With nearly a thousand years of history in Ancient Rome, myth and folklore about gladiator battles has had a lot of time to grow. Even the first ancient Romans to write about gladiators couldn’t come to an agreement about the origins of the battles. Add another two thousand years and a seemingly endless number of major motion pictures and it can be hard to tell history from myth.
One of the most popular misconceptions is that gladiators were slaves who lived in misery until meeting their demise through constant battle. While most gladiators were actually slaves, they were treated about as well as any slave could expect in ancient Rome. They were well-fed and had access to the best doctors in Rome. They were given only a stone cell to live in, but they were able to earn money by winning battles, and could soon purchase better living quarters. Most of their days were spent training, and fighting in an arena only happened three to five times a year for five years, before freedom had been earned and they could retire. Fights to the death were not as frequent as commonly believed, although about a third of gladiators didn’t survive their five years before retirement. Those who did survive to retirement were often hailed as celebrities.
You don’t have to fight your way to freedom or through lines. Participate in one of our Ancient Rome tours and live through history first-hand!