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Who were the gladiators?

Fight between Hoplomachus (left) and RetiariusFight between Hoplomachus (left) and RetiariusGladiators were slaves or criminals who were trained to fight one another in Roman times. Gladiatorial contests were held in stadiums called amphitheatres attended by large crowds. Some gladiators fought with swords and shields, others with tridents and nets. Many contests were fought to the death. However, if the gladiators fought well enough they might be given their freedom.

The Colosseum in RomeThe Colosseum in Rome

The amphitheatre

Most large Roman towns had an amphitheatre. It was a large, stone-built stadium with an oval arena in the middle. The largest was the Colosseum in Rome itself. It could hold up to 50,000 people. Built in AD 70–80, much of the original building still stands today.

Gladiator fights were sometimes accompanied by music. Trumpet blasts coincided with especially powerful blows from the gladiators.

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