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Gladiators at the Colosseum

Roman Colosseum

'The Roman Colosseum'

History, Facts and Information about Gladiators at the Colosseum
Gladiators who fought at the Colosseum were enlisted from slaves captured as prisoners of war. Gladiators fought against each other, wild animals and condemned criminals, sometimes to the death, for the entertainment of spectators.

Gladiators at the Colosseum - Matched Pairs
Gladiators were designated a particular fighting style which suited their physique and were trained with the relevant armor and weapons.

There were strict rules and protocol surrounding the fights of gladiators at the Roman Colosseum. A gladiatorial fight involved a matched pair. Gladiators were always clothed to resemble barbarians conquered by the Romans. They were armed with unusual and exotic weapons and their fights depicted famous victories which illustrated the power of the Roman Empire. 

Types of Gladiators at the Colosseum
The types gladiators at the Colosseum were given the following names, their various fighting styles are also detailed:

  • Andabatae (Sight Restricted Gladiators)
  • Bestiarii (Beast Fighters)
  • Dimachaeri (Gladiators With Two Swords)
  • Eques(Horseback And Sword Gladiators)
  • Gallus (Heavily armed Gladiators)
  • Essedari (War-Chariot Fighters)
  • Hoplomachi (Armed Fighters)
  • Laquerarii (Lasso Fighters)
  • Murmillones (Gladius and Shield Gladiators)
  • Naumachiarii ( Combatants in Sea-fights)
  • Provocatores (Challengers Protected by a Breastplate)
  • Retiarii (Net Fighters)
  • Rudiarius (Free Gladiators)
  • Sagittarius (Mounted Bowman)
  • Samnites: (Large Shields and Plumed Helmets)
  • Secutores (Two Small Eye-Holes in Helmet)
  • Scissores (Carvers - Short Swords)
  • Thracian (Thrax Curved Sword)
  • Velites (Spear Fighters)

Gladiators at the Colosseum - "We who are about to die, salute you!"
After the entry of the gladiators at the Colosseum they would have saluted the emperor shouting the ritual chorus of "Ave imperato morituri te salutant!" which meant "We who are about to die, salute you!" Gladiators were expected to fight to the death, or at least demonstrate that they were willing to die. The gladiators who fought in the Colosseum and other Roman arenas had sworn a legal agreement by which they handed themselves over as slaves to their master and trainer, agreeing to submit to beating, burning, and death by the sword if they did not perform as required.

Gladiators at the Colosseum - The Thumbs up and Thumbs down signs
Gladiators at the Colosseum who acknowledged defeat could request the fight to be stopped. The gladiator would signal his request by raising his finger, or his hand and arm. The editor took the crowd's response into consideration in deciding whether to let the loser live or order the victor to kill him. This was referred to as the Pollice verso meaning "With thumb turned." It is not clear which way the thumb was turned to signify life or death although it is commonly believed that the Thumbs up signalled life and the Thumbs down signalled life.

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