The spectators all seated in the Colosseum waiting for the games to begin with the magnificent processions which would set the scene for the games. An opening ceremony may have well started with a religious ceremony and even some ritual Sacrifices at the Roman Colosseum. The sound of the procession approaching would have been dimly heard in the distance. The gladiatorial games at the Colosseum are about to begin...
Processions at the Colosseum - Entry through the Gate of Life
All eyes would be turned to the east of the arena towards the Gate of Life where the procession would enter. The Gate of Life was connected via a tunnel to the Ludus Magnus the great Gladiator School and the gladiators would have only joined the end of procession to make their entry into the arena. The procession, minus the gladiators, would have paraded through the streets of Rome. The procession was led by slaves clothed in golden armor and blowing long trumpets. The musicians would have followed, loudly playing on horns, fifes and flutes.
Processions at the Colosseum - Entry of the 'Editor'
The 'editor' giving the games, usually to curry political favor with the 'mob', rode behind on a chariot perhaps drawn by exotic wild animals such as zebras or even ostriches. The chariot would have been surrounded by his supporters. The 'editor' was the only person who had the right to wear a purple toga and on his head would have been a golden wreath encrusted with semi-precious jewels. The wild animals drawing the chariot would be shown in magnificent harness and led by their trainers.
Processions at the Colosseum - The Main Procession
After the chariot came the main procession consisting of spectacular floats and decorated carts drawn by horses, mules and elephants. The floats held groups of young men and girls posing to represent a mythological tableau. Acrobats, animal trainers and their animal acts, hunters and bowmen followed. Dancers in exotic costumes scattering rose petals. The main procession would have circled the arena and followed by the entry of the Vestal Virgins who took their palace directly opposite the Imperial Box used by the Emperor. The Emperor would have entered the Colosseum to the fanfare of trumpets and then taken his place in the royal box followed by a detachment of the Praetorian Guard.
Processions at the Colosseum - The Entry of the Gladiators
The entry of the gladiators came last and they would have entered through the Gate of Life to rapturous applause from the crowds. The gladiators would have been fully briefed and knew exactly what was expected of them. Each gladiator would be attired in specific armor and holding appropriate weapons. Some gladiators would have worn gold-embroidered cloaks. The spectators would have recognised the armor and weapons and were able to distinguish the different styles of combat that would be displayed. The entry of the gladiators would have ended as they paraded around the arena and then formed ranks in front of the Imperial Box and the Emperor.
Processions at the Colosseum - "We who are about to die, salute you!"
The gladiators saluted the emperor shouting the ritual chorus of "Ave imperato morituri te salutant!" which roughly translated meant "We who are about to die, salute you!". The processions at the Colosseum then led to the slaughter in the bloody arena.