). Persons who fought with swords (gladii
) in the circus, the forum, or in later times in the amphitheatre, for the
amusement of the Roman people (Quintil. Declam.
Bustuarius. (From an Engraved Gem. )
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. Aen. x. 519
). A show of gladiators was
, and the person who exhibited it, the editor,
, or dominus
, who was honoured during the day of
exhibition, if a private person, with the insignia of a magistrate (Flor.
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 (Val. Max. ii. 4, 17). They were at first
confined to public funerals (bustuarius
), but afterwards fought at the
funerals of most persons of consequence, and even at those of women (Iul.
Private persons sometimes left a sum of money in their will to pay the expenses of such an
exhibition at their funerals (Hor. Sat. ii. 3,
). Combats of gladiators were also exhibited at entertainments by the degraded nobles
of Campania (Sil. Ital. xi. 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. (See 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 (Dio Cass. lxviii. 15).
Gladiators consisted either of captives, slaves, and condemned malefactors, or of freeborn
citizens who fought voluntarily. Of those who were condemned, some were said to be condemned
, in which case they were obliged to be killed at least within
a year; and others ad ludum
, who might obtain their discharge at the end
of three years. Freemen who be came gladiators for hire were called auctorati
, and their hire auctoramentum
(Suet. Tib. 7
). They also
took an oath on entering upon the service, similar to that which is preserved by Petronius
(117 B.C.): In verba Eumolpi sacramentum iuravimus, uri, vinciri, verberari, ferroque
necari, et quicquid aliud Eumolpus iussisset, tamquam legitimi gladiatores, domino corpora
animasque religiosissime addicimus.
Even under the Republic, freeborn citizens fought
as gladiators (Livy, xxviii. 21
), but they appear to have belonged
only to the lower orders, and the profession was considered degrading (cf. Mommsen, C.
i. 1418), though to some it had many attractions. Under the Empire, however,
both knights and senators fought in the arena (Iul.
), and even women (Suet.
); a practice which was at length forbidden in the time of
Severus (Dio Cass. lxxv. 16).
Gladiators were kept in schools (ludi
), where they were trained by
persons called lanistae.
The whole body of gladiators under one lanista
was frequently called familia.
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
(q.v.) belonged to the school of
Lentulus at Capua (Flor. iii. 8
), and Caesar had one at the same
place. Domitian built four ludi
at Rome, and there were several others in
Italy and the provinces. The number of gladiators which any citizen might keep was limited by
the Senate in B.C. 68 (Iul.
10), but Caligula did away with the restriction
(Dio Cass. lix. 14). The superintendence of the ludi
, which belonged to
the emperors, was intrusted to a person of high rank, called curator
The arrangements of a ludus
are now known to us from one excavated at Pompeii. See illustration on next
The gladiators fought in these schools with wooden swords, called rudes
(Suet. Cal. xxxii. 54
). Great attention was
paid to their diet, in order to increase the strength of their bodies, and they were fed with
nourishing food, called gladiatoria sagina.
Gladiators were sometimes exhibited at the funeral pyre, and sometimes in the forum, but
frequently in the amphitheatre. (See 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; e. g. at Pompeii we have (C.
iv. 1189): A. Suettii Certi aedilis familia gladiatoria
pugnabit Pompeiis prid. Kal. Iun. venatio et vela erunt; and similar notices. When the
Pompeian Barracks for Gladiators. (Overbeck.)
they were led along the arena in procession, and matched by pairs; and their swords
were examined by the editor
to see if they were sufficiently sharp (Suet. Tit. 9
). At first there was a kind of sham
battle, called praelusio
, in which they fought with wooden swords, or the
117), and afterwards at the sound of the trumpet the real battle
began. When a gladiator was wounded, the people called out “Habet!” or
“Hoc 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 (Plin. Ep. i. 18, 66
), and ordered him to receive the sword (ferrum recipere
), which gladiators usually did with the greatest firmness. 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 (Pliny , Pliny H. N. xxviii. 25
barely to the point); this was indicated rather by waving handkerchiefs (Mart. xii. 29, 7
). If the life of a vanquished gladiator
was spared, he obtained his discharge for that day, which was called missio
(Mart. xii. 29, 7
); 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.
Palms were usually given to the victorious gladiators, and hence a gladiator who had
frequently conquered is called plurimarum palmarum gladiator
vi. 17); money also was sometimes given (Claud.
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. Phil. ii. 29,
; Plin. Ep. i. 1, 2
). 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 (pilleus
). 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 even if he afterwards acquired sufficient property to entitle him to it; and a slave who
had been sent into a ludus
and there manumitted, merely acquired the
status of a peregrinus dediticius.
Shows of gladiators were abolished by Constantine, but appear notwithstanding to have been
generally exhibited till the time of Honorius, by whom they were finally suppressed.
Gladiators were divided into different classes, according to their arms and different mode
of fighting, or other circumstances. The names of the most important of these classes are
given in alphabetical order:
vii. 10) 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
2577) and Friedländer; the name cannot be derived from
. It is perhaps Keltic, with the meaning
“blind-fighter” (Whitley Stokes, in Academy
, Feb. 9, 1889).
Andabatae. (From the Amphitheatre, Pompeii.)
were those who fought on the funeral pyre. See illustration, p.
was the name given to gladiators when they did not fight in pairs,
but when several fought together (Suet. Aug.
appear to have been so called, because they fought with two swords
(Artemid. ii. 32
; Orelli, Inscr.
were those who fought on horseback (Orelli, Inscr.
fought from chariots (esseda
), like the Gauls
and Britons. They are frequently mentioned in inscriptions (Orelli, 2566, 2584, etc.; cf.
were those under the Empire who were trained and supported from the
appear to have been those who fought in a complete suit of armour
(Suet. Cal. 35
were those who used a noose (laqueus
) to catch
their adversaries (Isid. xviii. 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
was the name applied to all the regular gladiators who fought in
pairs in the ordinary way (Suet. Aug. 45
, Suet. Cal. 26
were such as were demanded by the people from the editor
, in addition to those who were exhibited (Epist.
fought with the Samnites (Pro Sest.
we do not know anything respecting them except their name.
carried only a three-pointed lance, called tridens
, a dagger (Val. Max. i. 7, 8), 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 reti-
Borghese Gladiator (?) of Agasias. (Louvre.)
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
34; Orelli, 2578). In the following
illustration a combat is represented between a retiarius
and a myrmillo;
Myrmillo and Retiarius. (Mosaic in the Library at Madrid.)
has thrown his net over the head of the latter, and is proceeding to attack him with
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.vi. 256
), and were
particularly distinguished by the oblong scutum.
are supposed by most writers to be so called because the secutor
in his combat with the retiarius
latter when he failed in securing him by his net. Other writers think that they were the same
as the suppositicii
, mentioned by Martial (v. 24), who were gladiators
substituted in the place of those who were wearied or were killed (Suet. Cal. 30
; Juv.vi. 108
, with the
Schol. viii. 210). If the old reading in a letter of Cicero's (Ad Att.
is correct, Iulius Caesar had no less than 600 secutores
in his ludus
at Capua; but we probably ought to read scutorum
instead of secutorum.
were armed, like the Thracians, with a
round shield or buckler ( Fest. s. v. Thraeces
), and a short curved sword or
, Suet. Cal.
), which is called falx supina
by Juvenal (viii. 201), and wore
greaves on both legs. They were usually matched, as already stated, with the myrmillones.
had light spears (Ovid,
Paintings of gladiatorial combats, as well as of the other sports of the amphitheatre, were
favourite subjects with the Roman artists (Pliny , Pliny H.
N. xxxv. 52
). Several statues of gladiators have come down to us, which are
highly admired as works of art; of these, the most celebrated is the
athlete by Agasias of the Borghese Collection, now in the Museum of the Louvre, and the Dying
Gladiator, in the Capitoline Museum. The latter, which inspired the famous stanza in
, is now, however, regarded as a wounded Gaul. 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 illustrations from
pl. 32; and
, 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 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 the subligaculum
or short apron tied above the hips.
The one on the left appears to be a myrmillo
, and the one on the right,
with an oblong shield (scutum
), a Samnite. 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.
on his knee appears 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.
last group consists of a myrmillo
and a Samnite; the latter is
In the second illustration 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
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. See Lipsius,
and De Amphitheatro
vol. ix.; Friedländer, Sittengeschichte
ii.; Wallon, Histoire de l'Esclavage (Paris, 1879)
; and the