Historical outline about gladiators

A phenomenon anything but marginal in the lives of the ancient Romans was to be determined by the gladiatorial combat. It is assumed that these have originated from the Etruscans and, more justifiably, by the Samnites, as a propitiatory funeral rites, called munera (munus = votive offering, a sacrifice for the dead), celebrated to appease the wrath of the gods of the underworld and anxiety deceased. Numerous archaeological finds unearthed in Campania, show scenes of fighting between armed men, where it is evident that these were a mass phenomenon, organized according to specific rules.
The art gladiatoria fascinated, with its morbid fascination, even the Roman people. Thus, in 264 BC, took place in Rome in the Forum Boarium (today Piazza Bocca della Verità) the first munus. The news has reached us by Livy in his record that he wrote:

Mortuo M. Aemilio Lepidus, consul here a augurque fuerat , tres filii , Lucius , Marcus , Quintus , Ludos funebres for triduum et gladiatorum pariah duo et viginti hole in dederunt .
( Dead Lepidus , who had been consul and augur , his three sons , Lucius , Marcus , Quintus , offered at their own expense ludi funeral in the hole for a period of three days, with twenty-two pairs of gladiators ) .
Numerous other munera were organized later , on the occasion of the funeral of famous people or to commemorate their disappearance . The approval of the public was so great that soon the gladiatura from funeral turned into a spectacle. With Augustus fights between gladiators became an integral part of the shows that , in Rome as in the provinces , were prepared for the enjoyment of the people. The emperors and aristocrats , also in order to attract the favor of the people, did their best to offer lavish shows , immortalized in the verses of the great writers of the time: Suetonius , Juvenal , Martial , and others.
The crowds came in such numbers that it was necessary to build special buildings, large capacity : amphitheatres . This passion that swept the people went to the detriment of other shows , especially the theater. It is said that in 160 B.C. the public performance of the play Hecyra of Terence left the theater to go to follow the fights offered by Emilio Paul’s son.

The gladiators were prisoners of war or slaves or criminals condemned to death, but they could also be free men who underwent all’auctoramentum (a kind of voluntary surrender to the status of citizen). Their recruitment is occupied lanista, the owner of a training school, which was the absolute master of his gladiators: he could punish them with fire, bind them, beat them or even kill them. Once recruited, the recruits became part of the gladiatorial familia, headquartered in a ludus, barracks equipped with cubicles for the accommodation of gladiators, a large gym for practice, common rooms and warehouses for the storage of weapons. Familia were part of the doctores (the masters of arms), generally old gladiators retired from active service. The discipline was tough, with strict rules, so as to make the real gladiators fighting machines.

They were constituted various categories of gladiators, who took the name from the weapons that they used or their way of fighting or from their place of origin. Among the most well-known categories were:

The TRACE. He fought in the way of the warriors of Thrace (now Bulgaria), using the sica, a short sword with a curved blade, which allowed to hit the opponent in the posterior part of the body.

The OPLOMACO. It was similar to the Trace, but he fought with a spear, or with the sword, together with the trace was typical of the antagonist Mirmillone.

The MIRMILLONE. He used a large rectangular shield. His way of fighting was similar to that of the eel, that hiding behind the rocks (shield), suddenly attacking its prey.

The RETIARIUS. He had no helmet. He used a net to catch the opponent and then hit him with the trident.

The SECUTOR (chaser). It was typical of the opponent Retiarius, was armed with a razor-sharp sword, he had very light armor and a helmet without handles, to avoid the opponent’s net, which then pressing at the appropriate time.
Augustus took great care in defining the categories of gladiators, establishing for each armor, the ways and the rules of engagement, which remained in subsequent centuries.

When you had to organize the fights (munera gladiatorum), the munerarius, who was the organizer, it leased from a lanista gladiators, for a fee.
The day before the game offered a dinner to the fighters, said coena libera, as open to all. In this way, the public had the opportunity to see up close the famous characters of the arena and to evaluate the potential of athletes, so that the next day could do better betting on the steps of the arena.

The show began with a solemn parade: first came the funder, preceded by lictors, if a magistrate, and accompanied by characters with palm trees, followed musicians and attendants who carried signs with the program of the games, then came the editor, the organizer of the show, followed by attendants who showed the weapons of the gladiators, helms, and shields, and finally entered the real protagonists, gladiators, chariots or on foot, and then the damnati, those sentenced to death, which would be executed during the show .

The munerarius, climbed on tribune, gave start to the munera that, in general, according to the sequence defined by Augustus, foresaw the morning venationes, namely the struggle against the beasts, and in the afternoon battles between gladiators. Those who came under the stands of the emperor, greeted him, then headed toward the munerarius, which controlled the weapons assigned to the second category. The fighters were usually chosen from different categories in order to make the show more exciting. This should take place-where in compliance with rules codified and enforced by the referees. In the first period the combat could predict the missio (possibility to seek pardon for the loser), or it could be a sine missione, that is to the death, then chances prohibited by law from Augustus. The fighting could also occur between pairs of gladiators at the same time (gladiatorum paria). If not some gladiator fought with sufficient commitment, it was called a whip (lora) by loraii, present in the arena. The duel continued until one of them was not reduced to impotence or because wounded or without weapons, or until one of the combatants, aware of their inferiority, do not ask you to stop the fight, invoking the grace with his arm raised or kneeling. At this time dictating his destiny to munerarius, usually asking the public’s opinion: if the defeated gladiator had fought well in the crowd shouted mitte! (let him live!), otherwise condemned him to death with the cry of iugula! (cut his troat!). Controversial are the versions about the gestures that accompanied these cries (thumb upwards, downwards, et cetera). However, the munerarius to decide, so take into account the will of the public, but most of the expenses she had to face, in fact, in case of death, he had to pay to lanista, owner of the gladiator, not only the rent but also the value of the athlete, which generally was a sum exorbitant.

The gladiators killed before being taken away, they were approached by a slave dressed as Charon, who, if necessary, gave the final blow.
It has been estimated that in the first century. A.D. the possibility of salvation for a gladiator were 9 out of 10. The mortality rate seems higher than in later centuries, when it gave the winner the decision on the fate of the defeated.
Gladiator winner, finished on the podium of the editor, received the palm of victory and, in the case of a particularly compelling combat, a crown, a cash prize and sometimes even valuable items. The more skilled they could get to put aside substantial assets, acquired fame and were idolized by the crowd, especially by women. We recall in this regard the verses of the Ode to Silvia writed by the italian poetry Giuseppe Parini:

The gladiator, terrible
and look in the countenance, often between the thalami was closed researched lover.
So, then that tempers any pudor dissolved, vigor to the libido
cruelty picked it up.

Gladiator, at the end of a successful career, when he had accumulated a certain number of wins (10 according to some sources), received an award a rudis, wooden sword, a symbol of freedom achieved, which releaased from all obligations towards the lanista. At this point he could decide whether to continue to fight for money and glory or engage in other activities.

In the first century. A.D. the huge frenzy for gladiatura was that drove him to fight in the arena even aristocrats, knights, senators, women and even emperors. It seems that Commodus, dressed in a purple cloak is often in the guise of secutor pointes, his favorite category, and who loved to boast more of his gladiatorial skills and businesses of the government.
The historian Tacitus in the Annales (xv, 32), about the year 63 AD wrote:
Spectacula gladiatorum idem annus habuit equal magnificentia ac prioress; sed feminarum inlustrium senatorumque
plures for arenam foedati sunt.
(That same year, he was gladiatorial shows were so beautiful as the previous ones. But many women and Senators from illustrious family dishonored in the arena).

From the third century. A.D. a number of factors combined to score the decline of gladiatura: an unprecedented economic crisis, which led to the scarcity of private funding for the games, and the change of culture and society, in which the shows were no longer a political tool to gain the support of the people, the emergence of Christianity, with the moral condemnation of the fighting by the Church.
Constantine in 325 AD, with the edict of Beirut, abolished the sentence to gladiatura, replaced by forced labor in the mines, thereby suppressing an important source of recruitment. In 326 A.D. forbade duels between gladiators, however, that they continued to be carried out sporadically, until in 402 AD the emperor Honorius them definitively abolished.