Gladiators and their skills


So I recently did an essay about the Gladiators of ancient Rome and their different fighting styles. I always thought they just picked up whatever weapons they had and bludgeoned each other to death. But many of these gladiators had fighting specialities.

Techniques varied depending on a gladiator’s origin, such as Gauls, Samnites, Thracians and more.

The murmillo used a short stabbing sword called a gladius and were heavily armoured with a helmet, arm and leg shields. They were generally quite physical and would get close to their opponents. Murmillo is Greek for a kind of salt water fish, this would be part of their origins as being from the Aegean islands.

The secutor was known as a follower. His technique and armoury was very similar to a murmillo seeing as they are from the same area. A secutor would wear a very closed in helmet, which limited visibility, as he would also need to get close to his opponent. These gladiators were fearless!

The thrax technique most likely originates from the Thracians. They wore lots of leg greaves up to their thighs and manica on their arms, and carried a small rectangular shield and curved sword. They were often very nimble as they didn’t have much heavy armour, they were mobile in the arena, and needed to get close to slay their opponent.

Venationes - Animal fights! Kinda looks like the one animal is telling a secret...

Venationes – Animal fights! Kinda looks like the one animal is telling a secret…

Another Greek influenced technique was the hoplomachus (shield fighter). Greek military styles such as a round shield, lance and small dagger were used, similar to the battle methods of the hoplites in the Greek army. They wore a visored helmet and had long greaves on their legs. The hoplomachus were able to kill from a distance with their lances, and if necessary closer with their dagger. However they were not very mobile as they had many instruments and armour.

The retiarius was a very mobile and athletic technique. Requiring no armour, no shield, no greaves and only a manica on his right arm and a glareus or metal guard on his shoulder. The retiarius’ only weapons were a weighted net or rete, a long dagger and a trident. These gladiators could capture their opponents in this net and stab them with either their trident or dagger. The little armour greatly exposed them and this technique required a lot of skill, but if executed correctly it would be lethal in the arena.

The most foreign of the techniques was possibly the equites. Similar to jousting, they fought on horseback and likely had lances in the beginning. After unseating their opponent they would fight on the ground with swords and a round shield. They are generally depicted wearing a visored helmet with feathers and wearing tunics. 


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