There is much debate as to where gladiators came from. Some historians say they came from the Etruscans, while others say they came from the Campanians. The reason there is so much confusion as to the origins of gladiators, is because current historical evidence does not agree with one particular location. Additionally, the current information by different writers in that era says different things in respect to gladiators. However, what we do know about gladiators is that they were made famous by the Ancient Romans as they were known for adopting other cultures practices and incorporating them into their own culture.
Regardless of their origin, they were not invented by the ancient Romans like many of us think today. Rather, the first historical reference of gladiators came from Campania which is an area in Southern Italy. It was believed the whole concept of gladiators reached the great city of Rome by the ancient people known as the Etruscans. The Etruscans were a dominate culture that flourished in ancient Italy surpassing other Italic people prior to the ancient Roman Empire.
Primitive gladiatorial fighting in Rome was part of funeral customs for early Romans. This was a practice that was considered a duty to the dead. Most early fights were held by wealthy citizens of ancient Rome—most notability a politician or nobleman. Most of these gladiatorial fights were in the deceased’s will and would be performed as part of the funeral service.
It is believed the first historical account of gladiator fighting took place in 264 BC. These fights were put on by Decimus Brutus and Marcus in honor of their father Junius Brutus. It was believed there were three pairs of gladiators fighting at his funeral. After this funeral, this type of entertainment became a way for Romans to display their power and wealth to people attending the funeral service.
Gladiator fighting really became integrated into the fabric of ancient Roman society when Julius Caesar used 300 pairs of gladiators to entertain voters.
Click on the below topics to explore and learn more about the Ancient Roman gladiators and how influenced Roman culture!
- Gladiator: Animals Were Also Part of Gladiatorial Games
- Gladiator: Female Gladiators also known as Gladiatrix
- Gladiator: Gladiators at Their Peak
- Gladiator: The Decline of Gladiators
- Gladiator: What was a Gladiator?