Slaves and criminals were often employed in gladiatorial bouts and in some cases this was used as a form of capital punishment. To these we should add a good number of voluntary “professionals” largely made up of prisoners of war. There were also free citizens who were trying to pay off debts or indeed even recklessupper-class men in search of a buzz and popular fame, particularly with women. These free men were called “Auctorati” and they had no need to be under the supervision of the trainer-jailer “Lanista“.
A champion Gladiator could understandably become quite a heart-throb and be known as “decus puellarum
” or “suspirium puellarum
” (the sigh of the girls). It would be quite common for these victorious Gladiator-playboys to freshen up at the nearby fountain called the Meta Sudans where they could meet and exchange words and phone numbers with their lady fans (figuratively speaking).
The satirist Juvenal goes as far as suggesting that hitherto respectable women literally turned into the crazed fans of the ugliest gladiator and his “sword” in favour of their husbands and children. You could even buy clay figurines such as the one drawn left.
The more normal circumstance was that of the prisoner of war who had been given the choice between slavery or a fixed term contract as a Gladiator.
Although dangerous the Gladiatorial option gave the captive an opportunity to become free at the end of his contract and in the mean time to earn himself a discrete sum of money. A famous but not so successful example of this was Spartacus
. He led the Gladiators and the slaves who joined them in a massive revolt, defeating various legions only to be betrayed by pirates in southern Italy. Stranded in southern Italy he and his forces were eventually beaten and crucified.
Read on about Commodus and Upper Class Gladiators….
Gladiators: |Rise and Fall of the Gladiators | The Gladiatorial shows |Ancient Roman Gladiators | Training | Gladiator fights | After the Gladiatorial fights | Types of Gladiator | More types and Classes of Gladiator | Commodus | Julius Caesar and the Gladiators | Christian martyrs and the Colosseum | Gladiators, Christians and Fish | Christians against the Circus and Colosseum | End of the Gladiators |