Many of us know that gladiators made history as fearless and strong people. Less well-known is the fact that there were female gladiators among them. Here you will find 10 unexpected facts about those women.
10. Female gladiators were prohibited to participate in the Olympics
Roman women were prohibited from performing in gladiator combats in 200 A.D. The head of the Roman Empire of those times named Septimius Severus claimed that women who hadn’t given birth weren’t permitted to enter the arena. He unexpectedly made that decision after he had visited the Olympics held in Greece.
The Emperor considered that if he let women train, they will wish to take part in the Olympics in the end, because female combatants were the only sportswomen in that state. The Emperor didn’t want it to happen, since he figured that such a thing would destroy marriage patterns in his country.
Sportswomen were permitted to take part in the Olympics for the first time in France in 1900.
9. They entered the arena almost naked
Male gladiators went to the arena topless. And when women appeared in the arena they also walked out there topless.
Female gladiator’s costume was made up of a loose waving skirt, knee pads and a helmet. Their armor usually consisted of a shield as well as a blade. After the battle a winner took her helmet off so that viewers could see her appearance. Then a female gladiator raised her blade celebrating her victory.
8. Untrained women also battled
Each emperor of Rome provided input to amusement occurring in the arena of the Coliseum in which actually not only the combats of gladiators were held. Men, who were prisoners-of-war, underwent special training to become professional fighters, which, at any rate, enabled them to survive.
With regard to female slaves, they were less fortunate. At the behest of the Roman Empire’s head named Nero, female slaves from Ethiopia had to engage in struggles against wild beasts in the Coliseum. In doing so, women were given only small knives in order to fight back.
The Emperor named Domitian had a vision for amusement in the arena. He commanded women-slaves to battle to the death at night, when the arena was lighted only by the flame of torches. Even women in war wouldn’t envy those female slaves.
7. All girls in the Roman Empire knew how to fight
Ancient women weren’t permitted to go to male gladiators’ workouts. However, sometimes young women did gymnastics and learned a combat technique in panels called “juvenum”. It was basically youth organizations such as today’s scouts. Although girls were rarely welcomed there, sometimes it happened. Those girls who were brought up in such a prestigious club could taste fights in early childhood.
A girl’s daily routine and activities were fully controlled by her father. In case of his death, and he had left her a legacy, Roman law implied that the girl had to be taught by a guardian. Since women, as a rule, were under-educated, it was considered that they needed male tutors so that they handled their finances. Those mentors helped girls to employ private coaches for the training of men’s competencies.
It follows that all girls in the Roman Empire were forced to learn martial arts. They were trained in this craft either by their fathers or private coaches.
6. Admirers bought souvenirs similar to their favorite female gladiators
Gladiator combats were one of the most significant sports activities in Rome, and people from the whole Roman state strived to attend them. Therefore, as in any other kind of sport, viewers wished to play a supportive role in a combat and take souvenirs similar to their beloved sportswomen home.
At the time of the performance a gift shop where it was possible to purchase mirrors as well as knives with decorated handles and many other things, was open for viewers. They could also buy clay dolls for kids resembling their favorite female combatants.
5. They were eager for money and glory
A lot of Roman citizens of upper-class took a decision to fight in the arena, because they needed glory and a change to receive enormous amounts of money and make a fortune.
Females were no different. Actually, most of female fighters entered the arena voluntarily. The point is, it was the only possibility for a lady to be famous in the public. If a female won a battle, she became independently wealthy and no more be subordinate to her parent or tutor.
4. They were buried only inside the city
At the beginning of the third millennium a grout of archeologists found the grave of a woman aged about 25 not far from an amphitheater which is situated in the city of London. Based on the remains, the female passed away perfectly healthy. The coffin was festooned with different gladiatorial components.
Also, the scientists discovered preserved food residue which was served at the burial and valuable items which remained in the grave. It seems that the burial differed from similar rites of those times. It gives rise to the belief that they had discovered the tomb of a woman-gladiator.
In accordance with Roman law, it wasn’t allowed to get gladiators as well as all other outcasts out of the cities and bury them in common graveyards. That’s why that female gladiator’s admirers buried her within the city limits with honors.
3. They were included in the blacklist of possible wives
Male gladiators, who were set free, started a family and began to live an ordinary life. If a released gladiator was a prisoner-of-war, he was given the opportunity to get home.
With regard to women-gladiators, they brought shame on their relatives and were considered to be outcasts who had left “a market of brides”. And since a female was forced to fight almost bare, her position was equivalent to the position of a lady of the night or a prostitute.
Actually, all the combatants of the Coliseum, independently of their gender, were classified as outcasts. They had no more legitimate rights than hookers. And that’s because they were persons who sold their bodies for fun.
In the Roman Empire women usually get married early. If a girl had rich parents, her wedding was, as a rule, organized by her dad, and it was only a marriage of convenience.
If any wife was unfaithful to her husband, their marriage broke up, and the woman wasn’t permitted to get married over again. In case her father also disowned her, she was supposed to live in squalor.
Although the notes describing the life of female gladiators haven’t survived, it’s pretty obvious that a woman who decided to choose such a lifestyle was probably included in the blacklist of potential wives because of her past.
2. They made people believe in legends
A marble plate depicting two female combatants was found in Turkey. The plate’s sign said “Amazon and Akhilia”. It was most probably their nicknames. Little information on the private life of Amazon and Akhilia has survived. We only know that they battled such bravely that their battle ended tie, and they both were admitted as victors and were paid winnings.
The word Akhilia is probably the female variant of a man’s name Akhil. According to the myth, he killed a female named Penthesilea by beating her in a fight. That female had been known as the leader of Amazons. As soon as he defeated her, he saw how charming she was. His potential life with that woman flashed before Akhil’s eyes, and he started to mourn.
The female combat was, in substance, the revitalization of this myth, but only with a good ending. No surprise, admirers liked those brave women so much that kept the marble plate at their house as a memento. In spite of the fact that this item is one of a kind, we can only assume how many legends those famous female fighters revitalized due to their fights.
1. Women appeared in the arena to make a show more sexually attractive
The combats of gladiators were always in line with a certain style, and fighters were taught to make combats as exciting for viewers as possible. Considering gladiator fights were held during almost thousand years, the organizers of fights constantly tried to come up with something new and fascinating.
Gladiators played the roles of famous persons and characters wearing appropriate outfits as well as armor.
Then they began to arrange return games (defeated gladiators weren’t necessarily killed) which often stretched into several combats. That’s why it’s no surprise that after all women-gladiators showed up.
Their initial goal was to bring sex appeal into a customarily cruel sight.
Most of those Roman women originally fought midgets in order to amuse the public. Also, they struggled with animals — for example, boars. And only then, females started to combat each-other.