Roman gladiators and the coliseum
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Roman Gladiators and the Coliseum. The Coliseum. Travertine marble from Tivoli via a special road 527 meters in circumference 188m X 156m Arena area: 3,500 square meters Height 57 meters Awnings Seating 45,000 with another 5,000 standing. Typical Schedule. Morning – beast hunts

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The coliseum
The Coliseum

  • Travertine marble from Tivoli via a special road

  • 527 meters in circumference

  • 188m X 156m

  • Arena area: 3,500 square meters

  • Height 57 meters

  • Awnings

  • Seating 45,000 with another 5,000 standing

Typical schedule
Typical Schedule

  • Morning – beast hunts

  • Lunch Time – executions

  • Afternoon – Gladiators

  • Usually about 10 days a year. Fans spent all day at the special event.

  • Individual gladiators only fought about 2-3 times a year.

How did the displays get put on
How did the Displays get put on?

  • The Government regulated Gladiators:

    • Set up Gladiator schools

    • Procuring wild animals – the more exotic the better!

      • Hippos, rhinos, lions, tigers, bears, ostriches…

  • Competition – Entertainment was the Goal!

    • Gladiators

      • Did not fight animals – animal fighters called beastiaries

      • Gladiators usually evenly matched to ensure a dramatic fight

    • Animal Fights – could have different numbers of animals and men as well as unusual fighting combinations


  • Each “festival day” planned to be an impressive event to draw in massive crowds. – each bigger and better than the last.

  • Creative pairings of animals or evenly matched trained fighters were sure to spark interest and ensure impressive fighting.

Becoming a gladiator
Becoming a Gladiator

  • Usually recruited from slaves, criminals, and prisoners of war

  • Training a gladiator was expensive so the gladiator was considered the property of the trainer

  • Gladiator schools were called ludi


  • Worn to ward off small wounds

    • Don’t want a gladiator unable to fight due to something minor.

    • Large wounds would be fatal anyway

  • Regulations on kinds of armor worn to ensure a fair fight

  • Helmets made gladiators look sinister

    • Maybe made killing a long time training partner a bit easier – metal mesh covered the eye holes.

The gladiatorial combat itself
The Gladiatorial Combat Itself

  • Gladiator Banquet the night before: public allowed to view the fighters (made for lively betting the next day)

  • Day of Combat

    • Gladiator parade

    • Weapons examined

    • Music

    • Betting

Gladiator specialties
Gladiator Specialties

  • Samite – carried a sword, rectangular shield, armor on right arm and left leg

  • Thracian – short sword (sica), and small round shield (parma)

  • Retiarius– no armor but had a net and a 3 pronged trident

Decisions decisions
Decisions, Decisions

  • Gladiators fought to render the other fighter helpless

  • Once one fighter was helpless, the victorious gladiator turned to the sponsor to decide if the loser should live or die

  • The crowd sometimes swayed the decision

  • Thumbs Up = kill him

  • Thumbs Down = spare him to fight another day

  • If thumbs up the loser extends his neck to be killed.

  • Losing gladiators sometimes spared if they fought bravely

Did combat automatically end in death
Did Combat automatically end in death? prisoners or criminals

  • No, a very successful fighter might eventually earn his freedom

  • Most eventually died in battle

  • Inscriptions on graves gave info about age and number of fights

  • Average gladiator age was 18-22

Gladiator games only one form of public entertainment
Gladiator Games only one form of Public Entertainment prisoners or criminals

  • Theater and Plays

  • Chariot Races (really dedicated fans)

  • Gladiators

  • Religious Festivals

  • Readings and Speeches

  • Same people go to ALL of these types of events – people don’t tend to be as diverse today

Gladiatorial fights
Gladiatorial Fights prisoners or criminals

  • Huge increase in scale over time

  • First match held at a funeral celebration in 264 BCE with 3 pairs of gladiators (an Etruscan tradition before this)

  • 216 BCE = 22 pairs of fighters

  • 183 BCE = 60 pairs of fighters

  • Julius Caesar has an event in 65 BCE in honor of his father that has 160 pairs of fighters

  • 107 CE Emperor Trajan has a 123 day festival with 10,000 pairs of fighters

Roman culture more violent than today
Roman Culture more Violent than Today prisoners or criminals

  • Gladiators

  • Beast Hunts

  • Public Executions

  • Naval Battles

  • Plays with Violence

  • Animal Sacrifices

  • There were no hospitals so people died at home

Gladiator shows mirror basic issues of roman life
Gladiator Shows Mirror Basic Issues of Roman Life prisoners or criminals

  • Military Training

  • Military Domination of the World

  • Gladiators as lessons in life

    • Examples of courage

    • Public executions were reassurance that crime didn’t pay

Social classes
Social Classes prisoners or criminals

  • The Coliseum brought together a variety of people but also defined them into groups

    • The watching and the watched

    • Social classes in the stands

      • Dress: Emperor wore a purple toga, senators a purple stripe on their toga, military displayed medals

      • Seating Area – high class was closer to the action

      • Entrances – separate upper class entrances to the arena

Contemporary mosaic
Contemporary Mosaic prisoners or criminals

Another mosaic
Another Mosaic prisoners or criminals

Movie trailer
Movie Trailer… prisoners or criminals


American gladiator
American Gladiator prisoners or criminals