Ancient Roman Gladiators:
Heroes or Victims?
Who were the Gladiators?
In latin, the word gladiator means swordsmen. Gladiators were often slaves, criminals who lost citizenship, or prisoners of war. However, some freedmen chose to be gladiators as a profession. In the beginning, slaves were owned by a lanista went to be trained at a lanista school. The freedmen would have to take an oath that stated that they were obliged to die if the emperor chose. The role of the gladiator was to entertain and die for the emporer.
How were the Gladitorial Games scheduled?
The gladitorial games lasted all day and were divided into three sections: display and slaughter of animals, a lunch break, and a fight between two of the best professional gladiators. During the day, animals were released to be killed and slaughtered. In midday, the spectators were able to eat lunch and watch slaves and criminals be executed in different ways. The main event though was at the end when two of the best gladiators were forced to fight to the death.
“There are those, too, who at the gladiator shows, for the cure of epilepsy, quaff with greedy thirst the blood of criminal slain in the arena, even as it flows fresh from the wound” –Tertullian
Heroes or Victims? We say victims.
Gladiators were only heroes if thet survived, which most of them didn't. These "games" were plain butchery. The slaves and criminals were given nothing with which to protect themselves and were open to all forms of pain. The fate of most of these men was up to the spectators. If the crowd gave a thumbs up, the fallen gladiator was spared. If the spectators gave a thumbs up, it usually meant that they gave a really good show and fight. If the crowd gave a thumbs down, the fallen gladiator was killed. These games were entertained the crowd by torture and death. The fightters had no chice in what happened. Death shouldn't be a show.