fought voluntarily. Of those who were condemned, some
were said to be condemned ad gladium,
case they were obliged to be killed at least within a year; and others
who might obtain their discharge
at the end of three years. (Ulpian, Collat. Mos. et Rom. Leg.
tit. xi. s. 7.7, 4.) Freemen who became gladiators for hire were called
; Hor. Sat.
2.7, 58, with Acron's
note), and their hire auctoramentum
; Liv. 44.31
). They also took an oath on
entering upon the service, similar to that which is preserved by Petronius
(117): “In verba Eumolpi sacramentum juravimus, uri, vinciri,
verberari, ferroque necari, et quicquid aliud Eumolpus jussisset,
tamquam legitimi gladiatores domino corpora animasque religiosissime
addicimus.” (Compare Senec. Epist.
7.) Even under
the republic free-born citizens fought as gladiators (Liv. 28.21
), but they appear to have belonged only to the lower
orders, and the profession was considered degrading (cf. Mommsen, C.
1.1418), though to some it had many attractions. Under the
empire, however, both equites and senators fought in the arena (D. C. 51.22
Suet. Jul. 39
12), and even women (Tac. Ann. 15.32
; Juv. 6.250
Stat. Silv. 1.6
); a practice which was at length
forbidden in the time of Severus (D. C. 75.16
Gladiators were kept in schools (ludi
they were trained by persons called lanistae
(Suet. Jul. 26
; Cic. pro Rosc. Amer. 40
Juv. [p. 1.917]
6.216, 11.8). The whole body of gladiators
under one lanista was frequently called familia
(Suet. Aug. 42
). They sometimes were the
property of the lanistae, who let them out to persons who wished to exhibit
a show of gladiators; but at other times belonged to citizens, who kept them
for the purpose of exhibition, and engaged lanistae to instruct them. Thus
Spartacus belonged to the school of Lentulus at Capua (Flor. 3.8
), and Caesar had one at the same place. Domitian built
at Rome, and there were several
others in Italy and the provinces (Caes. Civ.
). The number of gladiators which any citizen might keep was
limited by the senate in B.C. 68 (Suet. Jul.
), but Caligula did away with the restriction (D. C. 59.14
). The superintendence of the ludi,
which belonged to the emperors, was entrusted to a person of high rank,
called curator or procurator. (Tac. Ann.
; Suet. Cal. 27
; Wilmanns, Inscr.
1290, &c.) The arrangements of a ludus
are now known to us from one excavated at
Pompeii, a plan of which is given in Overbeck's Pompeii,
p. 170. The gladiators fought in these ludi with wooden
swords, called rudes
(Suet. Cal. 32
attention was paid to their diet in order to increase the strength of their
bodies, whence Cicero (Cic. Phil. 2.25
speaks of “gladiatoria totius corporis firmitas.” They were fed
with nourishing food, called gladiatoria sagina
(Tac. Hist. 2.88
). A great number of
gladiators were trained at Ravenna on account of the salubrity of the place
(Strabo v. p.213
Gladiators were sometimes exhibited at the funeral pyre, and sometimes in the
forum, but more frequently in the amphitheatre. [AMPHITHEATRUM
] The person
who was to exhibit a show of gladiators published some days before the
exhibition bills (libelli
), containing the
number and sometimes the names of those who were to fight (Cic. Fam. 2.8
): e. g. at Pompeii we have (C. I. L.
4.1189), “A. Suettii Certi aedilis familia gladiatoria pugnabit
Pompeiis prid. Kal. Jun. venatio et vela erunt;” and similar
notices. When the day came, they were led along the arena in procession, and
matched by pairs (Hor. Sat.
1.7, 20); and their
swords were examined by the editor
to see if
they were sufficiently sharp. (D. C. 68.3
; Suet. Tit. 9
; Lipsius, Excurs. ad
Tac. Ann. 3.37
). At first there was a kind
of sham battle, called praelusio,
in which they
fought with wooden swords, or the like (Cic. de
, 317; Ovid. Ars Amat.
3.515; Senec. Epist.
117), and afterwards at the sound of the
trumpet the real battle began. When a gladiator was wounded, the people
called out habet
and the one who was vanquished lowered his arms in
token of submission. His fate, however, depended upon the people, who turned
up their thumbs if they wished him to be killed (Hor. Ep. 1.18
; Juv. 3.36
), and ordered him to receive the sword
), which gladiators usually
did with the greatest firmness. (Civ. Tusc.
37, 80; pro Mil.
34, 92.) A relief has been discovered at Cacillargues, showing a combat
between a Samnite and a retiarius, with four spectators, one of whom, a
woman, is holding up her thumbs. There is no clear evidence that the wish
that mercy should be shown was expressed by pressing down the thumbs (Plin.
28.25 is barely to the point): this was indicated
rather by waving handkerchiefs (Mart. 12.29
). If the life of a vanquished gladiator
was spared, he obtained his discharge for that day, which was called
); and hence in an exhibition of
gladiators sine missione
), the lives of the conquered were never spared. This
kind of exhibition, however, was forbidden by Augustus (Suet. Aug. 45
Palms were usually given to the victorious gladiators (Suet. Cal. 32
); and hence a gladiator who had
frequently conquered is called “plurimarum palmarum gladiator”
(Cic. pro Rosc. Amer. 6
17); money also was sometimes given (Juv. 7.243
Suet. Cl. 21
). Old gladiators, and
sometimes those who had only fought for a short time, were discharged from
the service by the editor
at the request of the
people, who presented each of them with a rudis or wooden sword; whence
those who were discharged were called Rudiarii.
(Cic. Philip. 2.2. 9
74; Hor. Ep. 1.1
; Suet. Tib. 7
; Quint. l.c.
) If a person was free before he entered the
ludus, he became on his discharge free again; and if he had been a slave, he
returned to the same condition again, unless he received the cap of freedom
(Plin. Ep. 10.40
). A man, however, who
had been a gladiator, was always considered to have disgraced himself, and
consequently it appears that he could not obtain the equestrian rank if he
afterwards acquired sufficient property to entitle him to it (Quint. l.c.
); and a slave who had been sent into a ludus
and there manumitted, either by his then owner or another owner, merely
acquired the status of a peregrinus dediticius.
(Gaius, 1.13.) [DEDITICII
Shows of gladiators were abolished by Constantine (Cod. 11, tit. 43), but
appear notwithstanding to have been generally exhibited till the time of
Honorius, by whom they were finally suppressed. (Theodoret. Hist.
Gladiators were divided into different classes, according to their arms and
different mode of fighting, or other circumstances. (Cf.
Friedländer in Rhein. Mus.
The names of the most important of these classes is given in alphabetical
(Cic. Fam. 7.1. 0
wore helmets without any aperture for the eyes, so that they were obliged to
fight blindfold, and thus excited the mirth of the spectators. They are
generally believed to have fought on horseback, but this is denied by Orelli
2577) and Friedländer; the name cannot
be derived from ἀναβάτης.
It is perhaps
Celtic, with the meaning “blind-fighter” (Whitley Stokes, in
Feb. 9, 1889).
was the name given to gladiators when
they did not fight in pairs, but when several fought together. (Suet.,
appear to have been so called, because they fought
with two swords, (Artemid. 2.32; Orelli, Inscr.
were those who fought on horseback.
(Orelli, 2569, 2577; Cic. pro Sest.
fought from chariots like the Gauls
and Britons. [ESSEDUM
] They are
frequently mentioned in inscriptions. (Orelli, 2566, 2584, &c.; cf.
Petron. 45.) [p. 1.918]
were those under the empire who were
trained and supported from the fiscus. (Capitol. Gord.
appear to have been those who fought in a complete
suit of armour. (Suet. Cal. 35
; Orelli, 2566.) Lipsius considers them
to have been the same with the Samnites, and that this name was disused
under the emperors, and hoplomachi substituted for it.
were those who used a noose to catch their
adversaries. (Isid. 18.56.)
were those who fought in the middle of
the day, after combats with wild beasts had taken place in the morning.
These gladiators were very lightly armed. (Senec. Epist.
Suet. Cl. 34
; Orelli, 2587.)
are said to have been so called from their having
the image of a fish (mormyr,
) on their helmets. (Festus, s. v.
) Their arms were like those of
the Gauls, and they did not differ much from the kind called Galli. They
were usually matched with the retiarii or Thracians. (Cic. Phil. 3.12
; Juv. 8.200
; Suet. Cal. 32
was the name applied to all the
regular gladiators, who fought in pairs, in the ordinary way. (Senec.
7; Suet. Aug. 45
were such as were demanded by the people from the
in addition to those who were
exhibited. (Senec. l.c.
fought with the Samnites (Cic.
64, 134), but we do not know
anything respecting them except their name. They are mentioned in
inscriptions. (Orelli, 2566.) The προβοκάτωρ
mentioned by Artemidorus (2.32) appears to be the
same as the provocator.
carried only a three-pointed lance,
dagger (V. Max. 1.7
), and a net (rete
), which they
endeavoured to throw over their adversaries, and then to attack them with
the fuscina while they were entangled. The retiarius was dressed in a short
tunic, and wore nothing on his head. If he missed his aim in throwing the
net, he betook himself to flight, and endeavoured to prepare his net for a
second cast, while his adversary followed him round the arena in order to
kill him before he could make a second attempt. His adversary was usually a
secutor or a myrmillo. (Juv. 2.143
; Suet. Cal.
34; Orelli, 2578.) In the following
Myrmillo and Retiarius. (Winckelmann, |
woodcut a combat is represented between a retiarius and a
myrmillo: the former has thrown his net over the head of the latter, and is
proceeding to attack him with the fuscin<*>. The lanista
stands behind the retiarius.
were so called because they were armed
in the same way as that people, with a helmet with a high crest (Juv. 6.256
), and were particularly distinguished
by the oblong scutum.
(Cf. Overbeck's Pompeii,
p. 164; Liv.
; Cic. pro Sest.
are supposed by most writers to be so
called because the secutor in his combat with the retiarius pursued the
latter when he failed in securing him by his net. Other writers think that
they were the same as the suppositicii,
mentioned by Martial (5.24
), who were gladiators
substituted in the place of those who were wearied or were killed. (Suet. Cal. 30
, with the Schol., 8.210.) If the old reading in a letter of
Cicero's (ad Att.
7.14) is correct, Julius Caesar had no less
than 600 secutores in his ludus at Capua; but we probably ought to read
instead of secutorum.
were armed, like the
Thracians, with a round shield or buckler (Festus, s.
), and a short curved sword or dagger
Suet. Cal. 32
), which is called falx supina
by Juvenal (8.201), and wore greaves on
both legs. They were usually matched, as already stated, with the
myrmillones. The annexed woodcut, taken from Winckelmann (l.c.
represents a combat between two Thracians, though here the swords
are straight. A lanista stands behind each.
had light spears (Ovid.
45; Cic. de Orat.
Paintings of gladiatorial combats, as well as of the other sports of the
amphitheatre, were favourite subjects with the Roman artists. (Plin. Nat. 35.52
3; Vopisc. Carin.
18.) Several statues
of gladiators have come down to us, which are highly admired as works of
art: of these the most celebrated is the gladiator of the Borghese
Collection, now in the Museum of the Louvre, and the Dying Gladiator, as it
is called, in the Capitoline Museum. The latter is, however, more properly
regarded now as a wounded Gaul or other barbarian. Gladiatorial combats are
represented in the bas-reliefs on the tomb of Scaurus at Pompeii, and
illustrate in many particulars the brief account which has been given in
this article of the several classes of gladiators. These bas-reliefs are
represented in the following woodcuts from Mazois (Pomp.
pl. 32; Overbeck, Pompeii,
p. 165). The figures
are made of stucco, and appear to have been moulded separately, and attached
to the plaster by pegs of bronze or iron. In various [p. 1.919]
parts of the frieze are written the name of the person to whom
the gladiators belonged, and also the names of the gladiators themselves,
and the number of their victories. The first pair of gladiators on the left
hand represents an equestrian combat. Both wear helmets with visors, which
cover the whole face, and are armed with spears and round bucklers. In the
second pair the gladiator on the left has been wounded; he has let fall his
shield, and is imploring the mercy of the people by raising his hands
towards them. His antagonist stands behind him waiting the signal of the
people. Like all the other gladiators represented on the frieze, they wear
or short apron fixed above the
hips. The one on the left appears to be a myrmillo, and the one on the
right, with an oblong shield (scutum
Samuite. The third pair consists of a Thracian and a myrmillo, or Samnite,
the latter of whom is defeated. The fourth group consists of four figures;
two are secutores and two retiarii. The secutor on his knee appears
Gladiators. (From a tomb at Pompeii.)
to have been defeated by the retiarius behind him; but as the
fuscina is not adapted for producing certain death, the other secutor is
called upon to do it. The retiarius in the distance is probably destined to
fight in his turn with the surviving secutor. The last group consists of a
myrmillo and a Samnite; the latter is defeated.
In the second woodcut two combats are represented. In the first a Samnite has
been conquered by a myrmillo; the former is holding up his hand to the
people to implore mercy, while the latter apparently wishes to become his
enemy's executioner before receiving the signal from the people; but the
lanista holds him back. In the other combat a myrmillo is mortally wounded
by a Samnite. It will be observed that the right arm of every figure is
protected by rings of armour, which the left does not require on account of
the shield. [VENATIO
in Graev. Thesaur.
vol. ii. ; Marquardt,