Types of Gladiators


There were a range of different gladiators, who were matched carefully in traditional pairings. Some were rarer than others, like the essedarius, a type of gladiator who fought from a war chariot. Others, like the Thracians, were far more common. Unfortunately we’re not always that sure how some of the gladiators fought, because some like the scissor were so rare. And the types of gladiators changed over the years; some early forms, like the Samnites, were dropped once the Roman people and the Samnites became allies.

The following inscription from near Rome and dating to 117 CE gives a record of different types of gladiators, organised into decuria, groups of ten men.

In the consulship of the Emperor Caesar Lucius Aurelius Commodus and Marcus Plautius Quintillus. The leaders of the collegium of Silvanus Aurelianus, overseers Marcus Hilarus, freedman of Augustus and Coelius Magnus the cryptarius.

Decuria I

Borysthenes,[1] veteran Thracian

Clonius, veteran hoplomachus

Callisthenes, veteran Thracian

Zosimus, veteran essedarius

Plution, veteran essedarius

Pertinax, veteran contraretiarius

Carpophorus, veteran murmillo

Crispinus, veteran murmillo

Pardus, veteran provocator

Miletus, veteran murmillo

Decuria II

Vitulus, veteran murmillo

Demosthenes, manicarius[2]

Felicianus, novice retiarius

Servandus, novice retiarius

Iuvenes,  murmillio with one fight

Ripanus, novice contraretiarius

Silvanus, novice contraretiarius

Eleuther, novice Thracian

Pirata, unctor[3]

Decuria III

Barosus, novice contraretiarius

Aemilianus, contraretiarius

Ulpius Europoras

Proshodus, novice contraretiarius

Aurelius Felicianus

Aurelius Felix

Zoilus, paganus

Flavius Mariscus

Flavius Sanctus

Diodrus paganus

Decuria IV

Aprilis, paganus

Zosimus Thracian with one fight…


CIL 6.331, 6.332

This following inscription lists the members of a gladiatorial familia and was found in Venusia, a town in Southern Italy. Some of these gladiators, like the scissor, were incredibly rare.

Oceanus, slave of Avilius, novice.

Sagittarius: Dorus,  slave of Pisius, 6 wins, 4 crowns

Veles: Mycter, slave of Ofilius, 2 wins

Hoplomachus: Phaeder, slave of Avilius, novice.

Thracians: Donatus, slave of Nerius, 12 wins, 8 crowns; Hilario, Arrius’ slave, 7 wins, 5 crowns; Aquilia, slave of Pisius, 12 wins, 6 crowns; Quartio, slave of Munilius, 1 win; Gaius Perpenius, novice

Murmillones: Amicus, slave of Munilius, 1 win; Quintus Fabius, 5 wins, 3 crowns; Eleuther, slave of Munilius, 1 win; Gaius Memmius, 3 wins, 2 crowns; Anteros, slave of Munilius, 2 wins; Atlans, slave of  Donius, 4 wins, 1 crown;

Essedarius: Inclutus, Arrius’ slave, 5 wins, 2 crowns

Samnite: Strabo, slave of Donius, 3 wins, 2 crowns

Retiarius: Gaius Clodius, 2 wins

Scissor: Marius Caecilius, novice

Gallus:[4] Quintus Granius, novice


CIL 9.466 = ILS 5083a


gladiator thracian murmillo
A Thracian (left) fights a murmillo (right) in a mosaic of the 3rd century CE from Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach, Germany.

In his Dream Book, an ancient guide on how to interpret dreams, Artemidorus gives a little information of the fighting style of the Thracian.

I have often observed that this dream [of fighting gladiators] indicates that a man will marry a woman whose character matches the weapons that he dreams he is using or the type of opponent he is fighting…For example, if a man fights a Thracian he will marry a rich, cunning wife, fond of being first. She will be rich because the Thracian’s body is covered all over by his armour; cunning because his sword is curved, and fond of being first because the Thracian advances when he fights.

Artemidorus, Dream Book 2.32

Other types of gladiators: andabata and laquearius.


How many different types of gladiators did an average gladiatorial school have?. What does that mean about how many an audience would have expected to see at a show?

Bibliography and Further Reading

  • Coulston, J. C. N. 1998. Gladiators and soldiers: Personnel and equipment in ludus and castra. Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies 9:1–17
  • Carter, Michael. 2008. (Un)dressed to kill: Viewing the retiarius. In Roman dress and the fabrics of Roman culture. Edited by Jonathan Edmondson and Alison Keith, 113–135. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press
  • Kanz, Fabian, and Karl Grossschmidt. 2006. Head injuries of Roman gladiators. Forensic Science International 160:207–216


Media Attributions

  1. The single name indicates that the gladiator was a slave.
  2. A type of gladiator who tried to manacle his opponent.
  3. An unctor was someone who oiled up or provided oil for the gladiators.
  4. A type of gladiator based on Gallic soldiers. It did not survive the early imperial period, being replaced by the murmillo.


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