Gladiators 4th-1st centuries BC, Francois Gilbert

Gladiators 4th-1st centuries BC, Francois Gilbert

The focus of this book is on the various types of gladiator that existed during the Republic and early Imperial periods, looking at where they came from, how they evolved over time and the details of their arms of armour.

We start with a look at the development of the gladiatorial fight, which the author divides into three broad eras – its origins in Campania, the ‘ethnic’ period where Gladiators represented the various enemies defeated by Rome, and the ‘technical’ period, which came after the Spartacus revolt, and saw gladiatorial combat become less dangerous for the participants and start to include volunteers as well as slaves.

The bulk of the book looks at the Armaturae, or categories, of gladiators.  Eleven of the fifteen known categories are covered here, with the others not appearing until after this period. The author looks at where each type came from, how they were equipped, how they evolved over time, how the fought and who their standard opponents were. This is the heart of the book, and also the author’s area of expertise, and that shows in the amount of detail packed into the space. The same is true of the final section, looking at gladiator gear, which includes a great deal of detail from art and archaeology as well as the literary accounts.

There is nothing on the political or military use of gladiators – to me this was a good decision, freeing up more space to cover the main topic. As a result this is an excellent short guide to the different types of gladiators found in the Roman world during this period.

Origins and Evolution
Becoming a Gladiator
The Armaturae
Gladiator Gear

Author: Francois Gilbert
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 64
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2022

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