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The Roman
Entertainment for
the Masses
History and Origins
• Like sporting events in
many ancient cultures,
Roman gladiatorial
combat originated as a
religious event.
• The Romans claimed that
their tradition of
gladiatorial games was
adopted from the
Etruscans, but there is
little evidence to support
• The early games ended not in the literal death of the participants,
but in their symbolic death as defeated athletes, unlike succeeding
Roman gladiatorial combat.
Who Were the Gladiators?
• In general, gladiators were
condemned criminals, prisoners of
war, or slaves bought for the purpose
of gladiatorial combat by a lanista , or
owner of gladiators.
• Professional gladiators were free men
who volunteered to participate in the
games = popularity and patronage
• Those criminals who did not commit a
capital crime were trained in private
gladiator schools, ludi. =
• could earn their freedom if they
survived three to five years of
Gladiatorial Barracks - Remains at Pompeii
Training a Gladiator
• Gladiator schools taken
over by the imperial
state to prevent the
build up of a private
• Gladiators trained like
athletes (ie. medical
attention and three
meals a day).
Their training included
learning how to use
various weapons,
including the war chain,
net, trident, dagger, and
• Each gladiators was
allowed to fight in the
armor and with the
weapons that best
suited him.
• gladiators wore the
armor and used the
weaponry of non-Roman
people, playing the role
of Rome's enemies.
Winning and Losing
• were paid each time they fought
• When one of the opponents was
wounded, the crowd would typically
shout “habet, hoc habet,” he has had it.
• An opponent who felt he was defeated
would raise his left hand with one finger
extended as a request for mercy.
• Typically fought in large arenas (most
famous being the Colosseum in Rome)
• The winner would receive a symbol of
their victory, such as a golden bowl,
crown, or gold coin, along with a palm
leaf symbolizing victory.