Roman Colosseum

'The Roman Colosseum'

History, Facts and Information about the Retiarii
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 would usually involve two gladiators but similar types of gladiators such as the Retiarii, would not normally fight each other.

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. In the movie Spartacus Kirk Douglas assumes the role of a Thracian and is matched against a Retiarii played by the actor Woody Strode.

Gladiator Weapons
Roman Gladiator Armor

History and Origins of the Retiarii
The Romans enjoyed the spectacle of watching the fighting styles of their defeated enemies. As a weapon, the trident was prized for its long reach and ability to trap other long-weapons between prongs to disarm their wielder. The trident was used as a weapon by the Egyptians and in some regions in Asia. However the trident was also well known as s symbol and weapon of Neptune, the God of the Sea. His famous opponent, the Secutor (meaning 'the one following'), symbolised Vulcan the God of Fire, because fire always pursues.. A fight symbolising the opposites of fire and water.

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

  • Definition: A Retiarius (pl. Retiarii meaning "net-man" or "net-fighter") was a Roman gladiator who fought with equipment styled on that of a fisherman

  • The Retiarius (Retiarii) were lightly armored so they had the advantage of agility, mobility and speed.

  • Unlike other gladiators, except the similar Laquerarii, they wore no helmets and had no form of anonymity - there faces were on view to everyone

  • Opponent: This type of gladiator  fought with the heavily armed gladiators such as the secutor or a mirmillo

  • The Secutores or Murmillones wore a helmet with a stylized fish on the crest (the mormylos or sea fish)

  • The symbolism between the Retiarius against the Secutores or Murmillones represented the fisherman and his prey, the fish

  • His fighting technique was evasive and his tactics were to entangle his opponent with his net and then skewer him as a fisherman with his trident

  • Weapons: This type of gladiator fought with a a weighted net  called a 'rete' a three-pointed trident called a fuscina or tridens) and a dagger called a pugio. The Fascina were long, three-pronged, metal tridents (harpoons)

  • The spacing between the prongs of the tridents varied - they were sometimes spaced in order to stab through the eyes of their opponents or used to wrench the sword from his opponent

  • The purpose of the small eye-holes in the helmets of the opponents of the Retarius was to prevent the narrow prongs of the retiarius' trident from penetrating to the eyes

  • Body Armor and helmet worn by this type of gladiator: The Retiarius fought without a helmet  and no body armor other than  a "Galerus" which a distinctive metal shoulder guard fashioned so that the neck and head were protected but the head movements of the Retiarii were unrestricted. 

  • Shield: None

  • The Latin word 'Iaculum' was a generic term for all weapons to be flung at the enemy, such as nets, lassos, javelins and slings

  • Clothing worn: Net-men wearing tunics, known as retiarii tunicati and wore sandals or went barefoot

  • Because of their evasive tactics they were viewed as second-rate gladiators and with their tunics, rather than the usual highly masculine bare chests and loin cloths, they were even considered effeminate. It is believed that some tunics even imitated the clothing of Roman women

Retiarii Weapons - The Net or 'Rete'
The rete used by the retiarius was made of strong hemp-rope, with small blades or leaden balance weights attached to the sides. When the circular shaped net was thrown the weights enables a spreading effect. There was a stronger thread running round the perimeter of the net (rete) enabling the Retiarii to tighten it around his opponent. The net was fastened to the wrist of the Retiarii with a separate thread to make retrieval easier.

Roman Colosseum

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