Updated Gladiator Reasearch - Development and Typology

favourite gladiator class?

  • Retiarius

    Votes: 3 17.6%
  • Myrmillo

    Votes: 6 35.3%
  • Thraex

    Votes: 3 17.6%
  • Hoplomachus

    Votes: 2 11.8%
  • Secutor

    Votes: 1 5.9%
  • Provocator

    Votes: 1 5.9%
  • 0ther

    Votes: 1 5.9%

  • Total voters


Best answers
Updated Chronological research, classification
and reconstructions, based on theories regarding the evolution of Roman gladiatorial games
and equipment. Mostly based on the research of Konstantin Nossov, Silvano Mattesini,
and displayed here with artwork by Angus Mcbride, Johnny Shumate, Steve Noon, Sandra Delgado,
Peter Dennis, Giorgio Albertini, Vladimir Golubev, Silvano and Marcella Mattesini as well as others.
I hope its useful to both research and modding  :wink: enjoy...

Campanian and Etruscan Munera - Funeral Games

Bustuarius Tomb Fighters - slaves forced duel at the grave of the deceased

Republican Period

Samnis - Samnite prisoners of war captured by Campanians or Romans and forced to duel at banquets
- Armor: Samnite or other Early Italian styles
- Arms: shield, spear, sword
- Pairing: Samnite VS Samnite

Sagittarius - archer armed with a composite bow and
wearing scale or mail armor and a conical helmet

Velites - light skirmishers armed with javelins, swords and possibly shields

Transitional period (Late century BC and Early century AD)

Gladiators at Panticapaeum, Pontic Crimea

Legionnaire Training Demonstrations - 105 BC

Attic-Boeotian cavalry helmets, may have inspired the designs of later gladiator equipment

Early Venators - hunters fighting wild beasts, armed with spears,
swords, shields and sometimes wearing military armor

Early Provocator, "challenger" - criminals and prisoners sentenced to death as capital punishment,
thou they could appeal to mercy from the public spectators by winning their sympathy (provocatio ad populum)
- Armor: military helmets, greaves and a small breastplate
- Arms: shield, sword
- Pairing: Provocator VS Provocator

Early Gladiatrix - female gladiator

Early Essedarius - an enigmatic class, inspired by Celtic charioteers,
not much is known about either the crews or chariots which were probably quadrigas

NOTE: they are not to be confused with circus chariot racers like these 3rd century examples

It is possible that Esedarii may have used chariots only for entering the arena
then discarded them altogether and fought mostly on foot, often holding an oval shield

Gallus / Early Myrmillo - another enigmatic class including captured Gallic prisoners

- Armor: probably greaves and helmets 
- Arms: sword and large shield
- Pairing: probably Gallus VS Gallus

They may have later been renamed mormylos or sea-fish
and fought wearing stylized fish or dolphin shaped helmets

Crupellarii - another class involving Gallus gladiators, heavily encased in armor.
They ultimately proved difficult to deal with during the Aeduian revolt of AD 21,
when legionnaires had to hack their armor with axes in order to subdue them!

Early Standardized Classes, Arms and Armor  

Andabatae - any blind class of gladiators. There are many versions,
including blind men fighting with sticks, gladiators with only one eye hole,
or gladiators fighting with a closed helmet lacking any vision apparatus,
therefore relying on hearing the cheers of the crowds for information

NOTE: Spartacus and his comrades most probably wore captured roman armor,
instead of their awkward gladiator equipment

1st and 2nd Century Imperial Glory and Spectacle

Personnel associated with the games

Editor "producer" - the sponsor financing the games
Lanista -  owner-trainer of a troop of gladiators, whom he would trade or rent to a editor
Rudiarius - a gladiator who had earned his freedom and received a wooden sword or rod called a rudis
he could continue to be a gladiator or become a lanista himself. Rudiarii hierarchy included trainers, helpers, referees, and fighters 
Rudis - arena referee or his assistants, in charge of directing and separating gladiators (also named after the rudis sword or staff)
summa Rudis - senior referee or trainer
Tirones / Tiro - trainee gladiators
Veteranus / Veterani - a trained gladiator and a veteran of one or more gladiatorial combats
Auctorati - Roman citizens who were in debt and sold themselves to gladiator schools for money
Noxii -  criminals sentenced to death fighting as gladiators in the arena
Lorarius - attendants who whipped reluctant combatants or animals into fighting
Familia - includes a gladiator's lanistae, comrades, wives and children
Collegia - a union which ensured proper burial, with compensation for wives and children

NOTE: an official, sometimes dressed as Mercury, tests the bodies for life-signs with a heated "wand",
while another dressed up as Dīs Pater (god of the underworld) or Charon, (ferryman of Hades),
either wearing a helmet, mask or body paint, dealt the finishing blow with a large mallet,
mostly to fallen and wounded survivors, who where already condemned to death!

Gladiator Terminology

Gladiatores Fiscales - were Gladiators maintained by the private treasury of the emperor
Gladiatores Postulatitii - were Gladiators of great skill, maintained by the Roman state treasury
Meridiani - Lightly armed gladiators who fought in the middle of the day, after the wild beast fights
Ordinarii - the regular gladiator classes who fought in pairs in the ordinary way
Scutarii - any gladiator using a large shield and wearing short greaves. Example: murmillo, secutor ...etc
Parmularii - any gladiator using a smaller shield and wearing long greaves. Example: Thraex , Hoplomachus ...etc
Naumachiarii - gladiators fighting in sea battle reenactments, on board ships sailing the flooded coliseum
Catervarii - a battle of involving a large number of gladiators fighting all together at once
Tertiarius - in a match between three gladiators, two face of against each other and the winner then fights,
the third gladiator or Tertiarius.  A Tertiarius can also substitute for an advertised gladiator who's unable to fight that day

Public Entertainment

Paegniarius - fighters wearing quilted wrappings on their legs, left arms
and probably the head. They may carry whips, a curved stick and probably small shields

NOTE: many other forms of entertainment where carried out to pass the time
between matches, including stick battles, dwarfs fighting and other harmless displays

The Venatio

Taurarii - Turocatapsia bullfighters

Bestiarii -  beast-fighters, carried a whip and torch, as well as bells
and covered their legs and left arms with quilted wrappings.

Venators - hunters wearing no armor, fighting wild beasts,
while armed mostly with spears and rarely any shields

Basic Gladiator Classes and Standard Equipment

Cestus - unarmored slave boxers 
- Armor: no armor, cestus leather hand wrappings
- Arms:  the cestus wrappings can be fitted with iron plates, blades, spikes
- Pairing: Cestus VS Cestus / Cestus VS other gladiators

Equites - mounted gladiators fighting on horseback
- Armor: a broad-brimmed helmet, mancia, tunic
- Arms: small round shield, spear, sword
- Pairing: Equites VS Equites
- Date: 1st century BC to 4th century AD

Gladiatrix -  female gladiator, purchased slave or free participant from 
high patrician or low plebeian backgrounds, they sometimes fought bare chested
- Armor: mancia, greave on the left leg and probably helmets
- Arms: large rectangular shield and sword
- Pairing: Gladiatrix VS Gladiatrix

Retiarius - plays the role of the fisherman battling the fish-men of the sea
- Armor:headband, mancia arm protection and a shoulder guard on the left arm
- Arms: net, trident, dagger and sometimes stones
- Pairing: Retiarius VS Myrmillo / Retiarius VS Secutor / Retiarius VS 2 Secutors
- Date: 1st century AD till the end of gladiatorial games

Laquearius - dressed like a retiarius, but armed with a lasso,
spear and short blade or dagger and probably paired with a secutor

Myrmillo / Murmillo - a popular class representing the fish-man hunted by the retiarius,
- Armor: fish fins shaped helmet, short grieve on the left leg, mancia on the right arm
- Arms:  large rectangular shield and sword
- Pairing: Myrmillo VS Retiarius  / Myrmillo VS Thraex / Myrmillo VS Hoplomachus
- Date: mid-1st century BC till the end of gladiatorial games

Thraex - an aggressive fighter based on the Thracians and Dacians
- Armor: crested helmet with a griffin head, long greaves, mancia
- Arms:  sica curved blade, square shield
- Pairing: Thraex VS Myrmillo / Thraex VS Hoplomachus
- Date: early 1st century BC till the end of gladiatorial games

Hoplomachus - similar in look to the Threax but more defensive and wielding a spear
- Armor: crested helmet, mancia, long greaves
- Arms:  small round shield, spear, sword or dagger
- Pairing: Hoplomachus VS Myrmillo / Hoplomachus VS Thraex
- Date: Late Republican period till the end of gladiatorial games

Essedarius - still an enigmatic class, chariots seem to have been discarded by now
- Armor: Helmet without crest or brims, mancia on the right arm
- Arms: oval shield, sword
- Pairing: Essedarius VS Essedarius
- Date: 1st century AD to 3rd century AD

Secutor - archnemesis or the Retiarius and the most difficult gladiator to trap in a net
- Armor: close fitting helmet with small eye holes and a simple crest, mancia, greave on the left leg
- Arms: large rectangular shield and sword
- Pairing: Secutor VS Retiarius / 2 Secutor VS Retiarius
- Date: 1st century AD till the end of gladiatorial games

Gladiator Classes Popular on the Eastern Parts of the Empire

Scissor / Arbelas - another dual wielder, similar looking to the Secutor but differently armed and armored
- Armor: close fitting helmet with small eye holes and a simple crest, scale or mail armor, mancia and two greaves
- Arms:  sword and tubular vembrace with a crescent shaped blade
- Pairing: Arbelas VS Arbelas / Arbelas VS Retiarius
- Date: 1st century BC to 3rd century AD

Provocator - criminals and prisoners sentenced to death as capital punishment
- Armor: round helmet, mancia, chest-guard (cardiophylax), short greave on the left leg
- Arms:  large shield and sword
- Pairing: Provocator VS Provocator 
- Date: Late Republican period till the Imperial Period

2nd and 3rd Century Developments

Catafratti - heavy cataphract cavalry, may have sometimes charged as blind Andabati 

Dimachaerus - could either a distinct class or any gladiator capable of fighting with two blades
they were more popular east of the empire
- Armor: probably a round, brimmed helmet and scale or mail armor
- Arms:  two swords or daggers
- Pairing: probably Dimachaerus VS Dimachaerus / Dimachaerus VS Hoplomachus

NOTE: standard gladiator equipment, carried on to the 3rd century,
alongside newer variant items and styles

Retiarius with scale mancia
and an absence of the shoulder plate

Secutor large crests

Secutor small crests

Secutor variant equipment

Provocator variant equipment

Myrmillo variant equipment

Myrmillo and Thraex variant helmets

Arbelas variant equipment

Details from the Gladiator mosaic floor, 3rd century,
Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach, Germany

Secutor VS Retiarius
Thraex VS Myrmillo
Thraex VS Hoplomachus
Eques VS Eques

The Last Gladiators

4th Century Costumes, Arms and Armor

6th and 7th Century Bestiarii and Venatio

Varangian circus fighters and hunters, 11th to 12th centuries








Sergeant Knight
Best answers
Informative and concise. Bravo. As for the poll, does it have any value other than your curiosity?


Best answers
UPDATE: fixed and added a few 2nd and 3rd Century variants...

Yngvald said:
As for the poll, does it have any value other than your curiosity?
last minute thought actually :mrgreen: first time I've ever added a poll
:party: just for fun really :wink:

Comrade Crimson

Knight at Arms
Best answers
I've always loved the Murmillo. They got such cool armour and their weapon combos are always cool, one of the most haunting and iconic gladiators.


Best answers
Comrade Crimson said:
I've always loved the Murmillo. They got such cool armour and their weapon combos are always cool, one of the most haunting and iconic gladiators.
Can't see the face though, serves to dehumanise them a bit too much.


Best answers
Comrade Crimson said:
I've always loved the Murmillo. They got such cool armour and their weapon combos are always cool, one of the most haunting and iconic gladiators.
I'm personaly a fan of the Arbelas  :grin: so far I see the Myrmillo
to be the most popular choice  :ohdear: and still no love of the Threax or Provocator?!
:shifty: where did I read that before?  :mrgreen: oh!

"Domitian preferred a myrmillo to any other type of gladiator,
and even threw a man to the dogs for speaking out in favor
of a thraex
!" Suetonius, Domitian, 10.1

Gladiators: Rome's Bloody Spectacle, by Konstantin Nossov


Best answers
Captured Joe said:
but I like the Secutor more :ohdear:
Flamma, was awarded the rudis four times!!!!  :wink:
but chose to remain a gladiator, his gravestone epitaph reads thus...

"Flamma, secutor, lived 30 years, fought 34 times, won 21 times,
fought to a draw 9 times, defeated 4 times, a Syrian by nationality.
Delicatus made this for his deserving comrade-in-arms



Grandmaster Knight
Best answers
Ah Flamma; a great gladiator but he was banned from the forum, for he was always stirring up arguments and insulting people.


Best answers
Good stuff matmohair. Bumping this up due to recent discussion in the best dressed warrior thread  :smile:.

Kentucky James VII

Best answers
The different gladiator classes were teams in and of themselves, and I seem to recall a fight breaking out between fans of one team or another, so owning a secutor helmet-shaped object would have been like wearing a Rangers shirt in Belfast or something.


Best answers
Roman glass depicting a gladiator, found at Begram, Afghanistan, which was once part of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom,
but was ruled by the Kushan Empire during the contemporaneous Roman Principate period, to which the glass belongs,
52-125 AD (although there is some scholarly debate about the precise dating)*  :arrow: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_glass#cite_note-ball_2016_p153-3

*Warwick Ball (2016), Rome in the East: Transformation of an Empire, 2nd edition,
London & New York: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-72078-6, p. 153.

Gladiateur, verre émaillé. Art romain, 1er siècle après JC, trésor de Begram, région de Kapiça, Afghanistan.
Musée Guimet, Paris. Bibl : Pierre Cambon, in : Afghanistan. Les trésors retrouvés., RMN 2007, Paris. Pages 289

Ethiopian retiarius . Granet museum , Aix en Provence. France

Hixenbaugh Ancient Art: Roman Terracotta Provocator Gladiator

Bas relief, 2nd century AD, murmillos against provocators?!

Murmillo, 1st to 2nd Century A.D.

Thraex, 2nd half of the 1st century

Murmillo, 1st to 2nd Century A.D.

Secutor, 3rd century A.D.

Thraex gladiator on a bone,
knife handle - 2nd or 3rd century
Christie's Auction House

Grave stele of a Secutor, From Tralles , Aydin . 2nd century CE Istanbul

"Mentor was the victor of all over famous stadiums, and he died according to his destiny.
The mighty Moïra [divinity of destiny] has led me into Hades, and now I lie in this tomb.
My life ended in the bloody hands of Amarantos

Mentor was probably not his real name, for the use for gladiators was to take pseudonyms,
choosing names of famous heroes. In Homer, Mentor is a companion of Ulysses, tutor of his son Telemachus.
The six crowns shown, indicate that he was six times victorious... 

:arrow: http://thierry.jamard.over-blog.com/article-istanbul-03-l-anatolie-au-musee-archeologique-octobre-decembre-2012-122856707.html

Fighting scenes between gladitors. Luni marble. Late 3rd century A.D. Inv. No. 125598. Rome, Roman National Museum, Baths of Diocletian.
A fragment of a relief of two registers, portraying gladiators fighting (retiarius and contraretiarius). The inscription on the fillet caption of the scene of the upper
register conserves the two gladiators’ names, Scolasticus and Damascenus. The sign “theta” (Θ, theta nigrum) indicates that Damascenus died in the fight.

:arrow: http://ancientrome.ru/art/artworken/img.htm?id=4859

Tombstone of a Provocator or secutor?, gladiator graveyard in Ephesus,
second-third century CE. The wreaths indicate his victories.
Selçuk, Turkey, Ephesus Archaeological Museum.

another gladiator's tombstone

Headstone of the arbelas gladiator, Myron. White marble. 2nd—3rd centuries

resources and photo collections at Olaf Kuepper's flickr-page
thanks goes to RC-1136 for the links and support  :wink:

Paestum Fresco 

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157648622092776/

Umbricius Scaurus Gladiator Relief 

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157649336953369/#photo_14592943318

Chieti Gladiator Relief

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157622969550079/

Porta Stabia Gladiator Relief

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157623094060536/

Villa Negrar Gladiator Mosaic - Verona

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157626193417256/

Nennig Gladiator Mosaic

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157623135410596/

RGM Cologne Gladiator Mosaic

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157631862815501/

Appia Relief

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157623397722250/

Villa Zliten Gladiator Mosaic

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157623094273344/

Bignor Villa Gladiator Cupids Mosaic

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157623107483808/

Borghese Gladiator Mosaic 

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157672111960786/

Gladiator figurines

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157622918629772/

Gladiators on household items

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157622968221127/

Gladiator Graffiti

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157623093689040/

:arrow: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/galleries/72157625000286049/


Best answers