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MORTAL COMBAT There were dozens of diferent gladiators, but spare a thought for the ones that had to fight blindfolded


TO THE COLO-SEA-UM As well as being the mightiest amphitheatre where gladiators fought, the Colosseum could be partially flooded for a special event called ‘naumachia’ – mock naval battles. They had to be done with specially built shallow-bottom boats.

When Romans went to the gladiatorial games, they wouldn’t just have seen the same old fight to the death over and over. Tey’d have seen a well-orchestrated sequence of dozens of different warriors – of course, still doing the fight to the death over and over.

Each type of gladiator had his set weapons, armour and look, and would be matched off against a different fighter. So a man with little armour was vulnerable yet swift, while those in full breastplate tired quickly

Among the first gladiators were prisoners of war – experienced warriors who kept their names, such as Tracians (think Spartacus), Samnites and Gallus. But most were given a name for the arena. Tey could be a retiarius, fighting with a trident and net, usually against a secutor, armed with a sword, shield and smooth helmet.

A hoplomachus had a lance and dagger, while a bestiarius would face wild beasts. An eques rode a horse, but if on a chariot they were essedarius. Perhaps the strangest type was the andabatus, who fought in helmets with no eye holes.

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About BBC History Revealed

The mystery of the Princes in the Tower has haunted history for centuries. Did Richard III really steal the throne by murdering his nephews? Plus: We uncover the story of Rome’s first lady – Agrippina the Younger, the naval battle of Boston Harbor as well as the top 10 cats that made history.