When most people think about Roman gladiators, they picture two men in combat, one armed with a trident and net, and the other wearing a helmet and wielding a sword. This is an accurate picture (see below), but it doesn’t tell the whole story. To keep the gladiator contests interesting, several different types of Roman gladiators developed over time. The various types of gladiators had different types of armour and weaponry and, as a result, had to use different fighting styles and techniques to beat their opponents.
Different Types of Roman Gladiators
A retiarus, as mentioned above, is one of the most well-know of the gladiators. They fought with a trident and net. They aimed to knock their opponents off-balance and then trap them with their nets. The retiarius were lightly armoured – they didn’t have a helmet or a shield.
A secutor usually faced a retiarius in the arena. They were armed with a sword and they carried a shield. A secutor wore a smooth helmet. The helmet was smooth to make it harder for the net of a retiarius to catch it.
A murmillo, often called a fish man, wore a heavy helmet (usually with a fish motif). They fought with a sword (and didn’t have a back-up weapon) and carried a shield.
A hoplomachus fought with a lance and a dagger. They began their attack with the lance and if they lost this, they switched to their dagger. A hoplomachus also carried a small circular shield.
A thraex was dressed like a warrior from Thrace in northern Greece. They were armed with a curved sword and carried a small shield.
A samnite was heavily armed with short sword and heavy shield. They wore a helmet with a crest and a visor.
A provocator was usually made to fight another provocator. They were the only type of gladiator to wear a full breastplate and they also wore a helmet with a visor. A provocator was armed with a sword and shield.
An eques entered the arena mounted on a horse. They started their fights on horseback with lances, but finished on foot with a sword.
An essedarius often fought against another essedarius. They rode into the arena on chariots pulled by horses and were armed with both a lance and a sword.
Fighting with two daggers and little armour to weigh him down, a dimachaerius relied on speed and agility to overcome an opponent.
A laquerarius was just like a retiarius (see above), but instead of a net, they used a lasso to trap their opponent.
A sagittarius was armed with a bow and wore a lightweight pointed helmet.
An andabatus fought on horseback against another andabatus. They carried lances and wore helmets without eye holes, so they couldn’t see! They charged blindly at their opponents, relying on their other senses to position their attacks.
Click through to our Romans resources page to discover more facts and information about the Romans.