Roman Gladiator - A Brave Fighter in Ancient Rome


A gladiator was a fighter in ancient Rome who entertained spectators in Roman arenas and amphitheatres. He fought against other gladiators and animals. For more than six centuries gladiatorial fights were a part of Roman life. Thousands of citizens went to the stadiums to see their heroes who often fought until death.

Although they were not regarded as highly as professional soldiers, gladiators were respected in Roman society. They were often slaves or prisoners who were bought by a manager. He sent them to special gladiator schools where they were trained to fight in a professional way, much like today’s athletes. In these schools gladiators were shown how to use various weapons and, above all, how to survive. Gladiators were paid if they managed to survive a fight. After five years under their manager they were set free.

Gladiators had to take an oath. They promised to obey their masters and show bravery when fighting in the arena. Everyone could volunteer to become a gladiator. Sometimes free men became gladiators because they wanted to become famous.

Recreation of an Ancient Gladiator Fight

Recreation of an Ancient Gladiator Fight - MatthiasKabel 

The first fights were held in Rome in the third century B.C. A famous Roman citizen organized the first fights in a cattle market. As the events became more popular, many people came to see them. Later on the most famous fights were held in the Coliseum, which held thousands of spectators at that time. In 325 A.D. gladiatorial fights were banned by Emperor Constantine I but they continued into the 5th century.

Gladiators often fought wild animals, like bears, bulls or lions. These animals were brought to Rome from exotic places. The Romans treated the animals badly and let them starve, so they were very aggressive and hungry before the fight. They were kept in cages under the arena. In most cases gladiators defeated the animals but sometimes they were killed by the beasts. Fights against wild animals were similar to bullfights in modern Spain.

Gladiators had different types of weapons to fight. They often wore helmets and used a shield to protect themselves. They fought with swords, bows and arrows. When a gladiator hurt his opponent the spectators put their thumbs to show that they wanted him to live and their thumbs down to signalize they wanted the defeated gladiator killed.



Related Topics


  • above all = most important
  • although = while
  • amphitheatre = a large building that looks like a circle or half-circle with rows of seats
  • ancient = old
  • athlete = sportsman
  • B.C. = before Christ
  • ban = forbid
  • beast = wild animal
  • bow and arrow = a weapon used to shoot long thin pieces of wood
  • bravery = actions that show courage
  • cage = box
  • cattle market = place where people bought and sold cows
  • century = a hundred years
  • citizen =  a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • Coliseum = a large stadium in Rome where gladiators fought and thousands of people came to watch
  • continue = to go on
  • defeat = to win against
  • entertain = to perform for people or make them interested in something
  • exotic = faraway
  • highly = greatly, very much
  • manage = to somehow achieve something
  • master = the person who owns a slave
  • oath = a formal promise
  • obey = to do what someone tells you to
  • opponent = here: the person you fight against
  • organize = plan, carry out
  • popular = well liked
  • prisoner = a person who is locked up because he has done something illegal
  • regard = look upon as
  • respect = to think highly of someone
  • shield = a large piece of metal which soldiers used to protect themselves
  • signalize = show
  • similar = like
  • slave = someone who is owned by another person and has to work for them for no money
  • society = here: life
  • soldier = a person who fights for their country in war
  • spectator = a person who goes to a stadium or area to watch an event
  • starve = to suffer because you do not get a lot to eat
  • survive = to live on and not be killed
  • sword = weapon with a handle and a long blade
  • thumb = the part of your hand hat is shaped like a thick short finger
  • various = different kinds
  • volunteer = someone who does something out of their own free will
  • weapon = something you use to hurt a person, like a knife or a gun