Fighting gladiators whose lives were determined not only by their skills, but also by the grace and mercy of the emperor or the masses, are no less part of the image of ancient Rome than the toga and chariot. And it wasn’t just slaves, prisoners of war, and criminals who were forced into this profession and trained in gladiator schools. Ordinary citizens of the Roman Empire also volunteered as warriors, and as gladiators risked dying in the arena for all-round healing.
By taking the oath, they renounced all civil privileges and accepted sub-slavery social status. “I will be burned, bound, beaten, and stabbed with swords,” it was written. In the 2nd century, the orator Calpurnius Flaccus said:
Gladiator – Idol of Destiny
The life expectancy of gladiators was short, and their deaths were almost guaranteed to be brutal and bloody. However, the few surviving fighters could hope for a bright future. The victorious gladiator was rewarded with the best olive branch. If he wins often enough, he could leave the pitch with a comfortable financial cushion in his hand and retire in a few years. Some gladiators started coaching careers after active duty.
The prestige that successful gladiators earned from their victories was a factor that should not be underestimated in their struggle for survival. With support from fans, the famous gladiator has a better win rate, at least when the audience has to make a decision between life and death. Roman citizens, like pop stars, worshiped the best gladiators, and some even ran their own fan clubs. Children played fights in the roles of their idols. The modern historian Tacitus complained of the gladiator fanatics: