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Types Of Roman Gladiators

Updated on January 6, 2012

Gladiators were the men of ancient Rome who were trained to fight amongst other men or animals for the entertainment of the Roman people. These fights took place in amphitheatres where a large crowd gathered to watch these men fight.

The fights were mostly brutal resulting in the death of one of the players. Not all the gladiators, however, were entertainers some gladiators were also trained for the emperor’s army and for defense.

Exactly when did the concept of these gladiators emerged can not be said but history tells us that it always had been an essential part of the ancient Roman culture. These people were highly respected for their skill and strength.

The Roman Colosseum, centre stage of the gladiator battles.
The Roman Colosseum, centre stage of the gladiator battles. | Source

There were various types of gladiators in the Ancient Rome. These different gladiators had different styles of combat and different armors, they fought either with or without weapons and fought with wild beasts or with other men as their opponents. In general all gladiators were men of great strength and power. These highly skilled men were born to fight and they mostly died while fighting.

Some of the prominent types of ancient Roman gladiators are mentioned below:

Real gladiator helmet and greaves
Real gladiator helmet and greaves | Source

Andabatae

Andabatae were gladiators which were very prominent or may have originated in the first century BC. These gladiators fought with other men for entertainment just like the other gladiators. They usually fought while sitting on a horse. Their fights were brutal but death of the opponent was not very frequent.

These fighters, as said, fought while riding on a horse and fought with spears. They wore a special helmet made exclusively for them. These helmets were made of leather and had no holes around the eyes, so they actually fought blind folded.

They also wore a heavy metal chest plate for protection. At the start of the fight these gladiators charged blindly at each other and the one who got knocked out first, lost. Andabatae always fought with opponents of same kind.

A 5th century mosaic displaying gladiators fighting with a tiger.
A 5th century mosaic displaying gladiators fighting with a tiger.

Bestiarii

Bestiarii were specialized gladiators who fought with wild beasts. These gladiators usually used a spear and a knife for their protection. These gladiators perhaps fought the most deadly and the most dangerous type of battles and that too for entertainment.

The survival rate of these gladiators after the fight was very low and those who survived were highly respected. These gladiators were given a special training and were thought to be the toughest of all other types.

Later in the history of Roman culture these gladiators were specially trained for fighting more dangerous and wild animals which were exclusively imported for the fights.

A man dressed as a gladitor
A man dressed as a gladitor | Source

Equites

Equites which were also called the knights, just like the Andabatae, fought with their enemies on a horse back but these two types of gladiators had a lot of differences.

Firstly they fought with 'gladius' which is a special type of Roman sword; secondly they wore a manica which was a special armguard and thirdly they always wore tunics and never fought with out shirts. These gladiators also fought without shin guards.

These gladiators were executive fighters and were extremely popular. Their fights were less brutal and involved almost no killing.

These fighters only fought their own type of gladiators unlike some other gladiators which also fought gladiators of different type.

Depiction of a murmillo
Depiction of a murmillo

Murmillones

Murmillones were gladiators who fought on foot and were recognized by their special helmet which bore a fish on its crest. The name Murmillones comes from the name 'Murma' which refers to a salt water fish in Greek.

These fighters fought with gladius, held an oblong shield and wore a manica and a helmet. These fighters fought with hoplamachi gladiators which are discussed next.

Hoplomachi

Hoplamachi too like the Murmillones were fully armored but they had following differences: they had a helmet which bore a griffin, they held spears instead of gladius, they had small round shields and instead of a manica they wore leg wrappings and shin guards.

These gladiators were also called samnites. Fights between them and Murmillones were brutal and interesting.

Retiarius at the right fighting with a secutor
Retiarius at the right fighting with a secutor | Source

Retiarii

Retiarii gladiators fought with a dagger, trident and a net. They wore a large manica from the shoulder toward their entire left side and a loincloth; apart from that they fought naked.

They also held a small metal shield and a special protective armor for neck and lower face called galerus. They mostly fought with Murmillones or secutors.

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    • Marie Gail profile image

      Marie Gail Stratford 5 years ago from Olathe, KS

      Interesting hub. Voted up.

    • Hamad Irfan profile image
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      Hamad Irfan 5 years ago from U.A.E

      Thanks! :)

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