Moreover, they and their relatives were dishonored, because
gladiators were considered infamis (socially disgraced)
and ranked even lower on the social ladder than boxers, chariot
racers, actors and prostitutes. Yet their appearances in the
arena were more respectable than a theater show, because the
gladiators showed virtus (courage), the moral quality
most appreciated by the Romans. It was expected from a gladiator
to fight bravely and face death without fear. If he was defeated,
he had to accept the coup de grâce without complaining.
It was expected of soldiers to watch gladiatorial fights to
witness an example of bravery and fighting strength. Therefore,
the Romans had a very ambivalent attitude towards their sports
All gladiators - even the auctorati (volunteers) -
had to swear their lanista the sacramentum gladiatorium
(vow of the gladiators) "uri, vinciri, verberari, ferroque
necar patior" (to be burned, to be enchained, to be beaten
and killed by iron). They could regain their freedom after
three years or buy it from their portions of prize money.
The gladiatura offered many people the option to earn
money and thus to pay off their debts - presuming they survived
Gladiator Games during the Imperial Age
Besides the ludi (races in the circus and theater
displays), the munera became more and more popular
- they became even more popular than the ludi. In any
case they were a good way for the Emperor to satisfy his subjects
by giving them a feeling of power by asking them for a decision
at a gladiator fight. The final decision was the Emperor's
or - in the provinces - that of the editor of the games
(in most cases the governor).
The order of an event in the amphitheater was always the
same. One or two days before the games the gladiators were
introduced at a public place such as the forum. On the eve
of the games the cena - the gala dinner of the participants
- was held where the audience could examine the fighters.
The morning of the games started with the venationes
(beast hunts) while the executions took place at noon.