Tom Sienkewicz (Monmouth College) Gladiators in the Latin Classroom acl 2009

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Tom Sienkewicz (Monmouth College)

Gladiators in the Latin Classroom

ACL 2009

Gladiator Packet

Table of Contents

Bibliography on Roman Sports

Bibliography on Roman Gladiators

Some Gladiatorial Vocabulary

Some Short Phrases to Start

Martial V, 24 on a Gladiator Called Hermes

Some Roman Literary Evidence about Gladiators

Female Gladiators

Gladiators in Epigraphy

Classroom Activities

Bibliography on Roman Sports

Auguet, J. K. Cruelty and Civilization: The Roman Games. London 1972 (Paris 1970)

Balsdon, J. P. V. D. Life and Leisure in Ancient Rome. New York 1960

Brown, Shelby “Death as Decoration: Scenes from the Arena on Roman Domestic Mosaics,” in Amy Richlin ed., Pornography and Representation in Greece and Rome. Oxford UP 1992

Barton, C. A. The Sorrows of the Ancient Romans. Princeton 1992

Benario, H. “Sport at Rome,” Ancient World 7 (1983) 39-43

Booth, A. D. “Roman Attitudes to Physical Education,” Classical News & Views 19 (1975) 27-34

Briggs, W. “Augustan Athletics and the Games of Aeneid V,” Stadion 1.2 (1975) 267-83

Buchanan, D. Roman Sport and Entertainment. 1975

Cameron, A. Circus Factions. Oxford 1976

Friedlaender, L. Roman Life and Manners. 7th ed., New York 1905

Grant, M. Gladiators. London 1967

Harris, H. A., Sport in Greece and Rome (London 1972)

Hopkins, Keith. “Murderous Games,” in Conquerors and Slaves. Cambridge 1982

___________. Death and Renewal. Cambridge, 1983

Humphrey, J. H. Roman Circuses. Berkeley and Los Angeles 1986

Jacobelli, Luciana, Gladiators in Pompeii (Los Angeles: Getty Publications 2003) [Gladiatori a Pompeii (Roma: Bretschneider 2003)]

Koenig, Jason, Athletics and Literature in the Roman Empire (Cambridge: CUP 2005)

Kyle, Donald G. Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World. Wiley-Blackwell, 2006

Potter, D.S. and D. J. Mattingly (edd.), Life, Death, and Entertainment in the Roman Empire [Review: W. J. Slater JRA 13 (2000) 483-484]

Rawson, E. “Discrimina Ordinum: the Lex Julia Theatralis,” Papers of the British School at Rome 55 (1987) 83-14.

Scanlon, Thomas F., Greek and Roman Athletics. Chicago: Ares, 1984

Strauss, Barry. The Spartacus War. New York: Simon & Shuster, 2009.

Welch, K. “The Roman Arena in late-Republican Italy: a new interpretation,” Journal of Roman Archaeology 7 (1994) 59-79

Welch, K. “The Stadium at Aphrodisias,” AJA 102 (1998) 547 -569

Welch, K. “Negotiating Roman Spectacle Architecture in the Greek World: Athens and Corinth,” B. Bergmann and C. Kondoleon eds., The Art of Ancient Spectacle (Studies in the History of Art, Washington DC, 1998 or 1999)

Wiedemann, Thomas Emperors and Gladiators. Routledge: New York and London 1992

Wistrand, Magnus Entertainment and Violence in Ancient Rome. Studia Graeca et Latina Gothoburgensia LVI 1992

Bibliography on Roman Gladiators

Roman Literary Sources

Cicero. Prō Milōne 34
Tusculānae Disputātiōnēs. 2.17.41
Philippiae 3.14.35
Cyprian. Ad Donatum 7
Epistulae 10.5
Juvenal. Satirae 6.78-81; 8.183-210
Livy. Historiae 21.42-43
Martial. Liber dē Spectāculīs, esp. VI
Epigrammata, V, 24
Petronius. Satyricon 117
Pliny. Nātūrālēs Historiae. VII.12.10.52-55; VII.20.81
Seneca. Epistulae 7.4-5; 30.8; 37.1-2; 70.6-7; 70.21; 71.21-23
Dē Tranquillitāte 11.1-6; 11.3-5
Dē Īrā 2.8.2
Suetonius. Life of Domitian 4.1
Life of Claudius 21.10
Statius. Silvae I, vi.51-56
Tacitus. Annālēs 1.2; 3.65.2; 11.21.1; 15.32.3
Tertullian. Dē Spectāculīs, esp. 22


Futrell, Alison The Roman Games. Blackwell. 2006

Mahoney, Anne Roman Sports and Spectacle: A Sourcebook Focus, 2001


Classics Technology Center. “The Roman Gladiator.”

McManus, Barbara. VRoma. “Arena: Gladiatorial Games.”


Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Corpus Inscriptionum Latinorum

Colini, A.M. and L. Cozza. Ludus Magnus. Rome, 1962

Espérandieu, M.Em. Inscriptions Latines de Gaule. Paris, 1929

Garcia y Bellido, A. Lapidas funerarias de gladiatodores de Hispania. In Archivo español de Arquelogia XXXIII (1960), 123-144 = L'Année Épigraphique 1962, #44-58.

Grant, Michael. Gladiators. London, 1967.

Gregori, Gian Luca. Epigrafia Anfiteatrale dell' Occidente Romano. II. Regiones Italiae VI-XI (includes Umbria, Etruria, Aemilia, Liguria, Venetia, Histria, and Transpadana). Rome, 1989.

Lugli, Guiseppe. Itinerario De Roma Antica. Milan, 1970.

Mau, August. Pompeii. Its Life and Art. New York, 1899.

Richardson, L. Jr. Pompeii. An Architectural History. Baltimore, 1988.

Robert, Louis. Les gladiateurs dans l'orient grec. Paris, 1940.

Tumolesi, Patrizia Sabbatini. Epifrafia Anfiteatrale dell' Occidente Romano. I. Roma. Rome, 1988.

__________. Gladiatorum Paria. Rome, 1980.

Ville, Georges. La gladiature en occident des origines à la mort de Domitien. Rome, 1981.

Some Gladiatorial Vocabulary

tīrō, -ōnis m.: a gladiatorial recruit

veterānus,- ī m.: gladiator who had fought at least once

lanista, -ae m.: a gladiatorial trainer, manager of a troop of gladiators

armātūra, ae f.: armament, gladiatorial equipment

Myrmillo, - ōnis m.: heavily-armed footman with a fish on his helmets (see more below)

Samnīs, -ītis m.: heavily-armed footman (see more below)

secūtor, -ōris m.: heavily-armed footman

Thraex, Thrācis m.: light-armed footman bearing a shield and reversed sickle (see more below)

rētiārius, -iī m.: unhelmeted footman armed with only tunic, net, trident and dagger (see more below)

essedarius, -iī m.: chariot fighter

familia, -ae f.: a troop of gladiators

ludus, -ī m.: a place of residence and training of gladiators

ludia, -ae f. female gladiator; women associated with gladiators; "a female slave attached to a gladiatorial ludus" (OLD)

ēditor,-ōris m.: sponsor of the games who would contract with a lūdus for a troop of gladiators to perform”. Also called ēditor muneris or dominus

prōcūrātor, -ōris m. imperial magistrate in charge of the games

missio, -iōnis f. permission given to gladiators to stop fighting in the arena. The same word was used for a military discharge.

palma, -ae f. palm given to a victorious gladiator

rudis, rudis f. wooden sword or staff given to a gladiator retiring permanently from action

vēnātiō, -ōnis f. animal hunt in the arena

vēnātor, -ōris m. animal hunter in the arena

Samnīs, Samnītis m. Samnite, named after the mode of armor and weapons of the Samnites, an Italic people Rome conquered early in her history. A heavily armed and armored fighter, equipped with helmet (galea, -ae f.), oblong shield (scūtum, -ī n.), sword (gladius, -iī m.), wide leather belt (balteus, -eī m.) and metal greave (ōcrea, -ae f.) on the left leg only. Eventually this gladiator came to be called a secūtor, secūtōris m. chaser.

Mirmillō, -ōnis m. Mirmillo. Armed like a Samnite, but with a special, fish-shaped helmet.

Rētiārius, -iī m. Netter. This fighter was protected only with a shoulder guard (on left side only). For attacking, he carried a trident and a net and was often pitted against a Samnite or a Mirmillo.

Thrāx, Thrācis n. Thracian. A fighter with lighter armor, including a helmet and greaves on both legs. With a bare torso and an arm guard (manica, -ae f. ) on his right arm, he carried a small shield (parmula, -ae f.) in in one hand and a short sword (sīca, -ae f. ) in the other.

Some Short Phrases to Start

image:jean-leon gerome pollice verso.jpg

Avē, imperātor. Moritūrī tē salūtant!

Pollice Versō

Gladiātōrēs Pugnantēs

Pollice Verso (1824-1904)

“With a Turned Thumb” painting, 1872
quondam hī cornicinēs et municipalis harēnae
perpetuī comitēs nōtaeque per oppida buccae
mūnera nunc ēdunt et, versō pollice vulgus
cum iubet, occīdunt populāriter
Juvenal. Satire III.34-37

Sacrāmentum Gladiātōrum
This oath is based upon one sworn by several characters comparing themselves to “real gladiators” in Petronius’ Satyricon (117):
In verba Eumolpī sacrāmentum iurāvimus: ūrī, vincīrī, verberārī, ferrōque necārī, . . . , tamquam lēgitimī gladiātōrēs dominō corpora animāsque religiōsissimē addicimus.

Venerable Bede

And here is a famous quote from the Venerable Bede (Beda Venerābilis, 673-735) about the Colosseum:

Quandiū stat Colisaeus, stat et Rōma.

Quandō cadet Colisaeus, cadet et Rōma.

Quandō cadet Rōma, cadet et mundus.

Bedae Opera Omnia Migne P.L. XCIV pg. 543. Bedae Opera (Cologne, 1612), pg. 482

Verba Ūtenda

addīcō, addīcere, addīxī, addictum consecrate

Avē! Hail!

bucca, -ae f. cheek

comes, comitis m. / f. attendant, companion cadō, cadere fall (down)

Colisaeus, -ī m. “Colossus”

cornicen, cornicinis m. trumpeter

ēdō, ēdere, ēdidī, ēditum proclaim

Eumolpus ,-ī m. Eumolpus, a character in the Satyricon

ferrum, -ī n. iron, sword

harēna, -ae f. arena

imperātor, -ōris m. commander, general, ruler, emperor

iurō (1) swear

lēgitmus, -a, -um real, lawful, right

moritūrī “those about to die”

mundus, -ī m. world

mūnicipālia, -e provincial

mūnus, mūneris n. public show

nōtus, -a, -um familiar

occīdō, occīdere, occīdī, occīsum kill

populāriter with popular support

perpetuus, -a, -um permanent, regular

quandiū as long as

quondam once

religiōsus, -a, -um pious, devout sacrāmentum, -ī n. oath, sacred obligation (especially one sworn by soldiers)

ūrō, ūrere, ussī, ustum burn

verberō (1) lash, scourge, beat

vinciō, vincīre, vinxī, vinctum tie up, fetter

Martial V, 24 on a gladiator called Hermes

Hermēs Mārtia saeculī voluptās.

Hermēs omnibus ērudītus armīs.

Hermēs et gladiātor et magister.

Hermēs turba suī tremorque lūdī.

Hermēs, quem timet Helius sed ūnum,

Hermēs, cui cadit Advolans sed ūnī,

Hermēs vincere nec ferīre doctus.

Hermēs subpositicius sibi ipse.

Hermēs dīvitiae locāriōrum.

Hermēs cūra laborque lūdiārum.

Hermēs belligerā superbus hastā.

Hermēs aequoreā mināx tridente.

Hermēs cassidā languidā timendus.

Hermēs glōria Mārtis ūniversī.

Hermēs omnia sōlus et ter ūnus.

Verba Ūtenda

Advolans “Flyer,” the name of a gladiator

aequoreus, -a, -um of the sea, Refers to the trident, which is an attribute of Neptune, god of the sea.

belliger, -a, -um martial, war-waging

cassida, -ae f. helmet

dīvitiae, -ārum f. pl. wealth, riches

ērudītus, -a, um skilled

feriō, ferīre hit, kill, slay

hasta, -ae f. spear

Helius, -iī m. “Sun,”,” the name of a gladiator

lūdia, -ae f. a gladiator’s girl, “girls of the ludus,” a sort of groupie!

lūdus, -ī m. here a gladiatorial school

languidus, -a, -um drooping

locārius, -iī m. someone who buys show tickets as an investment

Mārs, Mārtis m. Mars, the god of war and fighting. Here used as a metaphor, translate “fighting”Mārtius, -a, -um of Mars

mināx, minācis threatening

nocturnus,-a,um nocturnal, of the night

pupa, -ae f. doll, girl

rētiārius, -iī m. netter

subpositicius, -iī m. understudy

superbus, -a, -um proud, haughty

suspīrium, -iī n. sigh, heartthrob

timendus, -a, -um “must be feared”

tremor, tremōris m. (cause of) trembling, quivering

tridēns, tridentis m. trident, a three-pronged fork

turba, -ae f. (cause of) disorder, confusion

ūniversus, -a, -um translate “all”

ūnus, -a, um Translate as “only this one”

Some Roman Literary Evidence about Gladiators

Tacitus. Annālēs XI, 21,1 (“On the Paternity of Curtius Rufus”)

Dē orīgine Curtiī Rūfī, quem gladiātōre genitum quīdam prōdidēre, neque falsa prompserim et vera exsequī pudet.

Pliny. N.H. VII, 12, 10, 52-55 (“On the Orator Cassius Severus’ Look-Alike”)

Cassiō Sevērō celebri ōrātōri Armentāriī murmillōnis [armentarii Murmillonis?] objecta similitūdō est.

Pliny. NH. VII. 20.81 (“On the prodigious strength of Tritanus”)

Corpore vēscō sed eximiīs viribus Tritanum in gladiātōriō lūdō Samnitium armātūrā celebrem, fīliumque eius mīlitem Magnī Pompēiī et rectōs et traversōs cancellātim tōtō corpore habuisse nervōs, in bracchiīs etiam manibusque, auctor est Varrō in prōdigiōsārum virium relatiōne, atque etaim hostem ab eō ex prōvocātiōne dimicante inermi dexterā superātum et postremō corrreptum unō digitō in castra tralatum.

Suetonius. Di. Claud. XXI.10 (“On Retiring a Gladiator”)

Illud planē quantumvīs salūbriter et in tempore: cum essedariō, prō quō quattuor filiī dēprecabantur, magnō omnium favōre indulsisset rudem, tabulam īlicō mīsit admonens populum quantō opere liberōs suscipere deberet, quōs videret et gladiatōri praesidiō gratiaeque esse.

Verba Ūtenda

cancellātim in a lattice arrangement

dēprecor, dēprecārī, dēprecātus sum beg pardon

dextera (manus) right hand

dimicō (1) struggle

eximius, -a, -um extraordinary

exsequor, exsequī, exsecutus sum to pursue

genitum fathered (by)

īlicō then and there, immediately

in tempore in a timely way

inermis, inerme unarmed

indulgeō, indulgēre, indulsī, indultum grant, award

obicere, obiēcī, obiectum throw before (+ dat.)

planē plainly, utterly

prompserim “I would not put forth”

prōdidēre = prōdidērērunt hand down, publish

prōdigiōsus, -a, -um prodigious

pudet it is shameful

quantusvīs as much as you want

quīdam some, certain people

salūbriter in a healthy way

vēscus, -a, -um thin

Female Gladiators

Tacitus. Annālēs XV.32.3 (“On the Games of 63 A.D.)

Spectācula gladiātōrum īdem annus habuit pari magnificentia ac priōra; sed fēminārum illūstrium senātōrumque plūrēs per arēnam foedātī sunt.

Suetonius. Dom. 4,1 (“On Domitian’s Unusual Games”)

Spectācula assiduē magnifica et sūmptuōsa ēdidit nōn in amphitheatrō modo, vērum et in Circō. . . . Nam vēnātiōnēs gladiātōrēsque et noctibus ad lychnūchōs nec virōrum modo pugnās sed et fēminārum.

Martial. Liber Dē Spectāculīs VI (“On the Games Opening the Flavian Amphitheatre”)

Belliger invictīs quod Mars tibi servit in armīs,

nōn satis est, Caesar; servit et ipsa Venus.

Statius. Silvae I, vi. 51-56 (“An account of some unusual entertainment given by Domitian during the Saturnalia”)

Hōs inter fremitūs novōsque luxūs

spectandī levis effugit voluptās:

stat sexus rudis insciusque ferrī;

ut pugnās capit improbus virīlēs!

crēdas ad Tanain ferumque Phasim

Thermodonticas calēre turmās.

Verba Ūtenda

ac as

belliger, belligera, belligerum warlike

crēdas “you might think”

ēdō, ēdere, ēdidī, ēditum put forth, sponsor

ferrum, -ī n. iron; sword

ferus, -a, -um wild

foedō (1) disgrace

illūstris, -e famous

improbus, -a, -um shameless

inscius, -a, -um ignorant of, unskilled of

levis, -e nimble, light

lynchnūcus, -ī m. lampstand

nec modo . . . sed et not only . . . but also

nōn modo . . . vērum et not only…but also

Phasis, Phadidos f. the Phasis, a river in ancient Colchis, on the Black Sea. Associated with the Amazons in antiquity.

quod that

rudis, -e rough; ignorant

sexus, -ūs m. sex, gender

stō, stare, stetī, statum take a stand

Tanais, -is f. the Tanais, a river associated with the Amazons (now in Russia)

turma, -ae f. cavalry, squadron

ut how!

voluptās, -ātis f. pleasure

Some Documentation from Greek Sources

Cassius Dio. LXVII 8,4

Often [Domitian] would conduct the games also at night and sometimes he would pit dwarfs and women against each other.

Cassius Dio. LXVI, 25,1.

(in reference to the opening of the Flavian amphitheatre)

There was a battle between cranes and also between four elephants; animals both tame and wild were slain to the number of 9000; and women (not those of any prominence, however) took part in dispatching them. (Clay, 1968)

Cassius Dio. LXXVI, 16,1.

There took place also during those days [in the reign of Severus] a gymnastic contest at which so great a multitude of athletes assembled, under compulsion, that we wondered how the course could contain them all. And in this contest women took part, vying with one another most fiercely, with the result that jokes were made about other very distinguished women as well. Therefore it was henceforth forbidden for any women, no matter what her origin, to fight in single combat.

CIG 6855: A relief with an inscription. From Halicarnassus. Now in the British Museum.

Fēminae Gladiātōrēs



Amazon and Achillia were granted a reprieve.

Gladiators in Epigraphy

A Few Useful Epigraphic Abbreviations

D.M. = Dis Manibus, “to the blessed soul”

B.M. = bene merenti, “to the well-deserving”

Ñ = natiōne, “by nation”

RET = retiarius, “netter”

M = myrmillo, a heavily-armed gladiator

PUGNAR = pugnarum, “of contests”

D = dies, “days”

ANN = annōs, “years”

F = fēcit, “(s)he made [this memorial]”

V. = vīcit “he conquered, won”

L = lībertus, -a freedman, freedwoman

Gladiatorial Graffiti from Pompeii

CIL IV.8055 Oceanus and Aracintus

CIL IV.8056 Severus and Albanus
CIL IV. 10221 Monumentum Eumachiae
CIL IV. 4353 Crescens

From the Praetorian Camp in Rome

Vēnātōrēs et Tiger

Gladiatorial Tombstones

CIL V 1037 Passer

CIL, V 3468 Pardon
CIL V 3465 Generosus
CIL V, 3466 Glaucus
CIL II2/7, 363 Probus
CIL VI, 2 10195 Antonius Niger
CIL V, 2885 Iuvenis
CIL V, 5933 Urbicus

Vēnātōrēs et Tiger

Hunters and Tiger Mosaic

2nd century A.D.. Found in the Praetorium Camp in Rome. Exhibited in the Colosseum of Rome. 5266858

The inscription reads


The text is still in question. One possible reading is



The circle with the cross is called a theta nigrum or “black theta” and indicates that the tiger died. (Theta is the first letter in the Greek word for death. 5266858

Tombstone of a Gladiator in Spain


Probus Mirmillō

Tombstone from Corduba, Spain

1st-2nd century A.D.

CIL (Corpus Inscriptiōnum Latinārum) II2/7, 363

Here is a transcription of the tombstone:












Here is the expanded text:

Mur(millō) (contrā) r(ētiārium)

P(ublī) A(ureliī) Vī(tālis) l(ībertus) LXXXXIX (victōriārum)
natiōnē Germā(nus)
h(īc) s(itus) e(st). S(it) t(erra) t(ibi) l(evis).

Volumnia Sperā(ta)

coniugī piō
merentī (fēcit).
P(ublius) Volumnius
Vitālis patrī piō (fēcit)
S(it) t(erra) t(ibi) l(evis).

Here is the text written in standard prose:

Probus, murmillō contrā rētiārium, Publī Aureliī Vītālis lībertus, LXXXXIX victōriārum, natiōnē Germānus, hīc situs est. Sit terra tibi levis.

Volumnia Sperāta coniugī piō merentī fēcit.
Publius Volumnius Vitālis patrī piō fēcit.
Sit terra tibi lēvis.

Verba Ūtenda

anima, -ae f. breath, soul, life

contrā + acc. opposite, against

incurrō, incurere, incurrī / incucurrī run into

LXXXXIX victōriārum “of 99 victories”

levis, leve light

mereō, merēre, meruī, meritum deserve

murmillo = mirmillo a heavily-armed gladiator

necō (1) kill

natiōne “by nationality”

pius, pia, pium pious, devout

sit “may (the earth)”

situs, sita, situm located, buried

tamquam just as, just like

victōria, -ae f. victory

Classroom Activities

Gladiatorial Vocabulary:

Grammar: Vēnātiō Verbōrum

1. Rearrange words by declension; rearrange by gender

2. Find a third declension i-stem.

3. Find a 1st declension masculine

4. Derivatives

Show pictures of types and have students ID them.

(possibly in Latin: Quis est? Rētiārius est.)

Let students use gladiator doll to show types.

Some Short Phrases to Start

Avē, imperātor

Grammar: Discuss future active participle, substantives, and agreement


Explain how this expression appears in Suetonius’s Life of Claudius (21.10), where a group of condemned prisoners shout this to the emperor as they are about to take part in a mock naval battle (naumachia) on Lake Fucinus in 52 A.D. To the men the emperor replied Aut nōn. Ask the students what they think the emperor meant and how the men might have reacted to what the emperor said. After discussing the possibilities, explain that Claudius was probably joking and implying that they might or might not die in the battle. The prisoners took the emperor seriously and thought he was releasing them from combat (missiō) and refused to fight until the emperor threatened and cajoled them into doing so.

Pollice Versō

Grammar: Discuss ablative absolute.

Figures of Speech: Ask students to find two examples of metonymy in the Juvenal selection.

Discussion: Ask the students to translate the expression literally (“with thumb turned”). Then ask them how Gérôme understands the gesture in the painting (“thumbs down”). What other possible gestures might fit the expression?

Then explain that there is a great deal of debate about the “thumbs down” gesture. The Latin expression pollicem vertere (“to turn the thumb”) may actually have referred to turning the thumb towards the chest, not downwards, to call for death.

Sacrāmentum Gladiātōrum

Grammar: Forming present passive infinitives!

Discussion: How does the gladiators’ oath compare to oaths sworn by members of the U.S. Armed Forces today?

Venerable Bede

Grammar: non-copulative use of “et”

Style: Roman fondness for anaphora and parallel sentence structure.


1. In what way(s) you think Venerable Bede’s statement is true?

2. What do you think is the origin of the word “colosseum”? (Discuss Colossus of Rhodes and Nero’s statue. Also note original name of building: Flavian Amphitheatre.)

Martial V, 24 (Hermes poem)

Sentence Structure: Tell students that every line except 5 and 6 is a complete sentence and ask them what Latin word is understood in each of these lines. Then have them make a list of all the words which are nominative in apposition to Hermes.


Ablative: Ask students to find ablatives (lines 2, 11, 12, 13) and identify types and translate

Genitive: Do the same with genitives (lines 1, 4, 9, 10, 14)

Dative: Find the three words in the dative case and translate them. To whom do all three of these words refer?

Forms of ūnus (5, 6, 15): Review of irregular endings.

Find the two infinitives in this poem. With what word are they translated? What kind of infinitives are they (complementary, subject or object)?

Metre: Have the students count the syllables in each line. Then ask them what hendecasyllabic means. Show them the metrical pattern.

Discussion Questions:

1. Why does Martial repeat a form of ūnus three times in the poem?

2. Why might Hermes be a good name for a gladiator?

3. What is the general impression Martial creates about this gladiator?

4. To what extent does Martial’s description of Hermes fit your stereotype of a Roman gladiator?

5. Compare Hermes to a famous modern athlete.

Assignment: Use Martial’s poem as a model to write a poem about your favorite modern athlete.

Some Roman Literary Evidence about Gladiators

Tacitus. Annālēs XI, 21,1 (“On the Paternity of Curtius Rufus”)

Use of –ēre perfect active ending. Impersonal verb with subject infinitive.

Pliny. N.H. VII, 12, 10, 52-55 (“On the Orator Cassius Severus’ Look-Alike”)

Discuss multiple interpretations: Armentarius the Murmillo or Murmillo the cowherd?

Pliny. NH. VII. 20.81 (“On the prodigious strength of Tritanus”)

Find the two infinitives in indirect statement introduced by auctor est. What is the subject of each infinitive?

What words in this passage emphasize Tritanus’ prodigious strength?

How realistic is this story?

Suetonius. Di. Claud. XXI.10

There is no verb in the first clause. What English verb best fits the context (“in a healthy and timely fashion”)?

What verbs in this passage have “the emperor Claudius” as their understood subjects?

How does the emperor use this gladiator as a model for other Romans?

What conclusions about the private lives of gladiators can be drawn from the four sons in this passage?

What would be the equivalent of Claudius’ tabula at a modern sporting event?

Female Gladiators

Tacitus. Annālēs XV.32.3

What behavior causes disgrace in this passage? Why?

Suetonius. Dom. 4,1

What were some of the unusual features of the games Domitian held?

Martial. Liber De Spectaculis VI

The key to understanding Martial’s point is in recognizing the contrast between Mars and Venus. What do you think the contract is?

Discuss poetic word order: What word does belliger modify? What word does invictīs modify?

What is the subject of nōn satis est?

Also discuss meter of elegiac couplet.

What word is in the vocative case in this poem? What does this vocative suggest to you about this poem?

Statius. Silvae I, vi. 51-56 (“An account of some unusual entertainment given by Domitian during the Saturnalia”)

Grammar: How many fourth declension nouns can you find in this poem?

How does Statius make use of the ancient image of Amazon women in this poem?

What two words modify sexus in this poem? What do these adjectives suggest about Statius attitude towards this sex?

Indicate some comments in this passage which might be considered sexist.

Gladiators in Epigraphy

General Suggestions:

Romen nomenclature. (Some of the gladiators have formal Roman names. Others have “stage names.”) Have the students try to identify and classify some of these names.

Roman numerals.

Abbreviations in Latin.

Pompeian Graffiti

What general conclusions can be drawn about Roman attitudes towards gladiators from this graffiti?

From the Praetorian Camp in Rome
Use this mosaic and inscription to discuss animal contests in the Roman games.


What do these tombstones tell us about the private lives of gladiators? How long do they live? Do they have families? These tombstones were expensive. What does that suggest?

Probus’ Tombstone

Who erected this tombstone for Probus?

What do you learn about Probus’s career from this tombstone?

Who is addressed as tibi in the last line?

Images for Identifying Gladiator Types

Clipart Item #25452201 5266858


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