The Online Library of Knowledge



Fight between Hoplomachus (left) and RetiariusFight between Hoplomachus (left) and Retiarius Gladiators were slaves or criminals who were trained to fight one another—often to the death—as the crowds looked on. Gladiatorial contests, called munera, were held in stadiums known as amphitheatres and often attracted huge crowds. An oval-shaped area covered in sand, the arena (from the Latin harena) was surrounded by rows of seats rising around it. Gladiators fought with swords and shields, or with tridents and nets. Different types of gladiators were distinguished by the type of armour or weapons they had.

The amphitheatre

An aerial view of the Colosseum todayAn aerial view of the Colosseum todayThe Colosseum in Rome was built in AD 70–80.The Colosseum in Rome was built in AD 70–80.The amphitheatre was the place where the games were held. Most large Roman towns had one. 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 nearly 2000 years ago, much of the building still stands today.




Modern tests have been done on gladiators' bones, revealing their diet. It is believed that, compared with modern-day athletes, gladiators were probably quite fleshy. This may have had the benefit of protecting their vital organs from cutting blows.

© 2020 Q-files Ltd. All rights reserved. Switch to Mobile