The following sections will take you through the history of how gladiators came to Rome, the creation and design of arenas, including the Colosseum, and how gladiators were trained and advertised, among other elements of their lives.
There is an enormous amount out there on gladiators, as you might imagine. (Probably more than the actual popularity of gladiatorial combats in Rome really requires.) Some of it is accurate, some of it is entertaining and accurate, some of it is entertaining and not accurate, and much of it is just terrible. The following is a shortlist of academic books that might prove helpful to you if want a general history; it is not at all exhaustive, so don’t take is as prescriptive.
Many sections will have their own specific bibliographies but here are some suggestions for general reading:
- Dunkle, Roger. 2008. Gladiators: Violence and spectacle in ancient Rome. Harlow, UK: Pearson.
- Fagan, Garett, (2011). The Lure of the Arena: Social Psychology and the Crowd at the Roman Games. Cambridge University Press,.
- Futrell, Alison. (1997). Blood in the arena: The spectacle of Roman power. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.
- Kyle, Donald G. (1998). Spectacles of death in ancient Rome. London: Routledge.
- Meijer, Fik. (2004). The gladiators: History’s most deadly sport. London: Souvenir.
- Plass, Paul. (1995). The game of death in ancient Rome: Arena sport and political suicide. Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press.
- Wiedemann, Thomas. 1992. Emperors and gladiators. London: Routledge.