5 Things About Gladiators
- Not all gladiators were slaves. While it is true that most early combatants were conquered peoples and slaves who had committed crimes, by the 1st century A.D, scores of free men began voluntarily signing contracts with gladiator schools in the hope of winning glory and prize money.
- Most historians argue that gladiator fights got their start as a blood rite staged at the funerals of wealthy nobles. When distinguished aristocrats died, their families would hold graveside bouts between slaves or condemned prisoners as a kind of macabre eulogy for the virtues the person had demonstrated in life. The first recorded gladiatorial combat in Rome occurred when three pairs of gladiators fought to the death during the funeral of Junius Brutus in 264 BCE, though others may have been held earlier.
- Gladiators didn’t always fight to the death. Even though Hollywood depicts it to the contrary, their promoters were loath to see them needlessly killed, since gladiators were expensive to house, feed and train.
- The term Gladiator derives from the Roman sword called the gladius.
- The largest and most spectacular gladiator fights were those staged in Colosseum in Rome. The huge circular amphitheatre could seat up to 50,000 people. Lifts were used to bring the gladiators up to the main arena.
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