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Bestiarii

Roman Colosseum

'The Roman Colosseum'

History, Facts and Information about the Bestiarii
Gladiators were divided into different classes according to their weapons and fighting styles. There were strict rules and protocol surrounding the fights of gladiators. The first Roman Gladiators were prisoners of war and used the weapons and equipment characteristic of their people. The early enemies of Rome included the Samnites, the Thracians and the Gauls (Gallus) and gladiators were named according to their ethnic roots.

This changed over the years and the names of the different types of gladiators reflected their combat techniques such as Secutores (chasers), Bestiarii (beast fighters) and Retiarius (net fighters). Gladiators were always clothed and armed to resemble barbarians with unusual and exotic weapons and their fights depicted famous victories over barbarians and the power of the Roman Empire.

Gladiator Weapons
Roman Gladiator Armor

Definition of a Bestiarii - Weapons, Armor, Fighting Styles and Opponents
There were therefore many different types of gladiator, including the Bestiarii, who specialised in using specific weapons, armor and shields. What type of gladiator was a Bestiarii? What weapons and armor did they use?

  • Definition: Bestiarii was the general term given to people who were closely connected to the wild beasts and animals of the arena. The name was given to the following:

    • Those who procured, trained and looked after the wild beasts

    • Criminals, prisoners of war or Christian Martyrs were executed as common criminals by "damnatio ad bestia" (thrown to the wild beasts).

    • Gladiators who specialised as beast or wild animal fighters

  • Opponent: This type of gladiator only fought with wild animals including tigers, leopards and lions

  • Weapons: This type of gladiator fought with a spear and/or a knife and sometimes a whip

  • Body Armor and helmet worn by this type of gladiator: The Galea, a visored helmet, with decorative crests and basic leather arm and legs wraps

  • Shield: None or small shield

  • Clothing worn: Canvas Loin Cloth (subligaculum) worn in a variety of colors, sandals or barefoot

  • Canistrum - A Canistrum was a spherical iron cage from inside which Bestiarii could safely confront wild animals in the arena

The Role of the Bestiarii
The role of the gladiator referred to as the bestiarii grew in popularity. There were large numbers of gladiators who volunteered to take on this role due to the rewards and adulation they received. It was also a less dangerous role than that of the other gladiators who had to fight to the death nearly every time they entered the arena such as the one at the Roman Colosseum. The fights were arranged in such a way that there was a small chance the animals would defeat the Bestiarii. The Bestiarii were trained in specific schools who specialised in fighting wild and exotic beasts. The schools were called the scholae bestiarum or the bestiariorum. The Bestiaries School in Ancient Rome was called the Ludus matutinus, which was a building situated adjacent to the Roman Colosseum which was established by the Emperor Domitian. The name of the school, Ludus matutinus, is derived from Latin word matutinus meaning "of the morning" which was when the animal, or wild beasts fights, were scheduled.  Both slaves and volunteers were trained to fight with wild beasts.

Roman Colosseum
Gladiators

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