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date: 30 June 2022

gladiators, combatants at gamesfree

gladiators, combatants at gamesfree

  • Garrett G. Fagan


Gladiators were armed combatants who performed in the arena during Roman games called munera. They could be slaves, freeborn, or freedmen (ex-slaves). Slave gladiators were usually trained professionals based in a training school (ludus) run by a manager (lanista). Freeborn or freed gladiators were volunteers who fought under contract to a manager (such fighters were termed auctorati). There were different styles of armaments, carefully considered to pitch advantage against disadvantage. Thus the net-man (retiarius) was largely unprotected but carried a net and a trident with a long reach, whereas his opponent (secutor) carried a short sword but was more heavily armored and had a large shield. Evidence from gladiatorial graveyards and gravestones confirms the violent, often lethal nature of the contests, though a win could be achieved without a kill and the fighters clearly took pride in their skills and status with their peers and their fans. Despite their popularity, gladiators were officially regarded as infames (people of bad reputation) and ranked alongside or below actors, prostitutes, pimps, and bankrupts as social and moral outcasts. Roman sources date the first gladiatorial performances in the city to 264 bce, and gladiators continued to perform into the 5th century ce, when financial and pragmatic concerns (rather than moral ones) brought the shows to an end. Modern scholars theorize a variety of reasons for the popularity of gladiatorial shows among the Romans and the role gladiators played in Roman culture.


  • Roman History and Historiography
  • Roman Material Culture

Updated in this version

Text expanded to provide fuller discussion of the evolution of gladiatorial spectacles, gladiator types, and the social status and commemoration of gladiators in Roman society. Bibliography updated and expanded to reflect current research.


Gladiators were trained, professional fighters who engaged in single combats in the Roman arena.1 They are thus to be distinguished from the professional huntsmen (venatores) and beast-handlers (bestiarii) who performed in the morning shows, and the executioners (carnifices) whose activities filled the lunch-time break. Gladiators habitually fought in stand-alone pairs, though mass fights are on record. A decree from the 2nd century ce fixing prices for gladiatorial shows clearly distinguishes group fighters (gregarii) from the professional class of gladiator, and assesses them at a much lower price (CIL II 6278 = ILS 5163, ll. 35–39 = EAOR 7.3).2

The traditional date for the introduction of gladiatorial combats to Rome is 264 bce, when three pairs fought to honour the deceased father of D. Junius Brutus (Livy Per. 16, Val. Max. 2.4.7). Ancient sources variously ascribe the origin of the combats to the Etruscans (Nic. Dam. Athletics 4.153) or to the Campanians (Livy 9.40.17). Since no independent evidence of gladiatorial fights has been identified in Etruscan culture, while convincing precursors for bloody funerary combats can be found in Lucanian tomb paintings of the 4th century bce, South Central Italy appears the more likely source for the practice. Particularly noteworthy in the Lucanian images is that the combatants use not only standard military equipment but also specially modified weapons designed for the exhibition, i.e., sharpened poles held at the back end. It is unclear whether or not these Lucanian fights were to the death.


The association of gladiatorial exhibitions (munera) and funerary commemoration continued after their introduction to Rome, and the spectacles grew in both scale and elaboration. In 216 bce, 22 pairs fought over three days at games held to mark the funeral of a prominent senator; in 200 bce, 25 pairs; in 183 bce, 60 pairs; and in 174 bce, 37 pairs. The chief reason for this growth is that munera, unlike the ludi (public games), were funded not by the state but by individual sponsors (munerarii or editores); the staging of munera thus became another opportunity for prominent and ambitious politicians to compete for popular favour. The staging of games, both public ludi and private munera, was associated primarily with the aedileship, one of the junior magistracies in the Republic’s “run of offices” (cursus honorum): lavish shows, especially spectacles they themselves had paid for, were a way to ride the popular favour thus earned to higher office.

A crucial break with tradition came when munera were decoupled from the funerals of relatives and staged independently. Thus, in 65 bce Julius Caesar, as aedile, funded a vastly expensive munus not at the funeral of his father but in his memory (his father had died some twenty years earlier). So extravagant were Caesar’s preparations that the Senate issued a decree limiting the number of gladiators that could appear in any one show (Dio 37.8.1–2; Suet. Iul. 10.2). In 46 bce Caesar again put on a lavish munus to honour the memory of his daughter Julia, who had died eight years earlier. After this, the spectacles increasingly became mass entertainments staged primarily to benefit the public image of the sponsor rather than to mark the death of a relative. (The depth of the religious associations embedded in munera remains a matter of uncertainty.) In the imperial era, spectacles were staged by the emperors at Rome, either on their own account or in the names of their relatives, on a previously unimaginable scale. Augustus (RG 22.1) boasts of holding eight munera at which 10,000 men fought (he does not state in what capacity), while Trajan marked his conquest of Dacia with games lasting 123 days that included 5,000 pairs of gladiators and 11,000 beasts (Dio 68.15.1). Inscriptions and other evidence show local magnates around the empire following the emperors’ lead and putting on shows according to their means; some towns built their own amphitheaters or modified existing public venues, such as theaters or stadia, to accommodate the combats. Competition among these local sponsors to outdo predecessors and set the bar high for future editores was no less fierce than it had been among the aristocrats of Republican Rome. The inscription on the so-called Magerius Mosaic from Thysdrus (2nd or 3rd century ce) has the crowd shouting out something like this: “By your example let future generations learn of the show and how it was staged! Let your predecessors hear about it! Where did such a show come from? When was one like it put on? As an example to the quaestors [i.e., junior municipal officials who would advance to become sponsors of games], you will put on a spectacle! You will put it on at your own expense! This is your day!” (AE 1967.549).3

As a result of this competitive ethos, the shows grew not only in scale but in elaboration, as new “attractions” were added: eventually, a full day’s agenda of events (called munera iusta atque legitima, Suet. Claud. 21.1; see also Dio 73[72].19.1–2) might include morning shows of beasts, beast fights, and hunts (venationes) and a lunchtime show of public executions (summa supplicia) in various modes, including exposure to beasts. The afternoon was occupied with the gladiatorial bouts. Stagecraft increased in sophistication, as shown by Caesar’s addition of a series of passages under the square in the Roman Forum where the shows were normally staged in Rome. The passages allowed props and performers to appear in the arena as if by magic, prefiguring the labyrinth of passages, chambers, corridors, and winches installed under the Colosseum’s arena floor in the later 1st century ce and identified in amphitheaters elsewhere, such as Merida and Tarraco in Spain, Puteoli and Capua in Italy, and El Djem in North Africa. In this way, the staging of games was a sophisticated and complicated procedure, with much effort and ingenuity devoted to making the shows as impressive and varied as possible.

Figure 1. The hypogeum in the Colosseum, Rome, c. 90–100 ce.

Photograph by author. The substructures, or hypogeum, of the Colosseum in Rome were likely added by the emperor Domitian (81–96 ce) a decade or more after the arena was dedicated in 80 ce. They underwent extensive refurbishment and expansion in subsequent centuries. In their final form, as seen today, they stood two stories deep and comprised a labyrinth of passages, tunnels, and cells that allowed performers, animals, and sets to be winched into the arena via trapdoors set into the wooden arena floor above. Emplacements for some sixty two-story capstans to work these winches have been identified in the floor of the hypogeum.

Figure 2. The hypogeum in the Colosseum, Rome, c. 90–100 ce.

Photograph by author.

Gladiator Types and Fights

Over two dozen distinct types of gladiators are identifiable from the iconographic, epigraphic, and literary records.4 The most popular types (or “armatures,” as gladiatorial panoplies are called) were the murmillo (“fishman”) and the Thraex (“Thracian”). The former wore an elaborate, wide-brimmed and visored helmet with a fish motif on it, carried a large rectangular shield, wore an arm guard (called a manica), and had his forward shin padded and protected with an iron plate (ocrea). As an offensive weapon he carried a short sword. His standard opponent, the Thracian, wore a similar helmet, carried a smaller, square shield, had greaves on both legs, wore leg padding to the hip, and carried a short stabbing sword bent in the middle. The popularity of these armatures is reflected in these being the only two gladiatorial types known to have had a following among the fans: the parmularii (“small shielders”) supported Thracians, while the scutarii (“large shielders”) supported murmillones (M. Aur. Med. 1.5).

Many other types are attested. There were the retiarii (“net-men”), the only unhelmeted gladiator, who wielded a trident and a net, and went largely unarmored; the secutores (“pursuers”), the usual opponent of the retiarii (and so sometimes dubbed contraretiarii) with smooth visored helmet, large shield, and short sword; the equites (“cavalrymen”) who entered the arena on horseback but mostly fought on foot with round shield and sword, wearing tunics; the hoplomachi (“armed fighters”) equipped like Thracians but with a small round shields and spears; the essedarii (“charioteers”) whose dramatic entrance in a chariot was followed by combat on foot; and the provocatores (“challengers”) with a feathered helmet, a large shield, and short sword. There were highly specialized types also, such as the dimachaeri (“two-swordmen”) or laquearii (“lasso-men”) whose names are self-explanatory, or the andabatae who appears to have fought blind wearing a helmet with a solid visor, or the scissores (“carvers”) whose left arm sported a cuff that ended in a vicious-looking crescent-shaped blade.

Figure 3. Murmillo and hoplomachus. Mosaic from Bad Kreuznach, Germany. 3rd century ce. CC BY-SA 2.0. This part of the mosaic is heavily restored (see Junkelmann 2008, 99), but both styles of gladiators are readily recognizable. At left is the murmillo, with his large shield, fancy helmet, straight short sword and padded forward leg. His opponent has elaborate leggings, a fancy helmet, and carries a spear, so he is a hoplomachus.

It is particularly noteworthy that all of these gladiators, like their Lucanian antecedents, were not equipped in the manner of normal warriors or soldiers from any known battlefield, but rather were kitted out with gear specifically designed for the show they were a part of. The fights were thus carefully thought-out contests that pitted advantage against disadvantage. While the secutor was well protected, his chest and abdomen were exposed and his short sword required him to get close to land blows. His opponent, the retiarius, was more vulnerable but wielded a longer-range weapon, a trident, to which he added the threat of his ensnaring net. Likewise, the murmillo carried a short sword and a large shield and had to get close to do damage, while his Thracian opponent had a smaller shield but had a bent sword that could stab around corners or get into inaccessible places. Equites and provocatores were armed identically, and so pairs of equites or provocatores fought each other on an equal footing. Some degree of mixing and matching can be discerned in the pairings (murmillones can fight Thracians or hoplomachi; scissores can fight retiarii or each other), and equipment could be refined or altered, probably for variety’s sake. Armatures also changed over time: the murmillo had grown more heavily armored by the 3rd century ce, for instance. In addition, rules governed the fights, the lex pugnandi. What these rules were is unknown, but certain moves must have been proscribed, and umpires were on the sand to see the rules enforced as fights progressed. As shown in ancient art, the umpires wore tunics and carried rods with which they could intervene in the contests while maintaining a safe distance. Gladiatorial fights emerge from such evidence as this as rule-bound contests of skill and endurance and not the chaotic bloodbaths that are regularly depicted in modern film or television recreations.

The fights were not necessarily to the death. Gladiators were skilled professionals and that made it economically undesirable for their owners, who had spent considerable resources on their upkeep and training, to see their stock butchered at a rate of 50% for every spectacle. There were three possible outcomes to a fight: a killing blow landed in the course of the contest; a forced or voluntary surrender; or a draw. Death, therefore, was an acceptable outcome in any given duel, but it was not the inevitable result. If a gladiator was disarmed or injured and decided to surrender, he withdrew from the contest by raising a finger. It also seems that a gladiator could “throw” his opponent to unbalance him and force an appeal. At that point he had lost the bout, and the umpire stepped in and stopped the fight. A decision then had to be made as to whether the loser lived or died, based on the quality of his performance in the contest. The sponsor of the games made this decision—he was the one paying for everything—but the crowd indicated its preference by gesticulating with the thumb (“with the thumb turned,” as the Latin phrase pollice verso puts it) and crying out iugula! iugula! (“cut his throat!”) or making another gesture with the fingers and shouting missus! missus! (“reprieved!”) (CIL IX 1671 = EAOR 3.72). If the call went against the defeated fighter, his victorious opponent killed him. The victim was expected to expose his neck willingly and accept the coup de grâce without crying out or flinching. If the call went the other way, the spared gladiator lived to fight another day. Indeed, reprieves may be noted in the “career stats” cited in some gladiator epitaphs (see Gladiatorial Epitaphs and Cemeteries). Draws, naturally, were rarer and were noted in epitaphs with the phrase stans missus (“reprieved standing”), since neither gladiator had fallen or been injured and forced to surrender.

Figure 4. Reliefs of gladiator fight, Cibyra, Turkey. 3rd century ce.

Photograph by author. Discovered in 2009 and displayed in the Burdur Museum, these reliefs form part of a balustrade that once surrounded the cemetery of arena performers in the city (see Berns and Ekinci 2015). The image shows three phases of a fight between provocatores. In the first phase (at left), the provocatores engage and try to land blows around and under their opponents’ shields. In the second phase, at centre, the fighters have lost their shields and have come in for close combat. Note that the gladiator on the right has placed his right leg across his opponent’s left leg, has twisted his body to face the viewer, and is gripping his opponent’s upper right arm with his left hand, while his right arm (holding the very short sword) appears to be pushing his opponent forward, toward the viewer. The natural result of this “throw” would be for the provocator at left to twist around, fall across the front of the right-hand provocator, and land on his back—which is precisely what we see in the third and final “frame” of the image at right. The loser’s helmet has been removed (suggesting an appeal?) and the winner moves in for the kill.

One format of spectacle, banned by Augustus (Suet. Aug. 45.3), was called sine missione (“without reprieve”). The plainest interpretation of this phrase is that it required the fights to end in death, since reprieve (missio) was excluded. An alternative view is that sine missione merely forced a fight to end in a clear victory, so that reprieve could not be invoked before a winner was determined by combat.5 To be sure, the texts invoked to support this latter view of sine missione are vague, allusive, and open to competing interpretations (Mart. Spect. 31, Sen. Ep. 92.26). At the very least, it seems clear that without the right of missio the most likely way for a winner to be determined was for one gladiator to be killed or incapacitated by an injury. The sine missione format might not have forced gladiators to fight to the death (although that is possible), but it did force them to fight it out to a bloody finish; that is, if a gladiator was disarmed he might ordinarily appeal, but in sine missione spectacles he had to pick up his weapon and continue until a clear result emerged from the combat. Since many facets of how gladiatorial combats played out are unclear from the patchy evidence, details like this are likely to remain uncertain and debatable.

It is unclear how regularly women fought in the arena. The idea of female gladiators appeals to the popular imagination, so that the supposed discovery of burials of gladiatrices in Britain in 2001 and 2010 were widely reported in the international press. (In reality, the evidence is insufficient to determine their professions.) That female gladiators existed is proven by the famous relief from Halicarnassus showing two female gladiators facing off, named “Amazon” and “Achillia,” or notices such as that in Dio (67.8.4) that Domitian would stage fights between dwarves or between women. This notice is about unusual spectacles put on by the emperor, and so may indicate that female gladiators were a novelty. It is also not clear whether, if and when women fought, they used sharp weapons.6

The ancient data are also insufficient to determine fatality rates among gladiators, let alone the proportion of those killed in the run of combat versus those dispatched after an appeal was rejected. Vivid evidence, however, has come from gladiatorial epitaphs and cemeteries.

Gladiatorial Epitaphs and Cemeteries

The gravestones of gladiators, with their accompanying inscriptions (epitaphs), are revealing about their origins, lives, careers, and attitudes toward their profession. Gravestones were expensive monuments to purchase and erect, and those inscribed with elaborate texts and even images were more expensive still. Who dedicated the stone (and so paid for it) is an important consideration here, as are the circumstances of its commission. Since gladiators in a training school (ludus), being mostly slaves, are unlikely to have erected a gravestone without the permission of the manager (lanista), it remains an open question to what extent the attitudes expressed in these inscriptions reflect the unvarnished outlook of the individual fighter rather than an “official” ideology of the arena, as promoted by those who ran the spectacle industry. At Carnuntum in Austria, a burial ground near the ludus contains large monuments, stone sarcophagi, and simpler graves, and since such memorials could not exist without the lanista’s consent, they may well have served to promulgate those values by which the schools and their owners wished the trainees to live and die.7 Nevertheless, the stones give some sense of how gladiators, at least officially, viewed themselves, their comrades-in-arms, and their profession, as well as how those who commemorated them thought they should be remembered by posterity. As such they are most instructive documents.

The gravestones themselves are often adorned with images of the deceased, along with his equipment and his palm fronds and/or crowns of victory. This alone gives an impression of professional pride among this cadre of elite fighters. The texts of the epitaphs bolster this impression. Some examples8:

Marcus Antonius Exochus, Thracian. M. Antonius Exochus, by birth an Alexandrian, (in the games given) at Rome to mark the triumph of the deified Trajan [117 ce], on the second day, in his first ever appearance (tiro), he secured a draw (stans missus) with Araxis, imperial slave; at Rome, on the ninth day of the same games, he caused Fimbria, freeborn, veteran of nine fights, to concede (missum fecit) . . . [text breaks off]

Flamma, secutor. He lived 30 years. He fought 34 times, won 21 times, drew (stans) 9 times, and was spared (missus) 4 times. Syrian by birth. Delicatus, his comrade-at-arms (coarmio), made (this tomb) for a worthy man.

To the souls of the departed. Lyco, freeborn (or freed), left-handed murmillo, four fights. Longinas, freeborn (or freed), contraretiarius, made (this tomb) for his well-deserving brother (frater).

To the souls of the departed. (Tomb of) Vitalis, unbeaten retiarius, Batavian by birth. He courageously fought it out to the end on an equal footing with his opponent; he was fast in his fights. Himen (?), his messmate . . . [text breaks off]

(CIL XI 1070 = ILS 5118 = EAOR 2.46)12

To the souls of the departed. For Urbicus, secutor of the first rank (primus palus), by birth Florentine, who fought 13 times. He lived 22 years. Olympias, his daughter, whom he left at 5 months old, and Fortunensis, his daughter’s slave, and Lauricia his wife (built this tomb) for a deserving husband, with whom she lived for seven years. I recommend that he who beats a man should kill him. His fans (amatores) will nurture his shade.

To the souls of the departed. Glauco, born at Mutina, veteran of seven fights, killed in the eighth. He lived 23 years, five days. Aurelia, along with his fans (amatores), (made this tomb) for a well-deserving husband. I recommend that each of you attend to his own fate; don’t put your trust in Nemesis; that’s how I was deceived! Hello! Goodbye!

To the souls of the departed. Pardo, from Dertona, veteran of ten fights, (lies) here, deceived in the eleventh. He lived 27 years. Arriane to her darling husband, who lived with me . . . [text breaks off]

Constantius, the sponsor of games (munerarius), to his gladiators on account of the popularity of his show (munus). He gave this grave as a tribute (munus) to Decoratus, who killed the retiarius Caeruleus, and then himself fell dead. The trainer’s rod killed them both; the funeral pyre covers them both. Decoratus, secutor, veteran of nine fights, has bequeathed grief above all to his wife Valeria.

I, who was once celebrated in the amphitheater, have truly found oblivion, after killing my opponent, who was full of irrational bitterness. My name is Stephanos. After I was crowned winner for the tenth time in competition, I died and passed into eternity, bound in the bosom of the earth. Strength never left me, until the guardian of my life [i.e., a guardian deity?] killed me by tricks. Polychronis set up the inscription as a memorial.

Here I lie victorious, Diodorus the wretched. After breaking my opponent Demetrius, I did not kill him immediately. But murderous Fate and the cunning treachery of the summa rudis [i.e., the chief umpire] killed me, and leaving the light I have gone to Hades. I lie in the land of the original inhabitants. A good friend buried me here because of his piety.

(CIL VI 10194 = ILS 5088 = EAOR 1.92)9(CIL X 7297 = ILS 5113 = EAOR 3.70)10(CIL VI 10180 = ILS 5105 = EAOR 1.75)11(CIL V 5933 = ILS 5115 = EAOR 2.50)13(CIL V 3466 = ILS 5121)14(CIL V 3468 = ILS 5122 = EAOR 2.52)15(CIL V 563 = ILS 5123 = EAOR 2.19)16(Robert, Gladiateurs p. 55 (no. 124) = SgO 02/12/08)17(Robert, Gladiateurs, pp. 130–131 (no. 79) = SgO 11/02/01)18

Pride in professional performance shines through in every case. The deceased are remembered by their armature, their rank, their fight statistics, and those personal traits pertinent to their appearances in the arena (e.g., courage, skill, speed, left-handedness). Even defeats ending with reprieve might be included in their statistics, since being spared spoke to the quality of the gladiator’s performance in the fight. They have fan clubs. In some cases, they have families. There is camaraderie among them, in that colleagues erect gravestones for dead “brothers” or “comrades-in-arms.” They are honoured by their peers and by the sponsors of games alike. And they are never, ever beaten outright by an opponent. Rather, if they fall in the arena, it is because of betrayal, trickery, or deceit, or because the umpire made a bad call. This refusal to concede honest defeat in the face of superior skill again speaks to professional pride and a certain braggadocio that is still operative today in combat sports.

While gladiators’ epitaphs are enlightening documents, finds of gladiator cemeteries offer even more instructive evidence. Several are known. Most recently, one has likely been identified at York in England. Containing eighty bodies, mostly male, the skeletons belong to men of robust build, many showing signs of severe injury, including in one case the teeth marks of a large carnivore. While the identification of the site as a cemetery for arena performers remains unverified on current evidence, it is the best interpretation of the site so far advanced. An unequivocal example of a gladiator cemetery was unearthed in Ephesos in 1993.19 Here dozens of skeletons were found in an enclosure, all but one of them young men aged between 20 and 30, some buried with accompanying grave reliefs depicting gladiators. The skeletons were of well-fed men whose bones showed signs of intensive training (such as stress at joints) and, more tellingly, injuries inflicted with weapons. Some of these were cut or penetration injuries, others blunt force traumas. The latter were possibly inflicted when helmets were bashed into skulls during fights. Twenty-one of the skeletons had twenty-six head injuries; eleven had survived those injuries, demonstrating the high-quality medical care that gladiators received. The cut and penetration wounds to the heads were often at the front—which reflects the frontal nature of gladiatorial combat—but they remain something of a mystery, since most gladiators wore helmets. Perhaps some injuries were incurred outside the arena itself, in training or in private fights (one imagines that gladiators were violent men in general). Most lethal blows to the skulls were at the back or sides, perhaps administered after a failed appeal. One skull had a fatal wound of three penetrations in close proximity, showing that the person had been killed by a trident to the back of the head.

The evidence from the skeletons warns against whitewashing Roman gladiatorial shows as solely concerned with skill and artistry. Even if they were not the chaotic free-for-alls depicted in modern popular culture, even if part of their attraction indeed lay in watching athletic displays of expertise and talent, they were nevertheless very violent events in which performers were routinely killed or injured in horrible ways.

Figure 5. Skull with trident injury, Ephesus, Turkey. 2nd century ce.

Courtesy Karl Grossschmidt. The skull of one of the gladiators buried in the Ephesus cemetery had been killed with a trident to the back of the head. The situation is unusual, since only retiarii went unhelmeted into the fray and they were not pitted against each other. The most likely explanation, then, is that the deceased (a secutor or contraretiarius) had lost the bout, appealed, and had his appeal denied. He was then dispatched by the winner with this blow to the back of the head. If so, the deceased had to have first removed his helmet.

Sources and Training of Gladiators

Gladiators were trained and housed in a school, the ludus gladiatorum, run by a manager called a lanista. The gladiators of a school were termed a familia gladiatoria , which bore the name of the owner or lanista, as demonstrated by inscriptions of “the gladiatorial troupe of C. Salvius Capito” (CIL IX 465 = EAOR 3.67) or “the gladiatorial troupe of the Arrii” (CIL IX 2237 = ILS 5060 = EAOR 3.28). Lanistae drew new stock from two main sources: the willing and the unwilling. The latter were slaves bought by the school or those condemned by the courts to fight as gladiators (damnati ad ludum). That such convicts were sentenced to fight, and not just serve the ludus in some supporting role, is made clear from several sources. The 3rd-century ce jurist Modestinus notes that a provincial governor must not curry local favour by capriciously releasing people condemned to the beasts, but if the criminals have strength (robor) and skill (artificium) worthy of being exhibited at Rome, he should consult the emperor (Dig. 48.19.31pr). The specific mention of skill demonstrates that such criminals were to be trained to fight rather than simply slaughtered in public, though it is not clear whether they were to fight people or animals. The rhetorical exercise known as “The Gladiator” fills in this detail. This text, found among the declamations ascribed to the 1st-century ce rhetorical teacher Quintilian, is an example of a controversia, an advanced rhetorical exercise in which the teacher presented a case to be litigated, and the students composed speeches representing the two sides. Although fictions, the controversiae are likely to reflect at least popular perceptions of social reality that prevailed among the educated classes. In this instance, by convoluted means, a rich man’s son finds himself captured by pirates and sold to a gladiatorial school. After entering the ludus, the speaker laments “among slaves handed over for punishment the most contemptible is the novice gladiator” ([Quint] Decl. mai. 9.5; emphasis added) and in the text he is trained to fight in the arena. A rescript of Hadrian settles the factual matter. The emperor, in discussing the punishment of cattle-rustlers, distinguishes between criminals condemned “to the sword” (ad gladium) and those condemned “to the training school” (ad/in ludum). The former are to be killed no later than a year after sentencing. The latter, however, might survive the sentence and be restored to freedom after five years, or three years if they receive the wooden sword (rudis) (Mosaicarum et Romanarum Legum Collatio 11.7). The rudis was the wooden training sword used by gladiators, and it was presented to a gladiator after a successful career to mark his release from the ludus and from the arena (Mart. Spect. 31.9 Shackleton Bailey, Suet. Claud. 21.5). Retired gladiators were thus termed rudiarii (“wooden-sworders”; Suet. Tib. 7.1). Hadrian’s rescript, in saying that those condemned ad ludum could earn the rudis in three years, makes it explicit that they fought as gladiators. But what about the other group, those released after five years? There is no need to assume that they did not fight—although that is a possibility—but rather that they were not particularly successful at it. That is, if you survived five years fighting as a gladiator, you were deemed to have fulfilled your sentence, but if you were good at it you could be out in three—a typical Roman carrot-and-stick arrangement, where the threat of punishment was balanced by incentives to toe the line.

Willing, volunteer gladiators (auctorati) worked under contract, the details of which presumably varied by individual, but all had to take a fearsome oath agreeing to endure branding, being bound in chains, beaten with rods, and killed with steel (Petron. Sat. 117.5; Sen. Ep. 37.1). Since these were slavish indignities no freeborn Roman would tolerate, the oath effectively cast the volunteer out of respectable society. Why they enrolled remains a mystery. Ancient writers offer the moralizing explanations of bankruptcy and personal depravity (Dio 74.2.5; Luc. Tox. 58; Tert. Ad Mart. 5). The emperor Tiberius is on record as paying 100,000 sesterces each to some retired gladiators for their return to the arena, which shows that financial distress could indeed be alleviated by taking to the sand (Suet. Tib. 7.1). But that men of senatorial or equestrian status enrolled as gladiators suggests that other factors were at play, perhaps the same impulse that drives some today to engage in extreme sports. The great popularity of gladiators and their status as sex symbols may also have drawn elite volunteers, such that emperors had to issue bans on senators and equestrians enrolling to fight (Dio 54.2.5; Suet. Aug. 43.3).20

Little is known about life in the ludus, but conditions must have been harsh for convicted criminals to be condemned to the place. Only three gladiatorial ludi are known to archaeology: the Ludus Magnus near the Colosseum in Rome, the ludus behind the theater in Pompeii, and the newly identified example at Carnuntum in Austria.21

Figure 6. Ludus Magnus, Rome. 1st/2nd century ce.

Photograph by author. The structure was one of four schools attributed to Domitian (the others were the Ludus Gallicus, Ludus Dacicus, and Ludus Matutinus) and lies in the vicinity of the Colosseum. The locations of the other three ludi are not known but somewhere in the same vicinity would make the most sense. The Ludus Magnus underwent numerous repairs and alterations over the succeeding centuries, but its basic layout remained the same. It is centred on an oval arena, with a capacity of some 3,000. Other trainees or members of the public presumably could look on from these stands. Arranged around the arena were cells on four sides, on at least two stories, an armory, and a communal kitchen. Depending on how many men were housed in each cell, the total capacity of the ludus lay somewhere between 500 and 1,000 trainees. Inscriptions reveal other arena staff attached to the Ludus, including umpires and mock-gladiators (paegniarii).

The men were housed in cells, several occupants per cell. They trained at posts in an open area, shaped like an arena at Carnuntum and the Ludus Magnus, but a rectangular palaestra at Pompeii. These posts (pali) were the basis of a gladiatorial hierarchy that ranked the fighters from primus palus (literally, “first post”) down, perhaps as far as an eighth stratum. Presumably, higher-ranked gladiators enjoyed perks in the ludus, such as better quarters and rations.

Figure 7. Gladiatorial ludus, Pompeii. 1st century ce.

Photograph by author. The training school at Pompeii stands behind the theater. It was originally a portico associated with the theater—a standard feature of Roman theaters—but was converted into a training school sometime before 79 ce. Thirty-two cells (visible at left) on at least two stories opened onto the open training ground (palaestra), and there was a communal kitchen and an armory where a large cache of gladiatorial equipment was found. Above the communal rooms (at centre of the photograph) was an apartment, presumably for the lanista. Assuming three or four gladiators per cell, the capacity of the ludus stood around 200–250.

Inscriptions make clear that trainers (doctores) were themselves specialists, very likely with experience as gladiators themselves and instructing particular kinds of gladiators at their posts; thus there are mentions of “trainer of murmillones” or “trainer of secutores,” and so on. Recruits were therefore selected and trained based on their suitability and aptitude for specific armatures, which in turn suggests that each type of gladiator had a style of fighting readily recognizable to the spectators.

The Status of Gladiators

Roman social thought was of a distinctly hierarchical cast. As a whole, the Romans organized their social universe by categorizing individuals into groups and then ranking them according to their perceived worth, both between and within groups. Thus, slaves were ranked below freeborn, free foreigners below citizens (until 212 ce, with Caracalla’s near-universal grant of citizenship to the freeborn), and so on. But within these broad groupings further hierarchies prevailed, even among slaves, so that farmhands toiling in the fields ranked below servants in townhouses or rustic villas, and citizens were classed into a hierarchy of “orders” (plebs, equestrians, senators, etc).

Gladiators were no different. As a whole, they were branded with infamia (“lack of good repute”). This was a legally defined status that debarred people deemed infames from various political, legal, and social privileges. It applied to actors, prostitutes, lanistae, and others, as well as to gladiators. The basic principle appears to have been that if you did not control your own body, or made a spectacle of yourself for money at the behest of an audience, you were infamis. This is why volunteer gladiators took the oath they did. When they consented to be bound, beaten, burned, and killed with iron, they effectively transferred control of their bodies to their trainers and the spectators in the arena. In doing so, they agreed to join the infames. Even their earnings were not to be taxed, since they were “contaminated by the stain of human blood” (CIL II 6278 = ILS 5163, l. 7 = EAOR 7.3). As a group, then, gladiators were officially rated among the lowest of the low, some of the most grotesque denizens of the Roman social basement.

Gladiators’ official status, however, was complicated by their public function, from which they could earn immense popularity and riches. Successful gladiators were celebrated and admired by their fans (the amatores discussed in Gladiatorial Epitaphs and Cemeteries, honouring dead gladiators), their career trajectories closely charted, and their skills praised. Martial, writing poetry in Flavian Rome, heaps praise on a famed gladiator, Hermes, “the martial delight of his day, skilled in all arms, both gladiator and trainer, . . . taught to win without harming, himself his own substitute, the riches of the ticket touts, the love and labour of gladiators’ women, . . . the glory of Mars universal” (Mart. Ep. 5.24). Gladiators were also sex symbols, to the extent that a term was coined for their female fans, ludiae (“training-school girls”; see Juv. Sat. 6.104). And while some writers condemned the admiration of outcasts and convicts as typical of the masses’ lack of discernment (Tert. Spect. 22.2), they could themselves at the same time praise gladiators, a dichotomous attitude perfectly encapsulated by Cicero (Tusc. 2.41): “Gladiators, whether ruined men or barbarians, what wounds they endure! . . . When condemned men fight with swords, there could be no sturdier training for the eye against pain and death.” The sentiment finds echo over a century later when Pliny the Younger wrote of Trajan’s spectacles (Pan. 33.1): “Even in the bodies of slaves and criminals was seen a love of glory and a lust to win.” This is the “ambivalence of the gladiator,” a paradox generated by the tension between the gladiator’s rank, as fixed by his officially being infamis, and his status, as conferred by the popularity of his public performances. The key to understanding how the tension was resolved it is provided by Tertullian (Spect. 22.3): “the art (ars) they glorify, the artist (artifex) they stigmatize.” Like any slave, the gladiator’s personhood had been erased by his function. As long as he performed with skill (ars), he was admirable. If he failed, he lost his status and reverted to a social nothing (as was true of slaves in general). In contexts outside the arena, of course, his infamia rendered the gladiator contemptible. All of this applied equally to freeborn or freed auctorati, whose oath subjugated them to the demands of their art. The ambivalence of the gladiator, then, lay in the contrast between the reviled outcast and the skillful combatant, between his low rank set by custom and law and his elevated status earned by the proper display of skill in the arena. But that status was ephemeral and could be lost on a turn, and this is what made gladiators ultimately expendable.

Among the gladiators themselves, the status of individual fighters varied significantly. As discussed above, some were slaves, some were freeborn or freed. This distinction was conveyed to the crowd by the names gladiators bore. Thus the advertisement for a spectacle found painted on the wall of a house at Pompeii lists the upcoming combats in the following fashion (CIL IV 2508 = Sabbatini Tumolesi, 71–74 [no. 32]):

Thraex vs Murmillo

Pugnax, of the Neronian training school, three fights

Murranus, of the Neronian training school, three fights


P. Ostorius, fifty-one fights

Scylax, of the Julian training school, twenty-six fights

In the first fight, two slave gladiators with “stage names” (“Fighty” and “Perfume Boy”), both trained in the Neronian training school near Capua (and owned by the school and housed there?), were pitted against each other as a Thraex and a murmillo. The second fight featured two essedarii (charioteers), of whom one was a slave (Scylax is a Greek slave name), trained in the Julian school, also near Capua. The other, however, was listed simply as Publius Ostorius, a form of name borne by a freeborn Roman or freedman. Note also that Ostorius was not associated with any training school, since he was an independent agent operating under contract (an auctoratus). In this way, the very names of the gladiators proclaimed their relative status. In addition, the listing of prior fights (and sometimes wins) spoke to experience, and the palus-ranking could be used to indicate grades of success and skill. In all these ways, then, gladiators stood in an unequal hierarchical relationship to each other, derived from their original social standing, experience, and performance record to date.

The End of the Games

The educated pagan elite of the so-called central period of Roman history (c. 200 bce–200 ce) long objected to the mass entertainments of the lower orders, and gladiatorial shows were included in their blanket condemnations. Thus Pliny the Younger famously complains to a friend about the masses’ blind enthusiasm for chariot racing; Pliny is amazed by their unthinking partisanship for the colour of their favorite racing team (there were four: red, white, blue, and green) (Pliny, Letters 9.6). Theaters, too, were considered places of lascivious behaviour and unacceptable lassitude. But there was also a view that, alone among mass entertainments, gladiatorial combats offered spectators edifying examples of endurance, skill, and a healthy contempt for death and injury.22 Nevertheless, the prevailing view that people sitting around in large numbers being entertained was a bad thing tended to overwhelm this perceived benefit in the minds of these authors, although in all such moralizing any particular rhetorical posture cannot be taken at face value as reflecting the writers’ actual views. Pagan opposition to the games rested not on humanitarian grounds—that is, concern about the cruelty and the violence done to those on the sand, who were all seen as worthless and deserving of their fates—but focused more on such matters as the vast expense of the spectacles, the moral rot of indolence, and the dangers and indignities of indulging raw passions.

Jewish and Christian opposition was no more “humanitarian,” and in fact echoes pagan writers’ arguments about the ill effects of watching on the spectator. The chief concern of monotheists was the idolatry associated with the games, which were often held during pagan religious festivals, in venues adorned with idols of pagan gods, and accompanied by parades and images of pagan worship. Entirely typical of this stance is the 3rd-century ce Christian writer Novatian (Spect. 2), who asks: “Is it not shameful, I say, shameful that men of faith, men who claim for themselves the title of the Christian name, use heavenly scripture to defend the vain superstitions of the pagans that are part of the spectacles, and lend divine sanction to idolatry?”23

Bloody spectacles were first officially banned by Constantine in 325 ce on the notably vague grounds that they were “not pleasing in a time of civil and domestic peace”; the emperor ordered that convicts formerly condemned to the arena be sent instead to the mines (Cod. Theod. 15.12. 1; Cod. Iust. 11.44). There is no hint here of humanitarian concern for victims of arena violence and, indeed, the main purpose of the rescript appears to be to ensure a steady supply of labour for the mines, where Constantine’s pagan opponent Licinius had sent Christians before his defeat the year before at the battle of Adrianople. Evidence for the continued staging of gladiatorial combats extends for about a century beyond this apparent blanket ban, so it is clear that the Christianizing of the empire did not in itself lead to the suppression of the games. The most likely reasons for the disappearance of gladiatorial spectacles are, first, their increasingly enormous expense, which was already a problem in the time of Marcus Aurelius when the senate issued a decree fixing prices for various classes of combatant (CIL II 6278 = ILS 5163 = EAOR 7.3); and, second, the drying up of sources of gladiators, possibly accelerated by Christian withdrawal from arena events. Gladiatorial combats did not come to an end in the Later Empire due to concern for their violence or on the back of moral objections to them. They ended for pragmatic and financial reasons, even as beast shows, hunts, and chariot racing continued—themselves very violent events.

Significance of the Combats

Making sense of the phenomenon of gladiatorial spectacles has proven a thorny issue for modern scholarship. A variety of interpretations of the games and their place in Roman culture have been proposed, some of which take their cues from attitudes expressed by ancient authors. For instance, the view that gladiators were embodiments of cardinal Roman virtues, such as courage, martial skill, endurance, and contempt for death echoes ancient justifications for the combats. Similarly, Juvenal’s famous dictum about the Roman people’s unhealthy obsession with bread and circuses (Sat. 10.78–81) undergirds the modern idea that the games were vehicles of social control, distractions to keep the people from recognizing their real loss of power under the emperors. The arena operated as a kind of Roman parliament where the people could put their demands and complaints directly to their ruler(s) in ways they could hardly do elsewhere.24 A related proposal is that by staging mayhem under controlled conditions, the games offered a sort of cultural vaccination against the threat of unbridled violence.25

Symbolic interpretations have also been advanced. The games have been read as celebrations of empire and the violence needed to establish and maintain it, while the hunt and execution phases in particular were expressions of Roman power over threatening natural forces and social deviance. The gladiator symbolized the promise of rebirth from social death by the enactment of vaunted Roman virtues (courage, martial skill, endurance, contempt for death, etc.).26 The games fit neatly into the wider Roman context of ubiquitous slavery that viewed whole swaths of the population as mere instruments to be used and discarded at will, as well as being marked by a pervasive culture of violence and brutality.27 Another view is that gladiatorial displays were a kind of human sacrifice, analogous to the massive blood rituals of the Aztecs.28 Gladiatorial fights have been examined from gendered and class perspectives as expressions of Roman male values, which were marked by concerns of honour, competition, shame, and proper behaviour in public. They also buttressed traditional elite values of virtus in the face of a burgeoning plebeian culture that, as with the popular dice-and-piece board game alea, was enthralled by games that pitted skill against luck.29

Increased appreciation for the vitality of Hellenic culture under Roman rule has further complicated the picture by suggesting different attitudes toward gladiators in the Greek East, where athletes had their own traditional status, and the Latin West. Thus the Cibyra reliefs have been thought to represent a distinctly Hellenic view of gladiatorial combat, and the presentation of gladiators on eastern tombstones may shed new light on the process of Romanization.30

Finally, gladiatorial shows have been examined from psychiatric and psychological perspectives. One Freudian study seeks to draft a mental map of the Romans and determines they were caught in a vise between desire and despair, a condition manifested by the gladiator, who was both a despised social outcast and an admired, skillful sex symbol.31 Another approach has been to deploy social psychology to elucidate the mental mechanisms that allow spectators, not just the Romans, to take pleasure in harm done to others. This approach invites us to consider not just the cultural and historic conditions specific to the Romans, but the transhistorical and transcultural components of the attraction to violence as entertainment.32 The gladiator, then, remains for modern scholars as enigmatic and ambiguous a figure as he was for the ancients who gazed upon his struggles on the sand.


  • Barton, Carlin A. The Sorrows of the Ancient Romans: The Gladiator and the Monster. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993. See esp ecially chs 1, 2.
  • Berns, Christof, and H. Ali Ekinci. “Gladiatorial Games in the Greek East: A Complex of Reliefs from Cibyra,” Anatolian Studies 65 (2015): 143–179.
  • Carter, Michael. “Gladiatorial Ranking and the SC de pretiis gladiatorum minuendis (CIL II 6278 = ILS 5163).” Phoenix 57 (2003): 83–114.
  • Carter, M. J. “Blown Call? Diodorus and the Treacherous Summa Rudis.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 177 (2011): 63–69.
  • Coleman, Kathleen M. “Valuing Others in the Gladiatorial Barracks.” In Valuing Others. Edited by Ralph M. Rosen and Ineke Sluiter, 419–445. Leiden: Brill, 2010.
  • Dunkle, Roger. Gladiators: Violence and Spectacle in Ancient Rome. Harlow: Pearson, 2008.
  • Edmondson, J. C. “Dynamic Arenas: Gladiatorial Presentations in the City of Rome and the Construction of Roman Society during the Early Empire.” In Roman Theater and Society. Edited by William J. Slater, 69–112. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996.
  • Fagan, Garrett G. The Lure of the Arena: Social Psychology and the Crowd at the Roman Games. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • Futrell, Alison. Blood in the Arena: The Spectacle of Roman Power. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997. See esp ecially ch. 5.
  • Grossschmidt, Karl, et al. Gladiatoren in Ephesos: Tod am Nachmittag: Eine Ausstellung im Ephesos Museum Selçuk. Seit 20. April 2002. Vienna: Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut, 2002.
  • Hope, Valerie. “Fighting for Identity: The Funerary Commemoration of Italian Gladiators.” In The Epigraphic Landscape of Roman Italy. Edited by Alison Cooley, 93–113. London: Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2000.
  • Hopkins, Keith. Death and Renewal, 1–30. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • Junkelmann, Marcus. Gladiatoren. Das Spiel mit dem Tod. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 2008.
  • Kanz, Fabian, and Karl Grossschmidt. “Head Injuries of Roman Gladiators.” Forensic Science International 160 (2006): 207–216.
  • Kanz, Fabian, and Karl Grossschmidt. “Dying in the Arena: The Osseous Evidence from Ephesian Gladiators.” In Roman Amphitheatres and Spectacula: a 21st-Century Perspective. Edited by Tony Wilmott, 211–220. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2009.
  • Levick, Barbara. “The Senatus Consultum from Larinum.” Journal of Roman Studies 73 (1983): 97–115.
  • Mann, Christian. “Um keinen Kranz, um das Leben kämpfen wir!” Gladiatoren im Osten des römischen Reiches und die Frage der Romanisierung. Berlin: Verlage Antike, 2011.
  • Neubauer, Wolfgang, et al. “The Discovery of the School of Gladiators at Carnuntum, Austria.” Antiquity 88 (2014): 173–190.
  • Plass, Paul. The Game of Death in Ancient Rome: Arena Sport and Political Suicide. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995. See esp ecially part 1.
  • Potter, David. “Entertainers in the Roman Empire.” In Life, Death, and Entertainment in the Roman Empire. 2d ed. Edited by David Potter and David Mattingly, 280–350. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010.
  • Robert, Louis. Les gladiateurs dans l’Orient grec. Amsterdam: A. M. Hakkert, 1940.
  • Sabbatini Tumolesi, Patrizia. Gladiatorium paria: Annunci di spettacoli gladiatorii a Pompei. Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1980.
  • Toner, J. P. Leisure and Ancient Rome. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1995. See especially ch. 5.
  • Ville, Georges. La gladiature en Occident des origines à la mort de Domitien. Rome: Ecole française de Rome, 1981.
  • Wiedemann, Thomas. Emperors and Gladiators. London: Routledge, 1992.
  • Wistrand, Magnus. Entertainment and Violence in Ancient Rome: The Attitudes of Roman Writers of the First Century A.D. Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 1992.


  • 1. Roger Dunkle, Gladiators: Violence and Spectacle in Ancient Rome (Harlow: Pearson, 2008).

  • 2. See Michael Carter, “Gladiatorial Ranking and the SC de pretiis gladiatorum minuendis (CIL II 6278 = ILS 5163),” Phoenix 57 (2003): 83–114.

  • 3. The Latin of the mosaic is problematic in places. For discussion, including a more literal translation of the text, see James N. Adams, “The Latin of the Magerius (Smirat) Mosaic,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 108 (2015): 509–544.

  • 4. Marcus Junkelmann, Gladiatoren. Das Spiel mit dem Tod (Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 2008).

  • 5. Georges Ville, La gladiature en Occident des origines à la mort de Domitien (Rome: Ecole française de Rome, 1981), 403–406; David Potter, “Entertainers in the Roman Empire,” in Life, Death, and Entertainment in the Roman Empire, 2nd ed., ed. David Potter and David Mattingly, 280–350 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010).

  • 6. Other notices of female gladiators include Tac. Ann. 15.32.2, Suet. Dom. 4.1, Juv. Sat. 6.246-67. Female gladiators have attracted attention recently: see, e.g., Stephen Brunet, “Female and Dwarf Gladiators,” Mouseion 4 (2004): 145–170; Kathleen Coleman, “Missio at Halicarnassus,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 100 (2000): 487–500; Anna McCullough, “Female Gladiators in Imperial Rome: Literary Context and Historical Fact,” Classical World 101 (2008): 197–209.

  • 7. Wolfgang Neubauer et al., “The Discovery of the School of Gladiators at Carnuntum, Austria,” Antiquity 88 (2014): 173–190; more generally, Valerie Hope, “Fighting for Identity: The Funerary Commemoration of Italian Gladiators,” in The Epigraphic Landscape of Roman Italy, ed. Alison Cooley, 93–113 (London: Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2000).

  • 8. All translations by author. Original Latin/Greek text in following notes.

  • 9. M. Antonius Exochus. | Thraex. | M. Antonius | Exochus nat(ione) | Alexandrinus:

    Rom(ae) ob triump(hum) | Divi Traiani, die II, | tir(o) cum Araxe Cae(saris) |

    st(ans) miss(us); | Rom(ae) mun(eris) eiusd(em) | die VIIII Fimbriam | lib(erum),

    (pugnarum) VIIII, miss(um) fe(cit); Rom(ae) mun(eris) eiusd(em) ….

  • 10. Flamma sec(utor), vix(it) an(nis) XXX; | pugna<vi>t XXXIIII, vicit XXI, | stans

    VIIII, mis(sus) IIII, nat(ione) Syrus; hui<c> Delicatus coarmio merenti fecit.

  • 11. D(is) M(anibus) | Lyco l(ibero/-ibertus) mur(milloni) | scaev(a), pugna(rum) IIII, |

    fec(it) Longinas (sic) | lib(er/-ertus) contrarete, | fratri b(ene) m(erenti).

  • 12. [D(is)] M(anibus) | Vitalis invic|ti retiari, nati|one Bataus; | hic sua virtu|te, pariter

    cum | adversario de[pu|gnav?]it; alacer fu]it] | pugnis; Hi[me?]n convi|[ctor] eius |

    - - - - - -

  • 13. D(is) M(anibus) | Urbico, secutori, | primo palo, nation(e) Flo|rentin(o), qui

    pugnavit XIII, | vixsit ann(is) XXII, Olympias, | filia quem reliquit me(n)si(bus)

    V, | et Fortune(n)sis filiae | et Lauricia uxor, | marito bene merenti, | cum quo

    vixsit ann(is) VII. | Et moneo ut quis quem vic[e]|rit, occidat. | Colent Manes

    amatores ipsi|us.

  • 14. D(is) M(anibus) | Glauco, n(atione) Muti|nensis, pugnar(um) | VII, θ‎ ((periit))

    VIII, vixit | ann(is) XXIII, d(ies) V. | Aurelia marito | b(ene) m(erenti) et amatores

    | huius. Planetam | suum| procurare | vos moneo; in | Nemese ne fidem | habeatis; |

    sic sum deceptus. | Ave. Vale.

  • 15. D(is) M(anibus) | Pardon, | Dertonensis, | pugnar(um) X; hic XI | deceptus. Vixit |

    annis XXVII | Arriane (sic) coiuvi (sic) karis(simo) | mecum vixit annis [---] |

    - - -

    - - -

  • 16. Constantius munerarius | gladiatoribus suis | propter favorem | muneris, munus

    se|pulchrum dedit De|corato retiar⎡ium⎤ | qui peremit Caeruleum | et peremptus

    decidit; | ambos extinxit rudis; | utrosque protegit | rogus. Decoratus | secutor

    pugnar(um) VIIII, | Valeriae uxori do|orem primum | reliquit.

  • 17. [ἦ] τὸ πρὶν ἐν στα[δίῳ κε]λαδούμενος ἔλαβα λήθην, |

    κτείνας ἀντίπαλον μεστὸν πικρίας ἀλογίστί[ου].

    οὔ|νομά μοι Στέφανος· δέκατον στεφθεὶ[ς] ἐν ἀγῶνι |

    θνῄσκω καὶ τρέπομαι μακροῖς αἰῶσι πεδηθείς |

    γαίης ἐν κόλποισι· τὸ γὰρ σθένος οὔποτ’ ἔλειπ[ε],

    πρὶν | κτεῖναι παλάμαισιν ἑὸν ψυχῆς ἐπίκουρον. |

    Πολυχρονις τὴν ἐπιγραφὴν μνείας χάριν‎.

  • 18. ἐνθάδε νεικήσας κεῖμαι Διόδωρος | ὁ τλήμων

    ἀντίπαλον ῥήξας | Δημήτριον οὐκ ἔκτανον εὐθύς, |

    ἀλλά με Μοῖρ’ ὀλοὴ καὶ σουμμά|ρου δόλος αἰνὸς

    ἔκτανον, ἐκ δὲ | φάους ἤλυθον εἰς Ἀΐδην.

    κεῖ|μαι δ’ ἐν γαίῃ αὐτοχθόνων· ἠδέ μ’ ἔ|θαψεν

    ἔνθα φίλος ἀγαθὸς εὐσε|βίης ἕνεκεν. |

  • 19. Karl Grossschmidt et al., Gladiatoren in Ephesos: Tod am Nachmittag: Eine Ausstellung im Ephesos Museum Selçuk. Seit 20. April 2002 (Vienna: Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut, 2002); Fabian Kanz and Karl Grossschmidt, “Head Injuries of Roman Gladiators,” Forensic Science International 160 (2006): 207–216.

  • 20. Barbara Levick, “The Senatus Consultum from Larinum,” Journal of Roman Studies 73 (1983): 97–115.

  • 21. Kathleen Coleman, Bonds of Danger: Communal Life in the Gladiatorial Barracks of Ancient Rome, Todd Memorial Lecture 15 (Sydney: Dept. of Classics & Ancient History, University of Sydney, 2005); Neubauer et al. “Discovery.”

  • 22. Magnus Wistrand, Entertainment and Violence in Ancient Rome: The Attitudes of Roman Writers of the First Century A.D. (Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 1992).

  • 23. For Jewish and Christian attitudes, see Zeev Weiss, Public Spectacles in Roman and Late Antique Palestine (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), especially chs. 5 and 6.

  • 24. For these views, see Keith Hopkins, Death and Renewal, 1–30 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983); Thomas Wiedemann, Emperors and Gladiators (London: Routledge, 1992); J. C. Edmondson, “Dynamic Arenas: Gladiatorial Presentations in the City of Rome and the Construction of Roman Society during the Early Empire,” in Roman Theater and Society, ed. William J. Slater, 69–112 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996).

  • 25. Paul Plass, The Game of Death in Ancient Rome: Arena Sport and Political Suicide (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995), 3–77.

  • 26. Wiedemann, Emperors and Gladiators.

  • 27. Hopkins, Death and Renewal, 1–30.

  • 28. Alison Futrell, Blood in the Arena: The Spectacle of Roman Power (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997), 169–210.

  • 29. J. P. Toner, Leisure and Ancient Rome (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1995), 34–52.

  • 30. Christian Mann, “Um keinen Kranz, um das Leben kämpfen wir!” Gladiatoren im Osten des römischen Reiches und die Frage der Romanisierung (Berlin: Verlag Antike, 2011); Christof Berns and H. Ali Ekinci, “Gladiatorial Games in the Greek East: A Complex of Reliefs from Cibyra,” Anatolian Studies 65 (2015): 143–179.

  • 31. Carlin A. Barton, The Sorrows of the Ancient Romans: The Gladiator and the Monster (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), 3–81.

  • 32. Garrett G. Fagan, The Lure of the Arena: Social Psychology and the Crowd at the Roman Games (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011).