Roman Gladiators: 17 AmazingFacts About Gladiators in Ancient Rome
17 Facts About Gladiators

17 Facts About Gladiators

Shaina Lucas - January 8, 2019


17 Facts About Gladiators
Commodus gives a thumbs down in Gladiator. Youtube.

16. Thumbs Down Did Not Mean A Gladiator Was To Die

The signal of a “thumbs down” has a negative connotation in our society. The thumbs down had to come from somewhere, but it wasn’t the Romans like we think. The thumbs-down gesture to signal death is a misconception. We know that the final death call was not up to the victor, but to the editor. The editor would listen to the calls of the crowd and then make his final decision. The editor was the senior official in attendance, usually a Governor, a Senator, or occasionally the Emperor himself.

The writings of Juvenal state that if the thumb is pointed up, towards the heart, the fallen should be put to death. If the thumb was pointed down towards the ground, that meant the victor should lay down his sword. So how did we get it messed up? The painting from Léon Gérôme in 1873 famously mixed up the Latin translation and he painted the thumb down instead of up. The famous painting has now changed Roman meaning that thumbs up means good, and thumbs down mean bad when it was the other way around.

17 Facts About Gladiators
Whilst we know much about the history and culture of the Ancient Romans,

17. Gladiator Games Were Part of Roman Life for 700 Years

When we look through history, some customs last a mere few years and some last centuries. Unlike American culture where fashion trends died quickly and other cultural norms, Roman culture didn’t change much. Gladiator games lasted from 300 BC to 400 AD. The Romans thought the concept came from the Etruscans but the Campanians were recorded having games in 310 BC to celebrate an important military victory. A few years later in 246 BS two brothers, Marcus and Decimus Brutus, held a small funeral game consisting of three fights and a cattle market to honor their father.

Other families saw the games as political prestige as it played into Roman belief that the souls of the departed needed human blood. As more and more families started to put on games lanistas or gladiator trainers started to cash in on the trend by training gladiators for combat. Julius Caesar saw a good thing going and ordered 320 games to commemorate the death of his daughter Julia. He also realized that gladiators could be used in place of a private army.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Anderson, Dave. “Top 10 Cool Facts About Roman Gladiators.” ListLand.

Andrews, Evan. “10 Things You May Not Know About Roman Gladiators.”

Mandal, Dattatreya. “12 Things You Should Know About The Ancient Roman Gladiators.” Realm of History.