Pompeii Ruins

The Gladiators in Pompeii


From the lat. gladiator – oris, der. of gladius “sword”

Man, generally enslaved or prisoner of war, very rarely liberto or a freed one, forced or engaged to be act with the crews in combats often fatal, for the amusement of the crowds in the ancient Rome.


Beyond to the Thermal site, that as we have seen was one of main attraction of the pastime, the ludi of the gladiators were one of the hobbies of the ancient Pompeians, little like our game of soccer on Sunday.

A little of history

[cml_media_alt id='4681']Gladio[/cml_media_alt]

The gladio

The gladiators’ fight wasn’t born in Rome but in the Etruscan society: it was in fact a ritual – performance associated with funerals, together with dances and banquets in honor of the deceased. Over time this type of show has evolved, becoming a real extreme sport giving rise to ludi of the Gladiators.
To take part to the combats they were slaves or prisoners of war, forced to survive in the arena in order to glad the Emperor. It was their patron to decided their fate, he was the “manager” who hunted the fights for them. The Capital of the games of the Gladiators became soon Rome but this kind of sport started to be practiced with a great success and participation in every part of the Empire.

The charm of the arena did not spare Pompeii, whose Amphitheater built in 70 ad, became one of the reference points for the ludi in the South of the Empire.

The Amphitheatre of Pompeii and the gym of the Gladiators

[cml_media_alt id='4685']Pianta della palestra di Pompei[/cml_media_alt]

Plan of the Palaestra

Next to the Roman amphitheatre of Pompeii was built the Gladiator Large Palaestra: an area of 140 x 130 metres with a central area used for sporting activities surrounded by a high wall and a double line of 350 metres long ionic columns on three sides. The gym has three main entrances (in the picture: bcd) surmounted by pediments. In all there are ten entries (a-j) and the centre of the Colonnade there is a pool. All around there was a double row of plane trees that served as shelter and refreshment to athletes with their coolness. Now, thanks to the action of lava that cemented the roots of these trees, the same arboreal perimeter has been reproduced as it existed at the time.
Anciently the escape on the side of the amphitheater (c) was a kind of gallery made in wood and straw and covered the passage from the arena to the income of the arena: for many of the gladiators those were the last meters that they would have treaded on in their life.




[cml_media_alt id='4698']Palestra dei Gladiatori a Pompei[/cml_media_alt]

Palestra: on the bottom the Amphitheatre

The training of the gladiators

In this arena the hard training of the gladiatore was carried out every day.

The life of the gladiator was not at all easy. Its formation did not preview only the acquisition of ability of physical combat: to the gladiators it was in the first place taught like how to die with grace and honor. There were specific death rituals in the arenas, the roman spectators expected to see the gladiators dying with courage, without to show fear, offering the neck or the chest to the adversary who for its part became a cold-blooded murderer.

“Trust me, I’m not a latin lover”

It is known that the “charm of the uniform” – or even of the soccer outfit – has always made a killing of hearts among the maidens, and in antiquity it was not different at all! Little like also the soccers player of our times or like the great sportswomen, the gladiator was a real latin lover and exercised its fascination on the handmaids’ becoming their hidden dream.

Once again the testimonies written on wall of Pompeii prove us right and confirm the presence of many loved gladiators in Pompeii. In one of these writings we can read about “Celado” that would be “the yearning and the admiration of the girls”, while “Crescent” is defined “gentleman and doctor of the nottambule maidens”.






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