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The Latin name for the combatants who fought each other for life or death at the public shows. They first appear in Rome in 264 B.C., and only at the celebrations of private funerals, or in games given in memory of a private individual. Entertainments of this kind were often provided for in wills. The custom, like others of the same kind, seems to have come from Etruria, where it was a survival of the human sacrifices formerly usual at funerals. These gladiatorial contests soon became a very favourite form of popular entertainment, and in the last century of the republic were hold to be an excellent means of winning the favour of the populace at elections. Indeed, custom at length imposed an obligation on some magistrates, for instance on the aediles, to give gladiatorial games on their assumption of office; and they would try to outbid each other in the number of contending couples and in general expenditure. From Rome the fashion soon spread into the provinces. Campania was the part of Italy where it most prevailed. It was not, however, till the time of Domitian that quaestors designate were regularly compelled to give the great gladiatorial ex-ibitions, which occupied ten days in the month of December. In the Western Empire they survived at least down to the beginning of the 5th century A.D. They were at first given in the forum, but afterwards generally in the amphitheatres (see AMPHITHEATRE, and in the circus, if the exhibition was to be on a very large scale. The gladiators were sometimes condemned criminals; but it must be remembered that originally Roman citizens could not be sentenced to the arena, and it was not till later times that this punishment was extended to criminals of low condition. Sometimes they were prisoners of war, slaves, or volunteers. Under the Empire it was not so uncommon, even in the upper classes, to volunteer as a gladiator. Sometimes the step was the last refuge of a ruined man; sometimes the emperor would force a man to it. These volunteers were called auctorati (=bound over), to distinguish them from the rest; their pay was termed auctoramentum. Troops of gladiators were sometimes owned by Romans in good society, who often, towards the end of the republican age, employed them in streetfights against their political opponents. Sometimes they were the property of speculators, who often carried on at the same time the disreputable trade of a fencing master (lanista). These men would hire out or sell their gladiators to persons who were giving their shows, or would exhibit them for money to the public on their own account. The gladiators were trained in special schools (ludi). Under the Empire things went so far that the emperors kept schools of their own under the supervision of procuratores of equestrian rank. After Domitian's time there were four of these in Rome. A building for this purpose, large enough for a hundred gladiators, is preserved in Pompeii. To strengthen their muscles they were put on a very nourishing diet. Every style of fighting had its special professor (doctor or mdgister), and the gladiator was usually instructed only in one style. The novice (tiro) began with fence-practice against a wooden stake, at first with light wooden arms, but afterwards with weapons of full weight. If a man were intending to give a show of gladiators (manus gladiatorium) he advertised it by notices (programmata ) put up on the walls of houses, numerous copies of these being at the same time widely distributed. These notices stated the date and occasion of the show, the name of the giver (editor), the number of pairs of gladiators, and the different kinds of combats. The performance began with a gala procession (pompa) of the gladiators to the arena and through it. Then came the testing of the weapons by the editor, who, though he might be a private individual, had the right of wearing the insignia of a magistrate during the show. A preliminary skirmish or prolusio, with wooden swords and darts, next took place, till the trumpets sounded, and the serious fighting began. This took place to the accompaniment of music in a space, measured out by the fencing master. The gladiators sometimes fought, not in pairs, but in troops. The timid were driven on with whips and red-hot irons. If a gladiator was wounded in single combat, he raised his fore-finger to implore the mercy of the people, with whom, after the last years of the republic, the giver of the games usually left the decision. The sign of mercy (missio ) was the waving of handkerchiefs: the clenched fist and downward thumb indicated that the combat was to be fought out till death. Condemned criminals had no chance of mercy. The slain, or nearly slain, were carried on the biers which stood ready for them, to a particular door (porta Libitinensis), into a place where they were, stripped ( spoliarium). There, if they had not actually expired, they were put to death. The victors received palms, with branches adorned with fillets. Under the Empire they sometimes got presents of money a& well. If a gladiator, by repeated proofs of cleverness and bravery, succeeded in gaining the favour of the people, he was, at the public request, presented with a kind of wooden rapier (rudis),[1] as a token that he was now free from all further service. In this case he was called rudiarius. This did not make him an absolutely free man; but if he chose to fight again, he did so as a free man, and could accordingly claim a high remuneration. Gladiators were armed in various styles, as the pairs of combatants were usually armed, not with the same, but with different weapons, The weapons of gladiators, and notably their helmets, were quite different in form from the arms of soldiers (see fig. 1). Gladiators were classed according to their equipment. Thus the retiarius was armed with a net, was bareheaded, and had nothing on but a short tunic and a girdle; his left arm was in a sleeve; his arms were a net (iaculum), a trident (fuscina), and a dagger. The net he tried to throw over his pursuing adversary, and to despatch him with dagger or trident, if successful. The secutor, or pursuer, was so called, because he was generally set to fight with the retiarius, who retired before him (fig. 2). He was as lightly equipped as his adversary, but armed with helmet, sword, and shield. The myrmillo (fig. 3), who was also often matched against the retiarius, was armed in Gallic fashion with helmet, sword and shield, and named after the figure of a fish (mormylos, which adorned his helmet. The Samnis, or Samnite, was so called after his Samnite equipment. This consisted of a large shield (scutum), a sleeve of leather or metal on the right arm, with a shoulder piece (galerus), rising above the shoulder, a girdle, a greave on the left foot, a visored helmet with crest and plume, and a short sword. The Thrax, or Thracian, wore, like his countrymen, a small round shield (parma) and a dagger (sica) curved in the form of a sickle, or bent at right angles. In other respects his equipment was more complete than the Samnite's, for he had greaves on both legs.The hoplomachus, or heavily armed gladiator, wore a breastplate, as well as visored helmet, and greaves. In later times the place of the retiarius was sometimes taken by the laquearius, who wore the same light armour, but carried a short sword and a noose (laqueus), which he threw over his adversary and pulled him to the ground. The dimachaeri, or men who fought with two swords, are also apparently the production of a later time. The essedarii (from essedum, a British war-car with two horses) fought in chariots. The andabatoe (fig. 4) fought on horseback, armed with small round shield and spear (spiculum), and a visored helmet without eyeholes, and charged each other in the dark. There are many representations of gladiatorial combats in works of art, the most comprehensive of which is a large bas-relief in Pompeii. [Overbeck's Pompeii, figs. 106-112; or Schreiber's Bilderatlas , I xxx figs. 2-8.]
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