7: 9 Things that might surprise you about Roman gladiators

by | Dec 22, 2020 | Podcast | 0 comments

Roman gladiators are recognizable and famous all the world over. Thanks to Russel Crowe, hollywood, cinecitta and other portrayals, the sandals and swords image of a battling hero is etched in all our minds. But who were these gladiators really? There are some surprising things you might not know.

  1. Gladiators were both men and women. Despite the movie depiction of a man’s world, some free women voluntarily joined the gladiators, fighting and battling with the best of the men.
  2. Gladiator men were short by today’s standards, with an average height of 5’5 or 168Cm. They were also not as young as you might expect, with an average age of 30.
  3. Gladiators were not all slaves. Just like the free women who joined the ranks of arena fighters, so did free men. In fact, it was something lower class citizens dreamed about and inspired to be.
  4. Despite their fame in the lower rungs of society, they lived a socially outcast life. They both were revered in private and avoided in public.
  5. Despite being social outcasts, gladiators had their choice of beds to go home to. Women all over Rome, including wealthy and noble ones, loved to spend a night in the arms of a brutal, fighting hero.
  6. The battles weren’t usually to the death as movies would like us to believe. In fact, it wasn’t in anyone’s best interest to kill off gladiators, since they were used for entertainment. The crowd wanted fights that were entertaining to watch and followed the rules of good fighting conduct. That’s right there was actually a code of conduct when it came to gladiator battles.
  7. In a study of gladiator bones, they discovered that they ate a mostly vegetarian diet. This was the norm all over Rome, with only people like senators being able to eat meat  regularly. 
  8. The sport fighting of gladiators was also used for political gain by the senators in Rome. The senators would sponsor fights, to essentially use them as advertisement, for their political campaigns. 
  9. Women believed gladiator blood or sweat was an aphrodisiac. These fluids were often mixed into beauty products or worn on their hairpins.

Hope you enjoyed these 9 surprising facts about gladiators. I don’t know about you, but I suddenly feel the desire to visit Rome. Arrivederci amici!

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Ciao, I'm Rachel

I am obsessed with everything Italian! After years living in Italy, being married to an Italian, getting my Italian citezenship through my Pugliese lineage, a BA in Italian language and literature, then a MA in Italian Art History, I have lots of experience with this country! Hang out with me to learn more!