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Roman Gladiator, Training to the Gladiator Arena, A Gladiators Violent Life

Updated on December 4, 2015

Roman Gladiators weapons, training and way of life.

The gladiators arena was wherever a sponsored show could be arranged. Gladiators were used as the Roman Empire expanded to make money for their owners or for their 'sponsors'.

As the average rich Roman had little to do, their entertainment was derived from visiting the arenas and to watch men battle to the death.

This blood-thirsty sport was accepted as part of the entertainment culture, and children were encouraged to watch as blood was spilled on the arena floor on a virtually daily basis.

The Romans saw this as education for their children.

Bets would be placed on the outcome of gladiator battles. The more battles a gladiator won, the higher their profile and the more they could earn for themselves or for their sponsor. Only a few gladiators were actually slaves, most were ex-soldiers or men opting to choose the life of a gladiator rather than joining the military.

Many gladiators became very rich. Wages were either paid to gladiators by their sponsors / owners, and even part of the winnings from bets placed on each battle.

They were free to leave the training centre or arena and come and go as they pleased and spend their money on whatever their heart desired.

Odd Fact: The Romans brushed their teeth with their own urine. They believed it killed bacteria.

Gladiator Training

Harsh & Brutal

The training schedule was harsh as each new recruit learned how to die. Each new potential gladiator was examined by a doctor for physical fitness and assessed by the training instructor prior to training commencing.

Gladiators were not only trained how to kill, but also how to die showing no fear and with honor. They were each given a Rudus, ( wooden training sword ) to practice with whilst in training.

As some of these men were captured slaves, giving them a real sword was a potentially life threatening scenario. But death could occur even with a wooden sword.

Physical fitness was tantamount for the would be gladiator. This was the initial priority of the training school. Peak fitness was required to help stay alive inside the arena once battle started and to bring in some rewards for the schools owners.

Typical Training Compond
Typical Training Compond

Training gladiators were given several small meals a day to ensure they kept their strength up and built up muscle tissue. New trainees were called novicius, and when ready to fight in the arena, they were called Tirones Gladiatores.

A simple wooden pole, ( palus ) was the first target practice for a novice. This would be used to learn thrusts and killing as well as maiming thrusts. The 'kill' thrusts would be across the throat and into the heart, whereas 'maiming' thrusts would be towards the abdominal region as well as the limbs.

Clip From Gladiator

Each gladiators training varied, depending upon the type of armour that they would be using. Heavily armoured soldiers would be slower than lightly armoured ones. The gladiators whom would be wearing more armour would require more body mass than their agile counterparts.

Most training centered on the type of armor and the weapons each gladiator would be carrying. Each gladiator would usually fight within their own class or type of fighting technique.

The aim of individual gladiators training was to kill their opponents or to die gloriously, nothing more, nothing less.

Failure to Comply

Punishments were strict and brutal. Trainee gladiators who would not train as they should or do as they were ordered, met with severe punishments.

Food and sleep depravity along with confinement to quarters ( usually a cell ) were common. Whippings, savage beatings, and even being sent to the mines were others. The punishment of instant or lingering death was also very common.

Many gladiators were happy with their status and the rewards that could come with their occupational choice if they were successful.

Weaker gladiators whom would not become great warriors, could be viewed as 'expendable'. The expendable element were used as arena target practice to entice the baying crowd into a frenzy prior to the main events of the day.

Types of Gladiators

Samnites - Large shields & Plumed Helmets

Gallus - Heavily armed Gladiator

Cataphractarius - Heavily armoured gladiator

Dimachaeri - Gladiator with two swords

Eques - On horseback with a sword

Essedari - Chariot fighter

Retiarii - Gladiator using a net

Velites - groups with spears


Roman history through movies depicts a gladiators life as violent, but live-able. This was not far from the truth. Pay structure and bonuses included having women delivered to their cells or rooms, specialty food, wine, and many other luxuries of the day.

Each gladiator slave had a chance to win their freedom, or die with their honor intact. Many Roman gladiators whom died in the arena were given full burial rights and a soldiers send off.

A gladiator battle was the best entertainment on offer during the Roman period of time.

Odd Fact: Whilst Roman slaves were not allowed to vote in any type of governmental elections, sons of slaves could.


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