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History, Facts and Information about the Samnites
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 Samnites, 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. The Samnites were warriors from Samnium. Samnium was located in south central Italy. The Samnite Wars ended in the Roman domination of the Samnites. The Samnites were some of the earliest gladiators who appeared in the Roman games shortly after the defeat of Samnium in the 4th century BC. The Samnite evolved into the Secutores, once the Samnites had been absorbed into the Roman state.

Gladiator Weapons
Roman Gladiator Armor

Definition of a Samnites - Weapons, Armor, Fighting Styles and Opponents
What type of gladiator was a Samnites? 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 Samnites was

  • Samnites were some of the earliest types of gladiators and may have been the model for the later as Hoplomachus, Secutores and Murmillones.

  • During the period of the Roman Republic "heavy" fighters were termed as Samnites

  • Helmet - The Samnites were recognisable by their armor and weapons and easily distinguished by a helmet with a plumed crest. This visored helmet (galea) had a large crest and plume

  • Opponent: This type of gladiator usually fought with aRetiarius (pl. Retiarii meaning "net-man" or "net-fighter") who 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.

  • Weapons: The Samnite 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.

  • Body Armor and helmet worn by this type of gladiator: 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: The earliest Samnites used the scutum, a rectangular, semi-cylindrical body shield but as time passed this was replaced by a small circular shield called a parmula

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

Samnites - 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 Samnites, who specialised in using specific weapons, armor and shields.

Roman Colosseum

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