Roman Colosseum

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History, Facts and Information about the Bustuarii

Gladiators were divided into different classes according to their weapons and fighting styles. There were strict rules and protocol surrounding the fights of gladiators. A gladiatorial fight at a funeral would involve two gladiators, called the Bustuarii, who fought to the death.

Gladiator Weapons
Roman Gladiator Armor

Definition of a Bustuarii - Weapons, Armor, Fighting Styles and Opponents
What type of gladiator was a Bustuarii? What weapons and armor did they use? What was their style of combat? And what type of gladiator was matched as their opponent?

  • Definition: The Bustuarii was a type of slave gladiator who fought in combats to the death at the funeral ceremonies of prominent Romans

  • Opponent: This type of gladiator only fought with another Bustuarii

  • Weapons: This type of gladiator fought with a sword (the gladius). The specific type of sword was the leaf-shaped Gladius Graecus which was originally used by the hoplites. Hoplites were the citizen-soldiers of the Ancient Greek City-states which included Sparta.

  • Body Armor and helmet worn by this type of gladiator: None

  • Shield: A small shield

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

History of the Bustuarii
Gladiators were first exhibited at Rome in B.C. 264, in the Forum Boarium, a cattle market, by Marcus and Decimus Brutus, at the funeral of their father, who was a consul named D. Junius Brutus Pera. These gladiatorial fights were at first confined to public funerals, but afterwards fought at the funerals of wealthy people of consequence and even at the funerals of women. Romans sometimes left a sum of money in their will to pay the expenses of such an exhibition involving Bustuarii at their funerals. The name Bustuarii was derived from the word ''bustum, or funeral pile of a deceased person, in the funeral ceremony.

The Bustuarii and Roman Funerals
Why was a Roman funeral chosen as a fitting place to hold a gladiatorial fight? The religion of the Romans revolved around the worship of various gods and a strong belief in an afterlife. The Romans believed that "souls of the dead were propitiated by human blood..." The early Romans therefore believed that human sacrifice at the dead person's funeral would appease the Roman gods and ensure a safe entrance into the afterlife. Preparation for Roman funeral rites involved captives or slaves being bought, trained to kill as Bustuarii and then sacrificed during the funeral rituals which were called a munus.

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