• Imagining History

Roman Gladiator Types

Updated: Jun 15


Murmillo:


Weight Class:

Heavy (well protected but slow)


Weapons:

A large distinctive helmet (with a fish motif), Gladius sword, shield and leather body wrappings.


Usually Fights Against:

Thraex or Hoplomachus


Did You Know:

The Murmillo was also known as the “Fish Man” because of his stylised helmet.


Retiarius:


Weight Class:

Light (agile but ill-equipped)


Weapons:

A trident and a net


Usually Fights Against:

A Secutor (an adaptation of the Murmillo gladiator, wearing a smooth helmet to avoid getting caught in the Retiarius’ net).


Did You Know:

The Retiarius would trap their opponent in their net before finishing them off with their trident. They were one of the few gladiators to fight without the protection of a helmet.


A Thraex with a curved sword & square shield
A Hoplomachus with small round shield

Thraex & Hoplomachus:


Weight Class:

Light (agile but ill equipped)


Weapons:

Hoplomachus had a crested helmet, small round shield, a spear and a Gladius sword. Thraex were armed with a curved sword and a curved shield


Usually Fights Against:

Murmillo or each other


Did You Know:

Both were made to look like soldiers from Ancient Greece (Hoplites and Thracians). The battles would re-enact Rome’s wars in Greece for the entertainment of the crowd.


A Bestiarii defeated by a tiger
A Venator performing tricks with a leopard

Bestiarii & Venator:


Weapons:

The Venator would be fully equipped including a Gladius sword and shield. The Bestiarii fought naked with no weapons.


Usually Fights Against:

Animals. The Venator specialised in animal “hunts” and tricks in the arena. Whereas the Bestiarii were often criminals who were sentenced to death in combat with the beasts.


Did You Know:

Bestiarii & Venator aren’t technically “gladiators” as they fought against animals, not other men.


This Provocator seems to have mislaid his Gladius!

Provocator:


Weight Class:

Heavy (well protected but slow)


Weapons:

Helmet with visor, rectangular shield and Gladius sword


Usually Fights Against:

Other Provocatores


Did You Know:

They were the only gladiators to be protected by full breastplate armour and were originally designed to look like the Roman Legionary soldier.



Further Reading:


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