Gladiator Fighting: Playing By The Rules

Gladiators in ancient Rome were known as brutal fighters, engaging in combat to the death.  With so much brutality, it would seem that these battles were free-for-alls without structure and order.  However, like modern fighters, such as wrestlers and boxers, gladiators did follow a strict set of rules in the arena called the Queensberry Rules.

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Contrary to depictions of gory violence and mutilation in the arena, research shows that gladiator deaths were quick and merciful.  Also, gladiators did not always fight to the death.  They would often end the match before someone was killed.  The fighters were well matched and monitored by two referees.  Based on the forensic tests of gladiator bones in a cemetery at Ephesus, the ancient Roman power base in western Asia, evidence suggests that gladiators only used one type of weapon in combat, as opposed to multiple weapons.  As a result, injuries were shown to be minimal, supporting the fact that adherence to stringent fighting rules was followed.

Roman Gladiator Sword:

Roman Gladiator Sword

While gladiator combat rules were strict, they also catered to each type of fighter and their weapons and fighting style to ensure an evenly matched fight.  One of the most common gladiator types was the cestus who fought with spikes wrapped in leather around their hands.  Another type was the murmillo who carried a Roman legionnaire shield and a short gladius sword.  Similar to the murmillo was the secutor who had the same armor and weapons.  The only difference was a tighter fitting helmet.  There was also the hoplonachus who carried a spear, gladius, and small, round shield.  These gladiator types were dressed with helmets and arm and leg protection.

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Not quite as armed as other gladiators were the retiarius, who lacked head and leg protection, and only had arm and shoulder guards as armor.  They carried a weighted net, trident, and dagger into the arena.  Armored like the secutor was the thraex who carried a curved sword called a sica and a small shield.  To finish out the fighters were the noxil.  They were not considered gladiators, but they were arena fighters who fought animals and would sometimes train gladiators in mock fights.  They were comprised of criminals and other societal rejects and had little to no weapons or means of defense.

Gladiator Fight Helmet:

 

Gladiator Fight Helmet

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In the event that a gladiator was wounded, there is proof that good medical treatment was provided and wounds were treated and given a chance to heal.  At the end of the day, gladiators were valued commodities, as they offered entertainment value and a fair amount of time and money was invested in them.  Thus, the strict code of conduct for battle was implemented to protect and preserve these fighters for as long as possible.

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