Body Types of Gladiators

Dec 2017
17
UK
How would the body type of a gladiator determine the type of fighter he would be? For example, would a secutor be quite a big man? I would like a list of all the different gladiators with their body types please. :)
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,630
All of the gladiators, regardless of what class of fighter they were, were fed a similar diet that would have given them a similar build, and it isn't one most people imagine.

But the biggest revelation to come out of the Ephesus cemetery is what kept the gladiators alive--a vegetarian diet rich in carbohydrates, with the occasional calcium supplement.

Contemporary accounts of gladiator life sometimes refer to the warriors as hordearii--literally, "barley men." Grossschmidt and collaborator Fabian Kanz subjected bits of the bone to isotopic analysis, a technique that measures trace chemical elements such as calcium, strontium, and zinc, to see if they could find out why. They turned up some surprising results. Compared to the average inhabitant of Ephesus, gladiators ate more plants and very little animal protein. The vegetarian diet had nothing to do with poverty or animal rights. Gladiators, it seems, were fat. Consuming a lot of simple carbohydrates, such as barley, and legumes, like beans, was designed for survival in the arena. Packing in the carbs also packed on the pounds. "Gladiators needed subcutaneous fat," Grossschmidt explains. "A fat cushion protects you from cut wounds and shields nerves and blood vessels in a fight." Not only would a lean gladiator have been dead meat, he would have made for a bad show. Surface wounds "look more spectacular," says Grossschmidt. "If I get wounded but just in the fatty layer, I can fight on," he adds. "It doesn't hurt much, and it looks great for the spectators."
The Gladiator Diet - Archaeology Magazine
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,240
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Romans differentiated gladiators using different equipment, not selecting them in relation with their body [if not in particular cases ... when women were present in the arena, for example ... obsiously a woman shows a different body from a man ...].

This differentiation increased a lot in imperial age [in Republican age the kinds of gladiators were substantially only two, with some variants: Gaul and Sannite].
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
It would depend largely on the time. Early Republic gladiators would typically be prisoners of war, already warriors or soldiers, enslaved, whose duty wouldn't be to work mines or push a plow but to simply do what they'd done before, fight. Romans were a very martial people and saw it as a great honor to have men fighting one another as part of the funerary rights of powerful men. As it became fashionable to host matches for a funeral, gladiators rose in demand to the point that they were a very successful investment for even Senators to be involved, and even Caesar pointed out that good gladiators should be properly trained in the use of arms by their Equestrian owners.

Once this became popularized it turned into its own sport by the Principate, where it was no longer tied to funerals but simply something important men would host, fund similarly to how they'd previously done with other ludi games, plays, and feasts, to win the esteem of the people.

Originally in the Republic there were only two gladiator style. Samnite/Gaul and Thracian, representing two of the common enemies Romans would not only face, but have a large supply of POWs to use for such roles. Their fighting styles were a bit different, but not nearly as developed as later. The Samnite/Gaul was essentially geared near identically to a Roman soldier, while the Thrace would have had a smaller shield and the curved sicca, which benefited in its abilities to stab around a shield edge. To fight properly with scutum requires lots of movement and mobility, so the idea of the juggernaut, slow and immobile scutarri wouldnt' arise till much later, when they were purposely weakened by a helmet specifically designed to limit their eye sight, giving their opponents a better edge and making the bout more sporting.

As time went on, more styles were added, each with its own strength and weakness, some inherent, some engineered similarly to the murmillo's helmet. Likely physical attributes contributed to selection: strength, stamina, agility, would come into play with each style, as well as looks. A tall, strapping and very good looking gladiator slave would be wasted being given a large helmet to cover his face, or a large shield to hide that bod. Sex sells, gladiator fights were entertainment, a spectacle, and the lanista were first and foremost, businessmen (and their ranks even included esteemed Senators, such as M. Aurelius Scaurus and even Caesar himself, who owned numerous gladiator ludi.

But as to who did what, that is purely speculation, I doubt any written ancient source codified what type of slave should be what type of gladiator.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
Romans differentiated gladiators using different equipment, not selecting them in relation with their body [if not in particular cases ... when women were present in the arena, for example ... obsiously a woman shows a different body from a man ...].

This differentiation increased a lot in imperial age [in Republican age the kinds of gladiators were substantially only two, with some variants: Gaul and Sannite].
Samnite style was renamed Gaul once the Samnite Wars ended and the Samnites were welcomed as Socii allies. Not good form to have a gladiator style named after an ally. Nothing changed, thureos/scutum shield, sword. They would have appeared near identically to a Roman soldier, minus the tunic, only a subligaculum to allow the torso to be seen fully to not only glorify the male body but also to allow wounds to be seen clearly. The lack of torso body armor common to Principate and later scutari gladiator styles was also not absolute, as iconography of some Republican era Gaul gladiators have them wearing typical montefortino helmets and pectorales, and yet no greaves, no manica.

The other style was Thrace. Its unclear if they fought identically to the later Thrace gladiator, with the large rimmed helmets, manica and greaves, likely they did not, probably their style of individual combat was simply the smaller shield a Thracian warrior would carry (the pelta) plus their ancestral sword, the sica.
 
Feb 2018
4
USA
It would depend largely on the time. Early Republic gladiators would typically be prisoners of war, already warriors or soldiers, enslaved, whose duty wouldn't be to work mines or push a plow but to simply do what they'd done before, fight. Romans were a very martial people and saw it as a great honor to have men fighting one another as part of the funerary rights of powerful men. As it became fashionable to host matches for a funeral, gladiators rose in demand to the point that they were a very successful investment for even Senators to be involved, and even Caesar pointed out that good gladiators should be properly trained in the use of arms by their Equestrian owners.

Once this became popularized it turned into its own sport by the Principate, where it was no longer tied to funerals but simply something important men would host, fund similarly to how they'd previously done with other ludi games, plays, and feasts, to win the esteem of the people.

Originally in the Republic there were only two gladiator style. Samnite/Gaul and Thracian, representing two of the common enemies Romans would not only face, but have a large supply of POWs to use for such roles. Their fighting styles were a bit different, but not nearly as developed as later. The Samnite/Gaul was essentially geared near identically to a Roman soldier, while the Thrace would have had a smaller shield and the curved sicca, which benefited in its abilities to stab around a shield edge. To fight properly with scutum requires lots of movement and mobility, so the idea of the juggernaut, slow and immobile scutarri wouldnt' arise till much later, when they were purposely weakened by a helmet specifically designed to limit their eye sight, giving their opponents a better edge and making the bout more sporting.

As time went on, more styles were added, each with its own strength and weakness, some inherent, some engineered similarly to the murmillo's helmet. Likely physical attributes contributed to selection: strength, stamina, agility, would come into play with each style, as well as looks. A tall, strapping and very good looking gladiator slave would be wasted being given a large helmet to cover his face, or a large shield to hide that bod. Sex sells, gladiator fights were entertainment, a spectacle, and the lanista were first and foremost, businessmen (and their ranks even included esteemed Senators, such as M. Aurelius Scaurus and even Caesar himself, who owned numerous gladiator ludi.

But as to who did what, that is purely speculation, I doubt any written ancient source codified what type of slave should be what type of gladiator.
Very informative reply. Thumbs up! May I know the source of the information?
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,630
Hey

Who gave you the right to blow my mind twice in a week?????
:lol:

It blew my mind as well. That's part of the fun of history, though. I always love it when some new discovery changes how we perceive history.