A gladiator was a fighter in ancient Rome who had to fight against other gladiators. Sometimes they also had to fight against wild animals. Often the battles were a matter of life and death.
The first gladiatorial battles in Rome took place in 264 BC. at a funeral ceremony. Three pairs of gladiators had to fight to the death to honour a deceased senator.
The Gladiator Games took place in specially designed arenas. The games drew many spectators.
The largest and most famous arena was the Colosseum which was located in Rome. It was built so that it could accommodate 50,000 spectators.
There were special gladiatorial schools at that time. They participated in gladiatorial games and could also rent out their gladiators for private events. Most of the gladiators were slaves, prisoners of war, and criminals. However, there were ordinary Roman citizens who wanted to become gladiators.
There were different kinds of gladiators. They had different weapons and armour. The gladiator games were entertainment for the people, and it was important to create variation between the different battles. Therefore, the various gladiators were equipped with various weapons and protection. It was important that there were as interesting and spectacular matches as possible. Money was invested in the various matches. Visitors enjoyed betting on the matches.
It was usually man-against-man fights, sometimes, they would stage group battles.
A gladiator who had been overpowered could be spared or killed. Most often, it was the spectators who got to decide. If the emperor was there, the decision could be made by him. If a match was counted as a draw, both gladiators got to leave the arena with their lives and their honour intact. Most often, the fight ended when one of the fighters began to bleed or gave up.
More than 10,000 men were killed during the gladiatorial games in the Roman Empire.
A good gladiator was an investment. They quickly became popular when their reputation grew, and their value increased.
Calculations made in modern times show that a gladiator during the first century AD ran a 10% risk of being killed every time he entered the arena. If you lost, that percentage rose to 25. The chances of survival declined over the next few centuries. The fighting became tougher, and the people wanted to see more blood.
During the 200s AD, the survival chance had dropped to 25%, and a defeated gladiator could only leave the arena if they had shown great courage and given a good show to the audience.
A gladiator usually did not get older than 30 years. A gladiator usually fought his way through between 5-35 battles during his life.
There were a few gladiators who survived so many battles that they gained star status among the people.
One of the most famous gladiators was the Syrian slave, “The Flame”, who fought 34 times and won 21 battles. He was given the opportunity to become a free man but chose to continue as a gladiator. He died at the age of 30, and his gravestone in Sicily includes his record.