We all know about Roman Gladiators and how they fought for the pleasure of the emperors and the people. But there are certain things not everyone knows about them. Here are 10 secrets about gladiators you may not know.
1) The biggest bloodbath ever recorded
The biggest bloodbath ever recorded in the Colosseum was given by the emperor Trajan to celebrate his conquest of Dacia (modern Romania). According to the Roman historian Cassius Dio, during the shows that lasted 123 days, 10.000 gladiators fought and 11.000 animals were killed.
2) Commodus really did fight in the arena against gladiators
If you’ve watched the famous movie The Gladiator, you might be wondering if it’s true that the crazy emperor we see in the movie, Commodus, actually fought gladiatorial bouts in real life. Well, the answer is yes. In fact, it wasn’t only on one occasion. He fought in the arena hundreds of times! His shows were known to be the most extravagant ones of all time.
3) The rumour of Commodus’ dad being a gladiator
Speaking of Commodus, did you know that his mother Faustina was rumored to have had an affair with a gladiator and that he might even be Commodus’ father! This might explain why Commodus was so obsessed with the arena.
4) The young Italians dressed up as gladiators
If you’ve been to Rome you might have seen young Italian men dressed up as gladiators around the Colosseum, with whom the visitors can have their photographs taken. What you probably don’t know is that these modern-day gladiators must be licensed. They must be under 50, mustn’t have any criminal records, and can only use plastic weapons.
5) More animals killed than gladiators
Before the gladiator fights which mostly happened in the evenings, there were animal hunts. The animal hunters fought against the animals which were brought from all over the world. And there were many more animals killed in the arena compared to gladiators.
6) The gladiators were sex symbols
The gladiators had a very unique social status. They were technically slaves but also rock stars. They were really popular with the people and particularly with the women, even with the most elite. Many important women such as wives of senators and even emperors were known to have affairs with them.
7) They weren’t fit and sexy as we imagine.
The gladiators weren’t sex symbols because of their looks but because of their power with the crowds. They mostly weren’t fit and sexy because it was actually better for them to have a thick layer of fat to protect themselves against the injuries.
8)Their bodies didn’t belong to them
Gladiators were mostly men brought from all around the world after new conquers, and their bodies in a sense didn’t belong to them anymore because they were slaves. They were the property of their owners.
9) The passagway of Commodus
An underground passageway that connects the palaces at the Palatine Hill to the Colosseum has been discovered. It’s thought that the emperors reached the Colosseum through this tunnel. It’s called The passageway of Commodus because it’s believed by some historians that the emperor was assassinated in this tunnel.
10) A secret corridor leading to their training school
There was also another underground passageway found during the excavations. This one connects the Ludus Magnus (The gladiators’ training school) to the Colosseum. The gate opening to this tunnel can be seen in the underground section of the building. You can even peek through the gate to see the tunnel!
If you want to learn more about the legendary lives of the gladiators I suggest you get your hands on the book ‘ The Colosseum’ by Keith Hopkins and Mary Beard, in addition to ‘Invisible Romans’ by Robert Knapp.