But rich rewards could be earned in the Roman arenas. Successful gladiators were treated almost as our 'pop idols' of today and some men volunteered for this type of life. The famous gladiators detailed on this page were a mixture of the different types of gladiators who fought gladiatorial combats in the arena - the most famous of all the Gladiators was Spartacus.
Famous Gladiators - Spartacus
The content of this Famous Gladiators category starts with Spartacus (c. 109 BC-71 BC). The Roman slave, possibly a prisoner of war from Thrace, who sparked a rebellion of slaves who fought against the might of the Roman Army. Spartacus was sold as a slave to the lanista Lentulus Batiatus of a gladiatorial school (ludus) near Capua. Spartacus was trained as a gladiator and used his skills to fight the Romans. His chief aides were gladiators from Gaul, named Crixus and Oenomaus.
Famous Gladiators - Roman Emperor Commodus
Unbelievably, one of the most famous gladiators was the Emperor Commodus(177-192 AD) who boasted that he was the victor of a thousand matches. Commodus regularly took part in the games and spectacles and ordered his fights to be inscribed in the public records and announced in the city newspaper - Commodus fought as a Secutor.
Famous Gladiators - Famous Emperors
The Roman Emperors Caligula, Titus, Hadrian, Cracalla, Getaand Didius Julianuswere all said to have performed in the arena.
Famous Gladiators - Flamma
Flamma was one of the most famous 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".
Famous Gladiators - Priscus and Verus
The next story is about two famous gladiators called Priscus and Verus who fought so evenly and courageously for so long that when they both acknowledged defeat at the same instant, the Roman Emperor Titusawarded victory to both of them, presented them with the wooden swords (the rudis) and they both walked from the arena of the Colosseum through the Gate of Life.
Famous Gladiators - The Idols
Famous Gladiators were treated with adulation by many Romans - they were treated as sex symbols. Graffiti regarding gladiators was scrawled over the walls of Rome and other great cities. "Crescens, the net fighter, holds the hearts of all the girls" and "Caladus, the Thracian, makes all the girls sigh". Even the mother of the Emperor Commodusis believed to have had a crush on the gladiator Martianus. The Emperor Elagabalus'married' his chariot driver, a blond slave from Caria named Hierocles, whom he referred to as his husband. Martial wrote "Hermes divitiae locariorum" or “Hermes means riches for the ticket scalpers” (Hermes was a famous gladiator).
Names of other Famous Gladiators
The names of other famous fighters were mentioned by writers including those of Triumphus, Spiculus, Rutuba and Tetraides. An auctorati (a Roman citizens who was in debt and sold himself to a gladiator school for money) named Marcus Attilius defeated the champion of Emperor Nero, Hilarus, who had won 13 times in a row. Marcus Attilius defeated other gladiators including Raecius Felix, who had won 12 times in a row before his defeat. A mosaic found in 2007 in a bathhouse at the Villa dei Quintili shows a Retiarius named Montanus.