The definition of a gladiator is a professional fighter who performed spectacles of armed combat in the amphitheater of ancient Rome. The practice of gladiatorial fights came about in Etruria, in central Italy. The first gladiatorial combat was in 264 BC when three pairs of gladiators fought as part of a funeral celebration in memory of their father. Gladiatorial combat was originally part of a religious ceremony that was intended to ensure the dead crossed over to the other side accompanied by armed attendants, the gladiators. By 174 BC, at the 3-day event, 37 pairs of gladiators had participated in the games. The largest number of gladiatorial fights was given by Emperor Trajan as part of a victory celebration in 107 AD, and that event included 5000 pairs of gladiators. Emperor Domitian in 90 A.D. brought about combats in which women and dwarfs joined in. A successful gladiator received great appreciation from poets; his picture appeared on gems and portraits and then
The ladies pampered him. A gladiator who survives his battle might even be released from further fights. Although Constantine the Great (274–337 AD), who was the first Roman ruler to be converted to Christianity, forbade gladiatorial contests in 325 AD, they continued to be held until about 500 AD.
One of the many great gladiators was Spartacus, a Roman slave, and gladiator born in Thrace. Spartacus was sold to a trainer of gladiators in Capua. In 73 B.C., he escaped with many runaway gladiators, and Mount Vesuvius was his home. Spartacus then led the Third Servile War, or Gladiators War, in which he defeated two Roman armies and his army took over southern Italy. In 72 B.C., he defeated three more Roman armies and beat Cisalpine Gaul, where he planned to send his army to their homes. In 71
In B.C., the Roman commander Marcus Licinius Crassus forced Spartacus and his army to the peninsula of Rhegium; they then escaped again through the Roman lines. Crassus then led them to Lucania, where Spartacus and all his army were destroyed and killed in battle. Who were the Gladiators?
The participants in the gladiatorial games were mostly slaves, prisoners of war, and condemned criminals. The crimes that led to the arena were murder, treason, robbery, and arson. In addition, there were always some free men who became gladiators because they wanted to. Even some distinguished senators and emperors would compete in the games. Gladiatorial games were a profession for social outcasts, desperate men, and violent men. Ex-Gladiators who were free men were demanded to appear, and Tiberius paid 1000 gold pieces to each returning gladiator for one show. Most free men who turned to gladiatorial games were from the lowest rank of free men, which included ex-slaves or sons of slaves. Those that volunteer are also demanded to sign a contract to be totally under the control of the state and their new master, who treats them as if they are slaves. They swore an oath to be burned with fire, shackled with chains, and whipped with rods.
Very few noblemen volunteered to be gladiators. This was seen as a scandal because it was a disgrace for nobility to perform in the arena. There were three Ludi schools where slaves were trained to fight in combat. The Ludus Magnus was the largest of the training schools, and it was connected to the Colosseum by an underground tunnel. Gladiatorial schools had excellent training guides and good medical care. The purpose of the schools was to train gladiators to ensure a good match for the spectators. It is said that these fights led to the deaths of thousands of animals. Most of these gladiatorial combats were fought to the death unless the life of the losing gladiator was taken by the vote of the spectators. A thumbs-up meant death for the loser, and a thumbs-down gave temporary relief to the gladiator. For most of the fighters, relief rarely came. The Gladiators and the arenas they occupied were dangerous and fascinating to the Roman people.
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