Gladiators Were...

Heroes or Victims?

What Were Gladiators?

Gladiators were typically enslaved men who were forced to fight for their lanista, or training master. They could choose to become one out of free will, or be conscripted to the job. In the beginning of gladiatorial games, most gladiators were conscripted slaves, but as the postition became more exalted, more and more free men chose to become gladiators. Lanistas invested large quantities of money in their gladiatorial troupes, giving each of them special training, special food, and regular medical attention.

What Does a Gladiator Do?

Many gladiators were either slaves or freedmen, former slaves. The crowd would ultimately decide whether the loser would live or die; if the crowd wanted death, the gladiator could not offer the hand of mercy, and if the crowd wanted mercy, then the gladiator could not dish out death. The prospective gladiator received extensive training and became proficient in a particular mode of combat and the use of specific weapons such as the sword, net or the trident. The majority of gladiators were slaves captured during territory expansion.

The Gladiatorial Games

Gladiatorial games lasted from sunrise to sundown. In the morning, exotic animals from the Middle Eastern area were thrown into the arena. The animals, frightened by the roars of the crowd often did not fight until the emperor ordered soldiers to egg them on. During the short lunch break, common criminals were given their punishments according to their crimes. In the afternoon, gladiators were finally pitched against each other.

Was it Worth Being a Gladiator?

All gladiators were faced with the harrowing possibility of dying in the games. Only the sole winner would actually get the prize treatment and the fame. The rest would be killed by other gladiators, the audience or executed. Often gladiators were enslaved people, but some Roman nobles considered the risk worthwhile and sacrificed their wealth in order to become gladiators. In other cases, wealthy nobles lost all of their wealth and became gladiators in order to regain their masses of wealth. Nobles and slaves both became gladiators, but for varying reasons.

Some Gladiator Pictures

What Was Life Like Behind the Scenes?

Even though gladiators were famous, they were still mostly slaves, and the life of an enslaved gladiator was still downtrodden. They were forced into vigorous training and high-energy eating habits which is okay if your doing it of your own free will. They weren't allowed to use real weapons until their owners trusted them enough. Enslaved gladiators could fight for their freedom. However, if their trainers decided they weren't fighting their hardest, they were jabbed at with a molten hot rod. So, gladiators relished fame and glory, but their backstage lives were anything but glorious.

Were Gladiators Heroes or Victims?

After all these descriptions of what gladiators do, are, and sacrifice, it's time we discussed the heart of the gladiator issue; the fact of whether gladiators are heroes or victims. Gladiators are heroes in some ways to the Roman public, but they are victims of the Roman government in many more. They had the opportunity for fame and glory, but, ultimately, they were set up to be killed for public amusement.