The Romans In LondonLondon Grid for Learning

Most gladiators were prisoners or war, slaves or criminals. It was the Roman way of disposing of unwanted people. They were condemned to train as gladiators and this even happened to slaves when they displeased their masters. Most gladiators, therefore, would have had no choice but to fight. Only a very few free people chose to be gladiators in order to get regular food and a small wage. It was quite a choice as often they did not survive many battles before being killed. Most died in their early twenties after only a few contests.

They trained in gladiator schools and were owned by the trainer (lanista). Places like Rome had resident troupes of gladiators but a number of touring bands travelled round the Empire and it would have been a very special event when the gladiators came to Roman London. Outside the London amphitheatre archaeologists found there would have been market stalls selling food and mementoes of the shows held. There, they would have sold bowls that had pictures of gladiators or wild animals shows on them, like going to a sport event today. However, not all of those contests were to the death. If the trainer had spent money training, feeding and arming his gladiators, he did not want them to be killed in the first combat so the shows sometimes only displayed their different fighting skills. Some gladiators became quite famous and if they won enough times they were sometimes granted their freedom.

Gladiators in Roman London continues on the next page...