Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death: The Life of a Gladiator

Nowadays, the term “gladiator” is used to describe those people who demonstrate extreme courage and stamina, as they engage in intense and risky competitive sports.  Boxers, wrestlers, football players, and even Olympic athletes would qualify for the title of gladiator by today’s standards.  We enjoy watching these players go head-to-head, as sporting events provide entertainment and give us something to root for.  However, let’s not forget about the original gladiators of ancient Rome where it all began.

In ancient Rome, gladiators were usually slaves, criminals, or war prisoners, bought and sold for combat.  Gladiators were given immediate status, as they were known for their arena fights.  They were also seen as loyal to their masters and disciplined in their work.

Gladiators trained in privately owned institutions that were later taken over by the imperial state.  As is the case with professional athletes today, gladiator training was rigorous and a daily routine.  They were able to use armor and weapons that they were most comfortable with to maximize their fighting potential.  The armor and weapons used was non-Roman, thus portraying the role of the Roman enemy.  The reason Roman military garb was not used was because it would send a bad political sign to the people.  Gladiators were paid for their fights and were given medical attention and three meals a day.  If a gladiator survived three to five years of combat, they would be freed.

Gladiator Arena Helmet:

Gladiator Arena Helmet

Gladiator conquests were held in huge arenas, to draw as big of a crowd as possible.  Just as movies are one of the main entertainments of our day, so gladiator matches were the main attraction back then.  When an opponent was wounded and felt defeated, he would raise his left hand, extending a finger, as a mercy plea.  If mercy was not granted, the loser grabbed the thigh of the conqueror, who would finish him off by stabbing his neck.  The dead body was speedily dragged away by costumed attendants, who hit it with a hammer and poked it with a hot iron, to ensure death was final.  For his victory, the winner received either a golden bowl, crown, or golden coin, and a palm leaf.

Arena Sword:

Arena Sword

True, there was a lot of bloodshed during the gladiator time in ancient Rome, gladiators offered audiences an example of Roman martial ethics and through their courage and nobility, were able to inspire others toward greatness.

Be sure to take a look at our selection of gladiator armor and weapons at:


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