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Death of a Gladiator

Roman Colosseum

'The Roman Colosseum'

History, Facts and Information about Death of a Gladiator
A Gladiator was expected to give his life with dignity and courage. The death of Gladiators was even ritualised to provide a stage for his death. A defeated gladiator who was refused missio was expected to kneel and courageously accept death. His opponent would stab him with the gladius (sword) through the neck or shoulder blade into the heart or using the gladius or pugio (dagger) would stab him in the throat.

This ritual death was called iugulatio. The dead gladiators would be dragged from the arena accompanied by the playing of trumpets.

The Death of a Gladiator - the Spoliarium
A gladiator could be killed by another gladiator or, in the case of the animal fighters, by a wild beast. Badly wounded , but still living gladiators (these were the noxii, who had been sentenced to death in the arena), would receive a fatal blow to the head with a massive hammer inflicted by a man dressed like Charon, the Ferryman of the Underworld. The bodies of the noxii gladiators would then be dragged from the arena sometimes by hooks in their heels, to make this chore easier. Their dead bodies were dragged through the Gate of Death called the Porta Libitinensis, This name derives from Libitina who was the goddess of funerals. The corpses of the gladiators were then taken to the Spoliarium.

The Death of Trained and Free Gladiators - Auctorati and the Veterani 
Some Roman citizens, often those in debt, sold themselves into gladiator schools for money. These free gladiators were called auctorati. There were also experienced and trained gladiators, referred to as veterani, who were extremely valuable assets. Gladiators who had obtained their freedom, called Rudiarius, the auctorati and the veterani were therefore treated completely differently to the noxii. A wounded Rudiarius, veterani or auctorati would be afforded some dignity and care and would be carried from the arena on a stretcher. Only backstage would someone check if a rudiarius, veterani or auctorati gladiator was really dead.

The Death of a Gladiator - Disposal of the Body
After fights, the bodies of the gladiators were disposed of depending of the status of the fighter. The bodies of noxii and damnati were either buried or thrown into rivers, this being the traditional Roman disposal method for the bodies of executed criminals while other Gladiators were often buried with honours by their "union" (collegia) or friends. There are rumors that the bodies of dead gladiators were used by animal trainers. It is said that human parts were fed to wild animals to get them used to the taste of human flesh. Such animals were therefore more likely to attack humans thrown to them in the arena.

The Death of a Gladiator - the Burial
The Gladiators buried with honours by their "union" (collegia) or friends were remembered by the markings on their gravestones. Flamma was one of the best remembered gladiators of Rome because he was awarded the rudis no less than four times but still chose to remain a gladiator. The gravestone of Flamma, in Sicily, details the following information:

 "Flamma, secutor, lived 30 years, fought 34 times, won 21 times, fought to a draw 9 times, defeated 4 times
a Syrian by nationality."

The gravestone also holds the entry "Delicatus made this for his deserving comrade-in-arms" which confirms the notion that some gladiators were buried with honor.

Roman Colosseum
Gladiators

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