What is a Gladiator?

The most brutal sport that has ever existed in the history of the world was the fights of the gladiators in ancient Rome. They had they roots in an old custom among the Etruscan people of setting slaves to fight each other when a big funeral was being held.

The Romans adopted this idea in the year 264 B.C., at first the fights were confined only to funeral ceremonies, but gradually they became the chief amusement of the Roman people and were held in huge arenas.

In the beginning, the contestants were slaves and condemned criminals. Later on, schools were formed to train the gladiators, and all kinds of citizens became gladiators, hoping to win fame and fortune. Great amphitheaters were built especially for this purpose.


The spectacle usually began with a parade of the gladiators who often wore splendid armor of gold or silver. After the parade there was a mock battle with wooden weapons to build up the appetite of the spectators.

Then the trumpets sounded a signal. The men threw aside their harmless weapons for real ones, they separated into pairs, and the bloody battles began.

They used a variety of weapons. The gladiator fought in pairs and when one fell wounded, it was the rule for the people in the stand to decide his fate. If they wanted to spare his life, they waved their handkerchief in the air.

If they held their thumbs down, the victim had to be slain. In time the Romans grew bored with even these bloody battles and invented new spectacles. They set gladiators to battle with lions, tigers and other wild beasts.

There were many efforts to the stop these bloodthirsty spectacles, but they did not end until the year A.D. 500, when the Emperor Theodoric suppressed them.

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