Gladiators were usually recruited from criminals, slaves, and prisoners of war. They were lowest on the social scale, but also some of the most recognized peoples in Ancient Rome. Criminals had lost their citizenship and slaves and prisoners of war never received citizenship, these men had no choice whether or not to become gladiators. Due to slave shortages during war, some free men had to be asked to become gladiators. Surprisingly, however other free men decided by their own free will to become gladiators. When a free man became a gladiator he did not give up his citizenship, but relinquished his freedom to his owner.
Most free men became gladiators to improve their living and medical conditions, make large sums of money, and enjoy attention from women. The majority of gladiators enjoyed excellent living and working conditions. The owners provided this lifestyle to attract the best gladiators to their schools. This lifestyle was very costly to provide, thus, gladiators were a huge investment. Owners risked their money to run schools and events, but the result of good work, was lucrative. Most owners could double their money in just a few games. (Dunkle)
Gladiators were an important part of the ancient Roman society. Originally gladiator games started as a funeral ritual, or munus; a funeral gift for the dead. The ancient Romans believed spilling of blood served the purpose of keeping alive the memory of an important person. Blood was also a sacrifice to the gods. Gladiator contests began as a funeral ritual, then became a source of entertainment, and ended up becoming a political battle between emperors.
When the number of wars decreased, people still wanted to see the gladiator events. Thus, the games became a main source of entertainment. People liked seeing death and intense combat. Emperors ran most games for political gain. The people believed they would be better protected by the emperor whose gladiators won more battles. In addition to the emperors, gladiators gained a lot of prestige and popularity by winning. They attained fame and wealth. The people looked at gladiators as a very strong and brave group of people. (Dunkle)
Women swooned at their appearance. Gladiators were a good business investment. To start gladiator games, a lot of money was needed, but the outcome was enormous. Investors could make significant amounts of money in the long run, holding gladiator games. Every time gladiators fought, they made a certain amount of money, which could be eventually used to buy their freedom. Gladiators made a lot of money quickly; they were the highest paid lay people in ancient Rome. To achieve this status of popularity, wealth, and potential freedom, gladiators endured much physical and mental training before fighting in the arena. Gladiators went through months of physical training before actually fighting in the stadium. (Dunkle)
Training for the gladiators lasted almost all day; and this training was dedicated to the gods. Gladiators trained at one of four schools in Rome. Upon arrival at school, the gladiator received a physical. Physical appearance and strength had to be evident to obtain admittance into the school. Once admitted, the gladiator took the oath immediately. A free man becoming a gladiator would sign a contract called an auctoramentum, which stated an agreement between the gladiator and master. The master agreed to payment terms and the gladiator handed his life over for a specified amount of time. The contract also stated how often they would fight and what weapons would be used. The new gladiator would be called Novicca until he won his first game. Gladiator school presented good conditions to the gladiators; all emperors wanted their gladiators to be the best, so they fed them well and gave them quality shelter. (Meijer 50-58)
Initially, private citizens owned the gladiator schools in Rome. In order so the private citizens did not become to powerful or build armies, the imperial state took over all gladiatorial schools. Lanistas ran the major gladiator schools in Rome. The lanista would make over 200,000 sesterii a year, making him the highest paid laborers in Ancient Rome. Located next to the Colosseum, the Ludus Maximus, was the biggest gladiator school in Rome. (McManus) The school was well equipped, with a large training ground, tiers of seating, and barracks. The training area was very large, 62X45 meters. Inside the barracks two gladiators lived in a 4X5 space, called a cell
. The gladiators slept on simple bed frames, inside the cell. Inside the cell was very dark, no windows could be seen, and the ground was all dirt. Guards watched the many weapons stored in the local barracks, so no slave revolts happened. The emperors realized the importance of good nutrition, and meals served three times a day at the canteen were extremely healthy, directly next to the hospital. These meals were mostly vegan, consisting of barley gruel with beans, to add fat to the gladiators body. The fat would serve as protection in their fights. Gladiators also ate meats and chesses as sources of calcium and protein. Shelter and nutrition were an important basis for the gladiators success; however, training was most important. (Meijer 50-58)
Training varied by schools and was determined by the weapons of choice used in the fight. Some gladiators followed a training regimen created by the Greek doctor Philostratos. This regimen was called The Tetrad. The Tetrad was a four day work out cycled. With each day was devoted to a different activity. The first day prepared the athlete, the second day is an all out workout, the third day was relaxation, and the fourth and final day contains medium strength workout. On the first day, gladiators practiced short, intense movements which would stir up the athlete for the next day. The second day consisted of a very strenuous workout, showing the entire gladiators potential. On the third day, the gladiators used his strength in a moderate way, by just practicing and learning fighting tactics. During the final day of The Tetrad the gladiator practiced breaking holds and preventing his challenger from holding him. (Grivetti, Applegate 7)