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Ancient Roman Gladiators

Many people are familiar with the concept of Ancient Roman gladiators, but aren't necessarily sure who they were or what they did. The term gladiator came from the Latin word meaning swordsman. Gladiators were first introduced in ancient Rome during the rule of the Emperor Brutus Pera. In 264 BC, the son of this emperor showed his father fighting gladiators as a way to pay him honor and respect. It was not long after that the art and sport became popular in ancient Rome. The Romans loved to watch these warriors fight in bloody battles, often to the death. Once the profession became popular, it became one of the premiere events to watch and enjoy in the famous Roman Coliseum.

Ancient Roman Gladiators

In Ancient Rome, being a gladiator was considered a profession, however, it wasn't always a profession that was chosen. Many gladiators were slaves, war prisoners, or criminals who were not permitted their own basic rights or freedom.

Some gladiators did choose the profession on their own, though. The gladiators who chose the profession for themselves, rather than being forced into it, were often members of the upper class who had experienced some sort of financial downfall, such as losing their inheritance. This person could choose to become a gladiator to prevent the loss of recognition and honor they had once known. Essentially, becoming a gladiator was a means to redeem their notability amongst their people. This choice was made even though they had to endure the types of punishment that accompanied this profession such as flogging, branding, and sometimes even death.

Lanistas and Gladiators

Ancient Roman gladiators were owned by a person called a lanista, who owned all rights to the gladiator and made him a part of the troupe. The troupe consisted of many different gladiators who were trained in a school owned by the lanista. At this school, each gladiator was trained to fight in combat to the death and was also taught to serve his lanista, or master, without fail.

The combat training was said to be a science full of precision and tactile moves in order to make each gladiator the best he could be. This would allow the gladiator to win and bring honor and adoration to both himself and his lanista.

For a point in time during Roman history, a lanista could be any upper class citizen with the ability to own and train a set of gladiators. The lanista could hire out his troop to make money, but usually this was not the main source of the lanista's income. However, Roman law changed this over time due to fear gladiators would be trained to lead a revolutionary revolt. It was then declared the only one who could own and train gladiators was the emperor.

Women Gladiators

For a brief period in history, women were also permitted to become ancient Roman gladiators. According to record, women gladiators fought in the ring beside their male counterparts as a form of entertainment during the time when the Emperor Nero was in power. Becoming a gladiator became a popular choice for women considering they could earn the same adoration and recognition as the men. This was something special since women were not afforded many rights in ancient Rome. However, it was realized too many women were choosing to be gladiators and the practice was outlawed just a few short years later.

Gladiators as Athletics

Gladiators in Rome were considered athletes of their time, similar to what baseball and football players are considered to be today. Their combat in the ring required bravery and courage to stare death in the face. Their ability to fight and win brought them adoration from many, with well-known gladiators receiving the honor and recognition of a Roman soldier. Thus, like today, those who had the athletic talent and the discipline necessary could become major figures of importance in society.