Definition of a Hoplomachi - Weapons, Armor, Fighting Styles and Opponents
What type of gladiator was a Hoplomachi? 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 word ‘hoplomachus’ derives from the Greek words meaning ‘heavily armed’. The Hoplomachi gladiator originated from the Hellenic warriors called the ‘hoplites’. Well built gladiators, heavily armored and therefore slow
During the period of the Roman Republic "heavy" fighters were termed Samnites and in the Empire Period they became known as Hoplomachus
Opponent: This type of gladiator fought with similarly heavily armored gladiators. The Hoplomachi was limited in his speed because of the weight of his heavy armor so combats against lightly armored and speedy opponent gladiators would have been interesting to the Romans. Often matched against the murmillo
Weapons: This type of gladiator fought with a sword (the gladius). The Gladius was the 27 inch short straight sword, broad towards the handle, after which the gladiator was named. The gladius was designed to thrust and parry rather than to cut and slice. The Gladius Graecus was a leaf-shaped short sword originally used by the Greek hoplites and also used by Hoplomachus gladiators. A dagger called a pugio or a semispathae or half-swords might also be one of this gladiator's weapons. The Hoplomachi also carried a lance (hasta). The hasta was not thrown, it was used for thrusting and approximately six feet in length.
The gladiators who used the gladius sword were those who were armed with body-shields such as the secutor, myrmillo, hoplomachusand the dimacheris.
Body Armor and helmet worn by this type of gladiator: Protected by a Galea visored helmet with a massive crest ridge. He wore an Ocrea, or metal greave, on the lower left leg. His right arm and wrist was protected by a manica of tied linen or leather
Shield: Hoplomachi carried a Parmula which was was a small, light bronze shield, usually round but occasionally square. They were also believed to have used the scutum, a rectangular, semi-cylindrical body shield
Clothing worn: Canvas Loin Cloth (subligaculum) worn in a variety of colors, sandals or barefoot
Hoplomachi - Matched Pairs
Combats between similarly armored gladiators would demonstrate superior skills when gladiators were fighting against equally armed opponents. However, contrasting types of fighters were also carefully selected in order to achieve a reasonably fair pairing. Matched pairs of gladiators of would ensure that one fighter was hampered by heavy armor whilst the other was lightly armed. One gladiator might have freedom of movement but with little to nothing to protect him, whereas the other gladiator might be more heavily armed and protected but restricted in his movements by his equipment. There were therefore many different types of gladiator, including the Hoplomachi, who specialised in using specific weapons, armor and shields.