What is a Gladiator

The term, ‘Gladiator’, is used to refer to the fighters in ancient Rome who indulged in deadly duels in the arena with other fighters or beasts from the jungle.  It is said that gladiator fights that used to take place in the Roman empire in the earlier times is among the most deadliest forms of fight known till date. The gladiators were specially trained and were subjected to the toughest conditions before they were brought to fight in the arena. The exact reason behind the origin of this kind of gladiator fights is not known, but it is said that the gladiator combat reached the pinnacle of popularity in the 2nd century CE.

The origin of the term, ‘gladiator’ is from the Latin word, ‘gladius’, meaning ‘sword’. Thus, it is needless to say that the most commonly used weapon by the gladiators was sword. However, there are evidences from literary sources about the use of barbed clubs and other weapons too. It is said that the earliest known history of gladiator combats was in the first century BCE. It was used as a symbol of celebration when a king emerged victorious in a battle against his traditional rival. It would be worth mentioning here that as years passed by, the reasons for the organisation of gladiator combats changed. Towards the end of 2nd century CE, gladiator games became a part of almost all royal celebrations and festivals.

The gladiators were treated like slaves in most cases.  With increasing popularity of gladiator shows, the practice of gladiator trade too began. The best fighters in the region were considered to be assets to the kingdom. Since the main quality looked for in the gladiators was brutality and fearlessness; the criminals caught for the most heinous crimes were involved in such fights. The prisoners of war too were given the status of gladiators provided they were skilled fighters.

The social condition of the gladiators was pathetic as they were kept in unhygienic places and brutal training was provided to them with very little importance given to their well being. Even after their death, they were ill treated as their dead bodies were fed to the lions or the other beasts. The unhygienic conditions of living led to them suffering from various ailments too.

However, the popularity associated with gladiator fights started diminishing towards the 4th century CE, after the rise of Christianity in Rome and its acceptance as the state religion. The teachings of Christianity termed gladiator fights inhumane and this can be said to be the main reason as to why this form of fighting came to an end.

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