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A Roman Soldier's Purse

A Roman Soldier's Purse

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A Roman Soldier's Purse - History

In addition to his weapons and armour a Roman soldier was trained to carry a considerable amount of other equipment. This was mainly carried on his shoulder as a pack mounted on a wooden cross frame.

The contents of this pack are thought to include three days rations (although some sources quote as much as 17 days), a canteen of water, cooking equipment, a selection of tools, a cloak for bad weather and sleeping under and probably some spare clothing.

Best estimates for the weight of the soldiers load including weapons and armour come to somewhere in the region of 30kg. which fits well with the amount a modern soldier is expected to carry.

Josephus wrote in the first century that each man carried “a saw and a basket, a bucket and an axe, together with a leather strap, a sickle and chain, and rations for three days, so that an infantryman is little different from a beast of burden.” Not for nothing were they nicknamed “Marius’s mules” ( muli Mariani )

It is quite possible that the most famous pieces of the roman soldiers equipment is the caligae or military boot often referred to as sandals.

The complicated appearance of these boots conceals there simplicity of construction and practical hard wearing design.

Most of the work to make these shoes is cutting with only a very small amount of stitching at the back of the heel. My experience with ancient footwear (Bronze age to 17th Century) indicates that there are two weak points in most designs.

Firstly the stitching rots and wears faster than the leather no matter how often you try to treat it and secondly the sole and the upper become separated, usually because said stitching has given up.

Caligae are different. The upper is incorporated into the sole construction between two thick layers of leather. these layers are nailed together with iron nails which can be replaced as they wear down.

In addition to the equipment carried individually, every eight men had the use of a mule to carry a tent, a rotary quern for milling grain, some of the heavier tools and I suspect anything else the men could secretly offload upon it without causing it’s collapse.

Cooking equipment consisted of a bronze pot with a loop handle, a smaller pot with a straight handle, a grill ( it is unclear whether this was shared or carried by every soldier) and the quern mentioned above.

The picture here also includes a water canteen, an iron oil lamp and some hard tack rations ( buccellatum ).

The only stitching is in a position where it is not subject to wear and can easily be re-stitched.

A Roman boot lasts me four or five times as long as any of my other authentic footwear and I have to say is more comfortable than most.

We are fortunate when studying the Roman army that they kept excellent records and many contemporary Roman writers took great pride in their army and produced useful accounts of their training and equipment.

A waterlogged ditch in the Roman fort of Vindolanda produced some of the most revealing information about Roman military life that has ever been found. Records written in ink on wooden tablets bring to life ordinary soldiers, officers and families from the end of the first century in Britain.

At the end of 25 years of army service an auxiliary soldier was granted Roman citizenship. A permanent record of this was given in the form of a Diploma, sometimes inscribed on bronze sheets bound together like a wax tablet.

Clothing in Ancient Rome - What Did the Ancient Romans Wear?

Clothing of Ancient Romans were generally simple but that doesn’t mean it didn’t change through time, although slowly. Roman clothing consisted of toga, tunic and stola.

The most commonly used material for their clothing was wool but they also used and produced linen and hemp. The production of these fibers was very similar. After the harvest the fibers were immersed in water and then aired. After that, fibers were pressed mechanically with a mallet and smoothed with large combs. Fibers were then spun and woven on looms.

While wool, hemp and hemp were produced on the Roman territory, silk and cotton were imported from China and India. Because they were very expensive, they were reserved for higher classes. From exotic materials, Romans also used wild silk that is collected from the wild after the insect had eaten its way out and sea silk that comes from the endemic “noble pen shell” that lives only in Mediterranean. Although we think that all roman clothes were white (because of the statues), Romans dyed theirs clothes in purple, indigo, red, yellow and other colors. Leather was used for protection against poor weather (from leather were made heavy coats for Roman soldiers), but its primary use was in footwear and belts. Animal skins were also worn by soldiers. Legionaries wore bearskins while Praetorians preferred feline skins.

Toga was probably the most significant item in the ancient Roman wardrobe. It was made of wool and was designed under the influence of the Etruscans and their clothes. Basically the toga was a large blanket, draped over the body, leaving one arm free. Reason why the free citizens were required to wear togas was to differ from slaves who wore tunics. Togas were forbidden for foreigners and fro exiled Romans.

Tunic is adopted from the Greeks and was worn by everybody citizens, slaves and non-Romans and by both genres. Wearer's status in Roman society was shown with color and decorations of the tunic. It was worn as a shirt or a gown or as undergarments.

Stola was traditional clothing of Roman women made of linen, cotton or wool. It was reserved for women since 2nd century BC when the toga started to be clothing reserved for men. It was a long, pleated dress, worn over a tunic. It generally had no sleeves but there were versions with shorter and longer sleeves. Sleeveless version was fastened by clasps at the shoulders. It also had belts or two that held stola.

From the late Republic to the end of the Western empire, clothing of Ancient Rome slowly changed. After the Diocletian's reforms, clothing worn by soldiers and non-military members of government became very decorated. Their tunics and cloaks were decorated with woven or embellished strips and circular roundels. Silk was used more than ever. Bureaucrats started using pieces of clothing that were before reserved only for military. People started wearing even the trousers which was before that considered as a sign of cultural decay because only barbarians wore trousers at that time.

Thladiae (from a Greek verb thlan 'to crush') refers to that category of eunuch whose testicles were crushed. Mathew Kuefler says that like the preceding, this was a much safer method than cutting. This method was also more effective and immediate than the scrotum tying.

Although not all scholars appear to agree, Walter Stevenson argues that the castrati were a totally different category from the above (all types of spadones). Whether the castrati underwent a partial or full removal of their sex organs, they were not in the category of men who could pass on an inheritance.

Charles Leslie Murison says that during the early part of the Roman Empire, the Principate, this castration was done to pre-pubescent boys for the purpose of producing catamites.

Family and Familia in Roman Law and Life, by Jane F. Gardner, says that Justinian denied the right to adopt to castrati.


Create a diary from the point of view of a Celt during the time of the invasion.

Write book reviews for a book about the Romans (check out our book reviews to get you started).

Figure out Roman road routes around your school using only straight lines and right angles

Learn to count using Roman numerals

Try this BBC Romans shopping challenge and extend it with your own numbers

Investigate the areas of different Roman villas

Weigh out ingredients to make Roman bread. Work out how you would need to scale up the ingredients for a class feast

Explore beats and rhythms for the Roman army to march to

Learn a song about the Romans ( like this one ) and perform it to an audience

Investigate the best materials for Roman helmets or shields

Make your own exploding volcanoes ( instructions can be found here ) and find out about the chemical reactions involved

Investigate different ways of cleaning old Roman coins. Try cola, vinegar, lemon juice or baking soda

Find out what kind of armour Roman soldiers wore to protect their bodies

Learn about our skeletons and how they are designed to act like armour for different organs

Poena cullei: The bizarre ancient Roman punishment reserved for parricide

Ancient Romans had a penchant for doling out punishments in rather theatrical fashion, with one pertinent example relating to the noxii, the criminals who were mainly accused of robbery, murder and rape. At times, the noxii were simply used as living props who were unarmored (or sometimes dressed in ‘show’ armor), and then declared as opponents against the adept postulati, veteran gladiators armed with maces. Consequently, these experienced gladiators made a gory demonstration of slowly dispatching the straggling criminals by spilling their blood on the sands of the arena. But this nigh sadistic ‘fusion’ of theatricality and carnage was even taken to bizarre levels on few occasions – as could be comprehended from poena cullei, a death penalty reserved for criminals who had committed the act of patricide (killing ones father) or parricide (which refers to killing of parents or close kin).

Poena cullei, roughly translating to ‘penalty of the sack’ in Latin, entailed the guilty party to be sewn up in a leather sack or bag, along with other live animals, and then thrown into the river. Now historically, the first punishments reserved for crimes like parricidium (the blanket Latin term that covered the murdering a parent or close relative), documented from circa 100 BC, probably only involved the criminal to be shoved into a sack, while his feet were weighed down by wooden clogs, and then thrown into the water. However by the early phase of the Roman Empire, the practice of including live animals into the grotesque scope was initiated. One of the famous examples hark back to the time of Emperor Hadrian (circa 2nd century AD), when the accused was tied up in a sack with an assortment of animals, including a rooster, a dog, a monkey and a viper.

Plain weird or deeply symbolic?

Now such ancient practices naturally bring up the question – why were the Romans bent on devising strange punishments? Well a part of the answer has to do with the act of parricidium and how it was perceived in the contemporary Roman world. To that end, the Romans considered the act of spilling the blood of someone of who gave life to be gravely deplorable, so much so that it was associated with the very derailment of social order. On the point, they viewed parricidium as a form of social corruption that could even taint the blood of wild animals who feasted upon the executed corpse of such a criminal. This intense notion was perfectly captured by one of the speeches made by Marcus Tullius Cicero, often considered as one of the greatest Roman orators and prose stylists of his time, who was also a philosopher, politician, lawyer and political theorist. The entire speech was ironically prepared to defend his client Sextus Roscius accused of parricide, circa 80 BC, and one of its passages is quoted here –

They [previous Roman generations] therefore stipulated that parricides should be sewn up in a sack while still alive and thrown into a river. What remarkable wisdom they showed, gentlemen! Do they not seem to have cut the parricide off and separated him from the whole realm of nature, depriving him at a stroke of sky, sun, water and earth – and thus ensuring that he who had killed the man who gave him life should himself be denied the elements from which, it is said, all life derives? They did not want his body to be exposed to wild animals, in case the animals should turn more savage after coming into contact with such a monstrosity. Nor did they want to throw him naked into a river, for fear that his body, carried down to the sea, might pollute that very element by which all other defilements are thought to be purified. In short, there is nothing so cheap, or so commonly available that they allowed parricides to share in it. For what is so free as air to the living, earth to the dead, the sea to those tossed by the waves, or the land to those cast to the shores? Yet these men live, while they can, without being able to draw breath from the open air they die without earth touching their bones they are tossed by the waves without ever being cleansed and in the end they are cast ashore without being granted, even on the rocks, a resting-place in death.

The ritual side of affairs –

As can be comprehended from such an elaborate idea behind the punishment of poena cullei, the Romans perceived the sin of parricide with symbolic elements. Consequently, the nature of punishment also took a ritualistic route. To that end, according to 19th-century historian Theodor Mommsen’s interpretations (based on compilations of several sources), the person was first whipped with virgis sanguinis (a vague term which could have meant ‘red-colored rods’) and then his head was covered in a wolf-skin bag. Wooden clogs were then placed on his legs and the guilty was shoved inside the namesake cullei (possibly a sack made of ox-leather), along with other live critters. The sack was then sealed and the criminal was finally transported on a cart driven by black oxen to the nearest stream or even the sea.

Now in allusion to the practicality of such an outlandish scope, many later historians have talked about how the ‘ritual’ was probably not followed to the letter of the whimsical law. In that regard, the captors might have just opted for a simple leather bag instead of a wolf-skin or used a common wine sack instead of special ox-leather sacks. There are also confusions regarding the term virgis sanguinis, with hypotheses ranging from the person being whipped until he bled to the use of red-painted shrubs that were believed to purify his soul (instead of bleeding him). Furthermore, there may have been cases where the poena cullei was initiated only when the said person confessed his crime or was caught in the act (as opposed to meticulous legal proceedings).

The occurrence of poena cullei –

It should be noted that much like fustuarium (which required a rebellious soldier to be stoned or clubbed to death by his comrades), the punishment of poena cullei was reserved only for rare occasions. Roman historian Suetonius talked about how powerful emperors (like Augustus) even hesitated to authorize such dreadful penalties. Interestingly enough, by the time of Emperor Hadrian, circa 2nd century AD, the punishment was possibly made optional, and the other unenviable outcome for the guilty related to being thrown into the arena with beasts.

And while the punishment gradually fell into oblivion by 3rd century AD, later emperors like Constantine and Justinian sort of revived the dread of poena cullei, in a bid to bolster their Roman legacy when it came to legal institutions. For example, one of the texts from Corpus Juris Civilis, a massive collection of laws issued by Emperor Justinian, circa 530 AD onward, mentions –

A novel penalty has been devised for a most odious crime by another statute, called the lex Pompeia on parricide, which provides that any person who by secret machination or open act shall hasten the death of his parent, or child, or other relation whose murder amounts in law to parricide, or who shall be an instigator or accomplice of such crime, although a stranger, shall suffer the penalty of parricide. This is not execution by the sword or by fire, or any ordinary form of punishment, but the criminal is sewn up in a sack with a dog, a cock, a viper, and an ape, and in this dismal prison is thrown into the sea or a river, according to the nature of the locality, in order that even before death he may begin to be deprived of the enjoyment of the elements, the air being denied him while alive, and interment in the earth when dead. Those who kill persons related to them by kinship or affinity, but whose murder is not parricide, will suffer the penalties of the lex Cornelia on assassination.

However, over time the punishment of poena cullei was relegated and finally abolished by late 9th century AD. But parricide was still perceived as a severely deplorable sin in the later Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire), so much so that the ‘penalty of the sack’ was replaced by cruel immolation – as mentioned in Synopsis Basilicorum, a shortened version of the Byzantine law code Basilika, issued in 892 AD under the orders of Emperor Leo VI the Wise. But some forms of the punishment may have persisted in Europe (possibly in parts of Germany) till the late medieval period.

Emperor Justinian depicted in the middle, from a mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Book References: Pollution and Religion in Ancient Rome (By Jack J. Lennon) / Crime and Punishment in Ancient Rome (By Richard A. Bauman)

A Roman Soldier's Purse - History

The legionary's personal weapons were two javelins, a sword and a dagger.

The sword was very important. It was light and short (no more than 50 cm) so soldiers can use it for stabbing quickly.

The legionary wore his sword high on the right side of his body. This enabled it to be drawn underarm with his right hand without interfering with the shield which he carried in his left.

A soldier carried two spears to throw at the enemy. The spears were just over two metres* long and they were designed to bend and stick in the enemy's shield so he cannot use it to protect himself. They were difficult to pull out and will bend on impact, so they couldn't be thrown back at the attacking Roman soldiers.

* US spelling of all metre words is meter.

The pugio was a small dagger used by Roman soldiers as a sidearm. It was worn on left side.

© Copyright - please read
All the materials on these pages are free for homework and classroom use only. You may not redistribute, sell or place the content of this page on any other website or blog without written permission from the author Mandy Barrow.

©Copyright Mandy Barrow 2013

I teach computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

10 Rygar: The Legendary Adventure

Released in 2003 for the PlayStation 2, Rygar: The Legendary Adventure is a 3D remake of the 1986 Rygar that released on the NES. Just like the original, Rygar features a story that is steeped in Greek and Roman mythology.

The titular Rygar is armed with the Diskarmor and functions in a similar manner to the whip from the Castlevania and the Blades of Chaos from God of War. As something of an overlooked classic, Rygar’s setting is a must for fans of a Roman setting and epics boss fights.

A Roman Soldier's Purse - History

As soon as a child was born, it was laid at its father's feet. If he raised the child in his arms, he was acknowledging as his own and admitting it to all rights and privileges of membership in a Roman family. If he did not take it out, the child was an outcast, without family or protection. If a child was to be disposed of, it was exposed that is, taken from the house by a slave and left by the roadside. This likely did not often occur. No actual instances of exposure are known during the Republic.

During the first eight days of a baby's life there were various religious ceremonies. The day of naming was usually called dies lustricus (day of purification) for the ceremony performed that day. On this day, the family rejoiced.

Marcus Aurelius was the first emperor to require birth registration. A boy was not enrolled as a citizen until he put on a man's toga, but his father had to register the child's name and the date of its birth within thirty days.

A child's first toys were the tiny ones of the crepundia. Then came rag dolls and dolls of clay or wax, some with jointed arms and legs. We hear of ivory letters like our letter blocks, carts for mice, tops, hoops driven with sticks, stilts and balls. Dogs were common and favourite pets cats began to be known at Rome in the first century A.D. We don't have definite descriptions of any children's games, but there seem to have been games corresponding to blindman's buff, hide-and-seek, seesaw, and jackstones. Games were played on boards, and pebbles and nuts were used as children now use marbles.

The training of children was conducted by their parents, with emphasis on moral rather than intellectual development. The most important virtues for a child to acquire were reverence for the gods, respect for the law, unquestioning and instant obedience to authority, truthfulness, and self-reliance.

Until the age of seven, boys and girls were taught by their mother to speak Latin correctly and do elementary reading, writing and arithmetic. At seven a boy went on to a regular teacher and a girl remained her mother's constant companion. A girl's formal education was cut short because a girl married early and there was much to learn of home management. From her mother a girl learned to spin, weave and sew.

A boy, on the other hand, was trained by his father. If his father was a farmer, he learned to plow, plant and reap. If the father was a man of high position in Rome, his son stood beside him in the atrium when callers were received, so as to gain some practical knowledge of politics and affairs of state. The father trained the son in the use of weapons in military exercises, as well as in riding, swimming, wrestling, and boxing.

No special ceremony marked a girl's passing into womanhood, but when a boy reached his majority, he discarded the crimson-bordered toga (toga praetexta) of a child and donned the pure white toga of a man. The year of the boy's coming of age varied, somewhat on his physical and intellectualy development, somewhat on his father's decision, more perhaps on the time in which he lived. In general, a man's toga was assumed between the fourteenth and seventeenth years - the later age being customary in earlier times. In the classical period the boy's age was usually about sixteen. After that, a boy was placed by his father in the care of some man who was prominent in the army or in civil life, with whom the youth spent a year in training. It seems to have been customary to select the date for the coming of age ceremony according to the birthday that came nearest to March 17, the Liberalia (the festival of Liber).

A boy's coming-of-age ceremony began when the boy laid his bulla and bordered toga before the lares of the house in the early morning. A sacrifice was offered. The bulla was hung up (it was worn later if the man needed protection from envy). The boy then dressed himself in a white tunic, adjusted by his father. If he was the son of a senator, this had two wide crimson stripes if his father was a knight the tunic had two narrow ones. Over this was draped the toga virilis (toga of the grown man), also called the toga libera. The toga was not necessarily bestowed at Rome, even if the family usually lived there. When the boy was ready, the procession to the Forum began. The father had gathered his slaves, freedmen, clients, relatives and friends, using all his influence to make his son's escort numerous and imposing. Here the boy's name was added to the list of citizens, and formal congratulations were extended. Then the family climbed up to the temple of Liber on the Capitoline Hill, where an offering was made to the god. Finally they all returned to the house, where the day ended with a dinner party given by the father in honour of the new Roman citizen.

A Roman Soldier's Purse - History

Roman pantheon isn’t just rich in the case of ancient groups of deities. Ancient Roman famous gladiators were just big of a deal as the divine beings they worshipped. The word gladiator meant ‘swordsman’ in Latin which was based on the morpheme gladius, meaning ‘sword’. That being said, by definition, a gladiator battle was typically and expectedly bloody. In ancient Rome, gladiators were armed combatants who fought in large arenas to entertain the audience. Some participated willingly as a means to achieve wealth or fame, but most were usually criminals, captured enemies or slaves forced into combat. In a nutshell, they were athletic superstars in ancient Rome. A skilled and successful gladiator could enjoy lavish gifts, gained thousands of following and even be awarded freedom if they could impress the Emperor and tail up enough victories.

The first gladiator fights were held in 246 B.C by Marcus and Decimus Brutus who intended the battles to be a funeral gift for their deceased father. They sent their slaves in the arena and had them fight against each other to death. That being said, the very first gladiators were either prisoner of war or slaves. However, as this bloody sport kept getting more and more popular, soon free men volunteered to fight, mainly due to the lavish rewards that awaited the winners.

Despite the fact, those fighters typically came from the lowest classes in society, but being a good fighter came with its perks such as having the ability to build a following and even become famous. Thus, being a gladiator was considered as the glamorous profession in Ancient Rome. There were even special schools in which they attended self-defense class and underwent a selection process. The best fighters were treated to a hearty diet, if regimented, and given a leg up, and subjected to the best medical attention. Meanwhile, those who didn’t show any potential were trotted out to be executed by either the victors or wild animals, like lions.

It’s impossible to mention all of the Roman gladiators in one article and each has their own interesting factoid to tell. Thus, we’ve collected the 10 most famous gladiators in ancient Rome.


Despite being classified as one of the most popular gladiators in ancient Rome, almost nothing is known of Tetraites, which is quite a strange thing to say. It is because no contemporary record in the form of a document or some sorts exists. However, he was definitely well known throughout the Empire to have pictures of him fighting etched into the glass and displayed in mosaics in as disperse locations as Hungary and France. He fought in the murmillones style, wearing a helmet, a rectangle shield, arm guards and shin guards as well as wielding a sword. The one battle that was deemed worthy to be committed to memory for eternity in art was when he fought against Prudes.

Aside from the fact that he was known to be a spirited and victorious combatant, pretty much every aspect of Tetraites’ life is still a mystery until today. Nobody even knows in what period of time he lived. The only clue lying about is that a wall with a painting of this gladiator was unearthed in Pompeii in 1817. The graffiti itself is believed to have been done right before the disastrous eruption of the Vesuvius Mountain in 79 AD.


Spiculus didn’t come into the limelight until years later when Emperor Nero reigned in the mid-60s AD. The numerous artworks that survived to the modern day suggest he was greatly revered throughout Rome. He managed to win a number of fights and take down many skilled adversaries.

Not only was he admired by his fans, but the notorious Emperor Nero had also taken a particular liking to Spiculus and maintained a particularly close relationship with him. The supposedly evil Emperor showered him with gifts and awarded him a palace, slaves and other luxury things beyond imagination. When the Emperor was overthrown in 68 AD, he sought out the gladiator for he wanted to die at his hands. However, Spiculus was nowhere to be found, so Nero forced one of his closest servants to do it, unable to bring himself to end his own life.


The life of Hermes wasn’t documented much except for when he became one of the Roman gladiators. However, he gains profligate praise from Martial, a contemporary poet. He admires the warrior so much that he even dedicated an entire poem praising Hermes’ talents as a capable gladiator. Hermes was, in fact, an adept combatant who always took pleasure in having an overwhelming superiority over the other fighters. He was very versatile and very well trained. He took advantage of having access to using different weapons that gladiators used in the arena and used them to take down his opponents.

Generally, gladiators would choose a particular fighting style and train hard in order to become a master in this aspect. Hermes, on the other hand, wasn’t only well-versed in pretty much every fighting style, but he was also an expert in more than three different gladiator’s techniques. This knowledge obviously contributed a lot to his victories. It should come as no surprise that he was known to bring fear into an enemy and that he had the strength of three men.

Priscus and Verus

Priscus and Verus

Just like Tetraites, not much is revealed about Priscus and Verus. However, their final combat was very well documented. The battle between these two gladiators marked the first gladiator fight in the First Century AD that took place in Flavian Amphitheatre. The spirited battle dragged on for hours before the two combatants eventually conceded to each other simultaneously and put down their swords out of respect. The spectators roared in approval and Emperor Titus granted them both with the rudis, which was a small wooden sword awarded to gladiators upon retirement that also indicated freedom. They both walked out of the arena side by side as free men. That’s why they both are always mentioned together in every documentation or record about the ancient Roman gladiators.

Their battle was recorded by Martial in the form of a poem. It has come to pass that it is the only comprehensive description of gladiatorial combat which survives to the 21st century. Through this poem, we can learn that these gladiators were equally matched and the fact that they didn’t use shields but wooden swords were because the fight was intended more for a show. The only personal fact about Priscus that is known is that he was from the northern regions of what is today known as France and he was born a slave. Verus, on the other hand, was a captured soldier originated from outside of the Empire. He was then given the name Verus which meant ‘truth’ when he became a gladiator. Additionally, Verus was already a renowned fighter before he faced Priscus.

Marcus Attilius

Marcus Attilius

Marcus Attilius was a Roman citizen by birth and thus making him one of the non-slave people that volunteered himself to fight in the ring. He began to appear in the spotlight in the 60s AD. Not much is told about this man except for his time inside the Coliseum. Perhaps the reason he volunteered was that he needed money because after all, gladiators were afforded a stable lifestyle during their contracted time as combatants. Even so, gladiators would still be shunned outside the arena. It was believed he joined because he needed to pay the heavy debts he had accumulated over the years.

His very first fight shocked all who had come to see. He was pitted against a very skilled veteran named Hilarius, who happened to have won every battle he had been in twelve times consecutively. That’s why, Marcus Attilius’ victory astonished everyone, even Emperor Nero. Attilius then went on to face Raecius Felix, another gladiator who had won several consecutive battles and defeated him.


Most of the famous gladiators in this list were known for their hand-to-hand combat against other gladiators. Carpophorus was notorious for his time in the arena fighting against wild animals. He was known for singlehandedly defeating a lion, bear, and leopard in a single battle at the initiation of the Flavian Amphitheatre. On the same day but in a different battle, he also butchered a rhinoceros with a spear. It’s said that he took down twenty wild animals in total that day alone. This event led fans and other fellow gladiators to compare him to Hercules.

Because of his specialty in fighting the beasts, he was called famed bestiaries. Because the bestial shows were typically used as an intermission of sorts between the gladiators’ fights, this caused him to have a very brief-lived career. Aside from the fact the battled these wild animals himself, he was also responsible for training the animals that were set upon Christians and unarmed criminals.


His life wasn’t recorded until he became a prisoner at a gladiator school near Capua in the year 70 B.C. Crixus was most known for being Spartacus’ right-hand man, the number one entry on this thread. His real name was Gaulish, meaning ‘one with curly hair’. Though he enjoyed the fame that came with being undefeated in the ring, he resented his owner, Lanista, who also happened to own the school. He escaped from the gladiator school in later 73 B.C with the other 70 prisoners and headed to Spartacus’ training camp at Mount Vesuvius. The number soon grew with other men joining along the way and reaching to 30,000 soldiers.

However, Crixus split from Spartacus’ main group due to having different objectives. All Crixus wanted was to march with his men to ravage Southern Italy, while Spartacus was more interested in finding complete freedom on the Alps. Crixus and most of his men soon lost to the Roman legions after the split because of being confronted near Mount Garganus. Those who survived were either captured or fled and returned to join Spartacus’ army.


You probably recognize him from the 2000 film Gladiator, in which he’s famously portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix. He was one of the few gladiators who entered the ring voluntarily and had a high rank in the society. He was an Emperor who loved battling. His ego was so swelled and he considered himself to be the greatest gladiator and the most important man in the universe. He even considered himself as Hercules, even going so far as to put on a leopard skin like the one that’s usually donned by the mythological hero. His constant victory in the arena was mainly due to unfair fights. He often fought against weak, injured animals or gladiators armed with wooden swords. That’s why, unlike most real gladiators, Commodus’ life was never really in danger.

This should go without saying but most Romans resented Commodus. Most of his time spent in the arena was intended for a cheap thrill for himself and many considered his antics as disrespectful. At one point, this narcissistic egomaniac even imprisoned disabled Roman citizens and slaughtered them in the ring. He then charged one million sesterces for every show, despite the fact he was never exactly invited by everyone. Many people believed his actions eventually encouraged his inner-circle to assassinate him in AD 192.


Flamma was revered for being the greatest gladiator of all time. He was of Syrian national and had been a soldier before he got captured and thrown into an arena. He participated in 34 battles in total as a gladiator. It’s an impressive number considering the likelihood of being killed is always high in any battle. In all of these 34 fights, he won 21 of them and only lost four. The rest of the battles ended in a draw. Politicians were so impressed with his skills that he was offered complete freedom on four different occasions. This freedom meant he would be freed of his shackles and allowed to live a normal life among the Roman citizens. However, he turned them down each time for he was already determined that this was what he lived for.

Flamma wasn’t actually his given name, but rather his stage name when he was in the ring. His career came to an end when he was in his thirty and in the Coliseum, as expected. In the course of his life, he had commanded unparalleled domination against numerous enemies in the Coliseum for 13 years, all of this armed with only a small sword, a shield and armour on one half of his body. The history of Flamma is recorded on his gravestone, which you can still see to this day in Sicily.


He is probably the only famous gladiator in ancient Rome that everyone can name off the top of their head, all thanks to Kirk Douglas for portraying him! However, his actual story is still a mystery to many. Spartacus started out as a soldier from Thrace, situated in present-day Bulgaria and includes small pieces of today Turkey and Greece. Different sources vary slightly but the first recorded date of his life goes back to 73 B.C, at which time Spartacus was already a slave. This means, at some point before that, he had been taken captive due to having lost in a battle against the Roman legions.

The one who had captured him owned a gladiatorial school near Capua and sent him there. He was considered as murmillo, a heavyweight fighter and even got to fight with the biggest swords which could typically be 18” long. His victory in the arena had, no doubt, gained him some localized notoriety. However, being a true soldier at heart who reversed his freedom, he became famous for plotting and executing a mass escape of as many as 70 slaves from the school in 73 B.C, most of whom were defeated, warriors. Crixus was one of the 70 escapees and soon became the right hand of Spartacus. They marched southward to Mount Vesuvius, adding to their numbers as they went and finally setting up a military encampment along with training regimens. The Roman Senate dispatched legion after legion to take down the revolutionaries but Spartacus was able to put them down during what later became known as the Third Servile War. That is until the Senate sent Marcus Licinius Crassus, one of Rome’s wealthiest men, who marched with approx. 40,000 soldiers. Spartacus finally met his end in 71 B.C due to Crassus’ soldiers being able to get behind Spartacus’ forces and boxing them in what’s now known as the village of Quaglietta.


Contrary to what Hollywood movies portray, ancient Roman gladiators didn’t always fight to the death. In reality, most battles were conducted under the supervision of a referee, who would typically stop the combat once any of the combatants were severely injured. All these famous gladiators were greatly worshipped by the masses and were seen as an important method of keeping the Roman citizens happy at the time. However, they didn’t always live a comfortable life for they had to train on their strictly assigned weapon throughout their gladiator career.

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