Top 10 famous Roman Gladiators

Roman gladiators or the swordsmen entertained the audience, both regular people and Emperors, by fighting in the arena.

Most of them were slaves or the captured ones who were especially trained to fight in the arena. However, there were a few of them who had chosen their career as the gladiator.

They had their unique style of fighting, some fought with fellow gladiators. Whereas, some with animals.

They used wooden swords, a helmet, and a shield while fighting. They were also awarded Radius which would provide them with freedom after retirement.

They were categorized into numerous classes or types. Some of the classes and types include Samnites, Myrmillo, Secutor, Thracian,Noxii, and Retiarius.

Numerous gladiators were able to create their fame amongst the normal people and the Emperors. 

Spartacus is the most famous, skilled, strong, and with impressive techniques. He is well-known for forming a force and also gaining victory over almost all of his fights in the arena.

There are many other gladiators like Crixus, Spiculus, and Flamma, who are also skilled and well-known for their unique personality.

The top 10 most famous Roman Gladiators are listed below with their details. 

10.Carpophorus

Roman Gladiator Carpophorus

Carpophorus was one of the gladiators belonging to the type – Bestiarii which meant the ones who fought against beasts. 

He always wished to be a gladiator and fight in the arena. He got a chance to participate in the fight after he jumped into the arena and defeated a bear with a flaming straw.

He then specialized to battle against wild animals and fought against numerous animals from bears to lions. 

He is believed to have bested a bear, a lion, a leopard, a buffalo, panthers, and a boar in the arena. He was able to defeat around 20 animals on one occasion held in Colosseum.

Besides this, he has also defeated a rhino with a single spear. He is considered better at fighting against animals rather than with his fellow gladiators.

His powers were compared to the powers of the divine missions of Hercules for being the strongest fighter in the arena. 

9.Gannicus

Roman Gladiator Gannicus

 Gannicus is one of the most skilled, durable, and athletic fighters of the ancient Roman period.

He could be compared to the best gladiators such as Spartacus and Crixcus due to his fighting powers and techniques.

During the Third Servile War between the years 73 and 71 BC, he was chosen as one of the many leaders for the rebel slaves. 

He was a Celtic gladiator and for being so he thrived on athleticism and a level of speed which would enable him to strike rapid and aerial assault as well as quick jumping motions.

Whereas his fellow gladiators preferred grounded combat styles which are very different from what he preferred.

Besides fighting preference, he had a unique appearance with tanned skin, long and messy blonde hair. 

He also had tattoos on his body and one of the most famous ones was a Nordic symbol which represented invincibility

8.Spiculus

Roman Gladiator Spiculus

Spiculus was the most famous gladiator for being favoured by renowned Emperor, Nero. He lived during the 1st Century AD in Rome.

Apart from being a skilled and strong gladiator, he was a loyal person. He was able to impress notorious Roman Emperor Nero.

When Emperor Nero was about to be overthrown, every praetorian, his guardsmen, and his close ones betrayed him.

However, Spiculus was supportive and loyal towards him. Being impressed with his loyalty, Nero awarded him with freedom.

In addition to this, Spiculus was also announced as a high ranked Roman citizen. Also was given riches, palaces, and slaves for his assistance.

Apart from the awards and rewards, Emperor Nero wanted to die from the hands of Spiculus. Unfortunately, during the conflict Spiculus was not around so he killed himself.

7.Marcus Attilius

Roman Gladiator Marcus Attilius
Roman Gladiator Marcus Attilius
Source: Wikimedia Common

Marcus was a free-born Roman voluntarily turned into a gladiatorial combat

He did so to pay off his debt and started his fighting career as a rookie. 

Though he was just a rookie, he was brought to fight against a few skilled and defending champions. His opponents not only were skilled but had already bagged more than 10 victories in the arena.

Despite his opponents skill and experience, he was able to defeat all those defending champions. Out of many gladiators he defeated, one was gladiator Hilarus who was supported by Emperor Nero.

He was also able to gain victory over Raecius Felix, who had won about 12 fights in a row. 

The entire series of bringing Marcus to fight against gladiators who were senior to him on the basis of skill and experience. 

This created a new and unknown phenomenon which went against the trend where the fights were between the two equal parties.

Marcus is identified with a unique depiction which shows him as a murmillo who is equipped with a gladius and long shield along with short shin protectors around his legs.

6.Commodus

Roman Gladiator Commodus

Commodus, the emperor of Rome, was an infamous but enthusiastic person who always dreamt of performing as a gladiator in an arena. 

He was egoistic and considered himself superior to everyone before he became known for his skills and techniques in the arena.

To fulfil his interest to fight as a gladiator he had created an arena in his palace and practised and fought as a gladiator in private.

However, later he entered the public arena and fought against the real gladiator. Whereas, other gladiators had wooden swords and they got severely hurt with his swords.

He even hurt or sometimes killed animals to prove his skill. Due to which the Romans considered his gladiatorial combat disgraceful and scandalous.

He had unknowingly gathered numerous enemies during this career in the area. And, was assassinated in 192 AD though not in the arena but strangled by a wrestler named Narcissus in his bath.

5.Tetraites

Roman Gladiator Tetraites

Tetraites was a famous and skilled gladiator. He was mainly known for his murmillones technique of fights.

He was able to gain his fame after defeating Prudes as both of them were considered equally valued gladiators.

This fight left quite an impact as both their names were carved on glass vessels which are found in numerous countries including present-day France, Hungary, and England.

The carving mentioned the victory of Tetraites over Prudes. In addition to this, he was also famous for his sheer strength which dwarfed his opponents in every fight he fought in the arena.

However, his fame came into existence after the discovery of the pottery and the graffiti found in Pompei, which is dated back to 1817. The pottery had the victory against Prudes carved in it.

He had his unique style of entering the arena, where he entered bare-chested, wielding his sword with a shield and also wearing a helmet.

Besides these, he also had arm guards and shin guards and his shield was rectangular shaped.

He is identified in his depiction as a strong man wearing a helmet, a rectangular shield in one hand and a sword in another.

4.Priscus and Verus

Roman Gladiator Priscus and Verus

Priscus was a Roman gladiator belonging to the Celtic origin. He was a skilled and strong gladiator. Venus was also one of the most influential gladiators of the ancient Roman period.

Both of them became renowned after the fight amongst each other where they ended up putting down swords at the same time to honour each other’s mettle and skill.

The battle which is considered the most famous in the history of ancient Rome was fought during the 1st century AD in the Flavian Flavian arena.

Their act impressed and moved the Emperor Titus. Being impressed awarded both the gladiators with the Rudis, which granted them the freedom to gladiators after their retirement.

Emperor Titus was the sponsor of the opening games which was held to inaugurate the Flavian Amphitheatre in 80 AD.

Since that fight, their names are taken together as one though they are two different gladiators.

The whole act is mentioned in the well-known poem by Martial, where he expresses his praise and commendation of all the renowned gladiators.

3.Flamma

Roman Gladiator Flamma

Flamma was originally a Syrian soldier who was captured and forced to become a gladiator. His real name was Marcus Calpunius and was renamed as Flamma – meaning Flame after he became the gladiator.

He became a Secutor, a class of gladiator originated around 50 AD. And, he employed armour, heavy shield, and a sword known as Gladius.

With training and experiences, he became one of the strongest gladiators. He was able to win a total of 21 battles throughout his fighting career.

Besides those, he had a total of 9 draws and 4 losses. And, he was the hero in the First Punic War.

He was also awarded with a Rudis more than 4 times. He continued to fight in the arena despite receiving the award of freedom and died at the age of 30 during his final fight. 

2.Crixus

Roman Gladiator Crixus
Roman Gladiator Crixus
Source: Wikimedia Common

Crixus is a fierce and revered Gallic gladiator. His name meant a person with curly hair.

He had a mind like that of military personnel and a famous military leader at the time of the 3rd Servile War.

He was mostly seen standing near or beside the renowned Roman gladiator Spartacus as his second in command

He was at the gladiatorial training school in Capua, together with Spartacus, before he came to fight in the arena.  The name of the training school was Lentulus Batiatus.

The gladiators including Crixus, Spartacus, and 70 more, escaped the training school as they hated their trainer.

The escapees’ formed a group but Crixus did not join that group but rather wanted to be a part of upper-class Roman society.

He separated himself from Spartacus towards the end of 73 BC. This led to formation of two major groups, one led by Crixus and the other by Spartacus.

Crixus, along with his force, had planned to destroy the Romans. But, unfortunately the plan could not be executed as the Romans knew about the plan.

This led to a conflict between Roman army and the force of Crixus, where he was killed by the Romans.

Knowing about Crixus’ death, Spartacus and his forces mocked gladiatorial games and captured about 400 Roman soldiers and fought till death. They did so out of respect toward Crixus, despite their separation.

1. Spartacus

Roman Gladiator Spartacus

Spartacus was born on c. 111 BC near Strymon river, present-day Bulgaria. He was a Thracian soldier of Old Bulgaria before he became a gladiator.

He was sold from soldier as a slave to become gladiator and went to the same gladiator training school as Crixus which was in Capua.

But, as they hated their trainer he, Crixus, along with about 70 others fled from the school. They formed a group which did not include Crixus.

After they fled the Senator of Rome sent about 10,000 soldiers to capture Spartacus and his forces but could not.

He started his career as gladiator in 73 BC and served as gladiator until 71 BC. He also fought in the Third Servile War.

During the war in 71 BC, Marcus Licinius Crassus came with about 50,000 men and Spartaculus could not stand against the Roman army.

He was killed in Southern Italy in 71 BC at the age of 39-40 years. Whereas, around 6000 of his followers were captured and crucified during that time.

Conclusion:

The Roman gladiators not just fought in the arena but left a positive impact on the future generations to be brave and strong.

Most of the gladiators were forced to fight in the arena, some being captured while some being their slaves. 

They all managed to entertain the audience and also impress the Emperors of that time. Most of the gladiators were awarded freedom and some with riches.

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Cite this article as: Richard Marrison, "Top 10 famous Roman Gladiators," in HistoryTen, August 24, 2020, https://historyten.com/roman/famous-roman-gladiators/.
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