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We Bet You Didn't Know These Types of Ancient Roman Gladiators

Types of Ancient Roman Gladiators
We have seen gladiators in movies and sitcoms, but their stories have been glorified, and the depiction is far from real. Believe it or not, in Ancient Rome, gladiators were treated like prostitutes and condemned to a life of abuse and isolation.
Malvika Kulur
Last Updated: Jul 25, 2017
Did You Know?
Gladiators were categorized according to their skill in fighting and were provided with appropriate weapons and armor.
Gladiators were sportsmen as well as entertainers in Ancient Rome. They were people trained under the harshest of conditions to fight in events against other gladiators, criminals, and sometimes, even wild animals. Even though gladiator fights were so popular and called a huge audience, they were treated like slaves, with society ostracizing them. Even after they died in a fight or otherwise, their bodies were not given a hero's send off, because even in death, they were socially rejected.

It is so sad to think that those who gave the Roman upper class and Royals such good entertainment were reduced to a life of separation and social rejection. Nevertheless, there were many volunteer gladiators, who gave up their social standing for a small amount of respect, like during fights if they won, and in the form of cheer, appreciation, and lavish gifts for their strength. This Historyplex article illustrates the types of Ancient Roman gladiators.
Ancient Roman Gladiators
The andabata was a type of Ancient Roman gladiator who was made to fight against other gladiators, wearing helmets that completely obstructed their vision. For safety measures, they were provided with heavily armored suits. These gladiators were mounted on horses during their fights.
The Arbelai were provided with a dagger and crescent-shaped blade. The dagger was to be held in the right hand, which was protected by an armguard called the Manica, and the crescent-shaped blade was attached to a Vambrace worn on the left forearm. These gladiators fought other Arbelai and Retiarii.
The Bestiarii fought exotic wild animals ranging from lions, tigers, to even large, violent birds. They were given spears to attack and defend themselves. They were considered the lowest-ranking gladiators.
The Bustuarii fought at funerals to honor the dead. They were also known as tomb fighters, and their fights were called funeral games. They fought each other, and usually, they would fight till death. The fighter who won was awarded points.
The Cestus was actually a boxer or striker, named after the leather straps he would adorn on his wrist for a fight. On some occasions, these straps had iron plates, spikes, or studs, due to which the boxing matches were incredibly gory. The Cestus was the predecessor of the modern-day boxer.
The Crupellarii fought wearing an iron armor, which encased their entire body. This armor or shell was very heavy, which made it extremely hard for the gladiators to fight. Tacitus, a notable Roman historian, described these gladiators as Gaulish representatives. Since national fashion in Gaul despised body-armor, Tacitus renamed the Gallus as Murmillo.
The Dimachaeri were gladiators who were provided with two swords (one in each hand) for their fights. They were made to fight in a public arena, where many people came to watch them battle it out, till one was eventually defeated.
The Equites were those who fought on white horses. They were provided with a circular shield called Parma Equestris, a spear called a Hasta, and a short sword called a Gladius. They were also required to wear a Manica, scaled armor, and a brimmed helmet with a feather attached to it. They were allowed to use the Gladius only if they were thrown off their horse during a fight.
These were chariot fighters, who were brought to Rome by Julius Caesar. They were allowed to fight only with other Essedarii and were provided with spears and a shield.
The Galli get their name from the small Gallic shields that they were given during a fight. They had to use a lance and helmet, and they battled in an arena.
Gladiatrix were female gladiators. They entertained the audience in the arenas of the Roman Republinc and Roman Empire by engaging in fierce fights with humans and animals.
The Hoplomachi were provided with a shield, spear, and a Gladius. They had to wear armor made out of cloth or leather, a Manica, and a helmet that had a colored plume. They fought other Hoplomachi by first throwing spears at each other and then engaging in a hand-to-hand combat.
The Laquearii were similar to the Retiarii, as they too had to use a lasso (long, noosed rope) and catch their opponents. They were given a laques instead of a net (which was provided to the Retiarii). They were also given a dagger to use, once the opponent was captured.
The Murmillones were given a Manica, gaitor on the right leg, gladius, an oblong shield, and a helmet with a fish on the crest. They were heavily armored, and they fought other Murmillones, Thraeces, and Hoplomachi.
The Noxii were mostly convicted criminals, and their fights were cruel. The fight would always be between two, out of which, one was to be blindfolded, and the referee and audience would give him directions. More often than not, the directions provided were wrong, just to provide entertainment to the crowd.
The Paegniarii were equipped with whips and clubs. Their type of combat was not a very serious duel and did not end in a blood bath. They wore protective gear on their legs and heads, as their injuries, if any, would be mostly on those parts of the body.
The Praegenarii were show openers. They would fight, or perform in front of an audience, to get them hyped about an upcoming fight between other gladiators. They usually fought with wooden swords.
Provocatores only fought others of their rank and caliber. They were given armor that looked very similar to the armor used during the Imperial period, but later on, their armor looked less military type, and started to look like those worn in the arena.
Their left leg was encased in a long greave, that served as protection, like a shin guard used in football, and they had a Manica protecting their right forearm. They were provided with a Gadius, a helmet with a feather on each side, cardiophylax (breastplate), and a tall, rectangular shield.
The Retiarii were armed with a trident, dagger, net, a Manic, and Galerius--a plate placed on the right shoulder to protect the fighter from an attack on the right side. They fought without a helmet. They were made to fight each other, Murmillones, and sometimes, two Secutores would stand on raised platforms and pelt the combatants with stones.
The Rudiarii were free gladiators, who still chose to retain their status as a gladiator. Not all Rudiarii fought, as some opted to become trainers, referees, helpers, etc. They were usually masked fighters who were awarded wooden swords or sticks as a sign of independence, and whose sole intent of fighting was to provide entertainment to the masses.
The Sagittarius was a warrior who would fight mounted on a horse with a reflex bow. This weapon would propel the arrow to a great distance. This Ancient Roman gladiator looked very similar to the zodiac sign Sagittarius, and was therefore named after it.
Samnites were a powerful league of gladiators who were from the Italian tribes in Campania. These gladiators were armed heavily during combat, with a sectum, which was a long rectangular shield, a plumed helmet, short sword, and sometimes, a greave on the left leg. These gladiators were active only till the early Imperial age.
The Scissores got their name from the weapon they used--a sword that had two blades. This weapon looked very similar to a pair of scissors, but it did not have a hinge. Their entire forearm was encased in a steel tube, which acted as a protection during fights.
The Secutores were a type of Ancient Roman gladiators who were specifically trained to fight the Retiarii, and they were given the same armor that was given to the Murmillo. Their helmet covered their entire face, except for their eyes. Two holes were made, and their helmet had a rounded, smooth surface, so that it would not get caught in the net of the Retiarii.
The Thraeces were equipped with a sica, which is a short and curved sword, a parmula, which is a small, round, or square shield, and a helmet that had a griffin (eagle) on its crest. They fought other Thraeces, Myrmillonis, and Hoplomachi.
These gladiators fought in an arena, on foot, using spears that had thongs attached to them. They would throw their weapons at their opponents.
Although technically, the Venatores were not gladiators, they are mentioned here, because they did participate in the gladiator games. They are the ones who hunted wild animals, and also made animals perform tricks, like walking on a tight rope, etc.