The first gladiators were recruited from prisoners of war, who had to fight with the weapons typical of their origin in the arena. The names of the earliest gladiator types refer to this, e.g., samnes (Samnites) and galli (Gauls), although we can no longer reconstruct what their armature really looked liked. The only type of gladiator whose name in the Imperial age still referred to his origins was the thraex (Thracian).

While in the beginning gladiator weaponry was identical with that of the conquered peoples, it was adapted for use in the arena during the Late Republic and Early Imperial Age. Most gladiators specialized in a certain type, as which they were trained and fought. From tombstone inscriptions we know that some gladiators fought as murmillo as well as a secutor (albeit these two types are very similar), and also as murmillo and provocator. We can assume that these gladiators at first fought in one type and during his career switched to the other type. A few types of the Imperial Age are highlighted here:

Eques (Riders)

The equites opened the gladiatorial fights in the afternoon. They rode into the arena on white horses and fought from horseback with lances. Then they dismounted and continued the fight on foot, using their gladii. On most depictions they are shown in this later phase of combat.

Besides the aforementioned offensive weapons - hasta and gladius - they wore a helmet with a wide brim and visor, and a round shield. They were the only gladiator type who wore a tunic instead of the subligaculum (loincloth).

Murmillo (also called myrmillo or mirmillo)

As mentioned before, the murmillo is a very old type and existed as early as in the 1st century BC. Yet his origins remain unclear. Spartacus, who originated from Thracia, fought as a murmillo.