Latin Language Blog

Ancient Roman Gladiator Ads Posted by on Feb 26, 2021 in Latin Language, Roman culture

In light of this year is a bit different in the world of sports, let us take a look at Ancient Roman Gladiator ads. These ads in a time with no television or newspaper was possible through billboard status or graffiti. This post will be highlighting some graffiti inscriptions that showcase fans adoring different gladiators. In order to provide some background to some basic gladiator roles, I have included a basic description of the following.

Ancient Roman Gladiator Ad

A graffito from Pompeii that shows musicians, the emperor, and a fight between a murmillō and a secūtor.
Graffito mit Dipinti aus Pompeji (CIL IV 10237). Public Domain. The above graffiti comes from Pompeii and advertises a munus in the nearby town of Nola. The image shows a Thracian with small shield (right) fighting a secutor, the usual pairing for these gladiators. The text says:”At Nola there will be a munus of Marcus Cominius Heres for four days. Princeps of the Neronian ludus fought 13, 10 wins; Hilarius of the Neronian ludus fought 14, 12 victories, Creunus fought 7, 5 wins.”

Ancient Roman Gladiator:

The word gladiator meaning “swordsman”, from the word gladius “sword.” This is interesting because not all gladiators use a sword. Also, gladiators were often slaves with a few minor exceptions. The following are types of gladiators:

  • Retiarius fought with a trident and net.
  • Secutor was armed with a sword and they carried a shield and wore a smooth helmet.
  • Murmillo or fish-man, wore a heavy helmet and fought with a sword, and carried a shield.
  • Hoplomachus fought with a lance and a dagger and carried a small circular shield.
  • Thraex was dressed like a warrior from Thrace in northern Greece and was armed with a curved sword and carried a small shield.
  • Samnite was heavily armed with a short sword and heavy shield.

    The Gladiator Mosaic, on display at the Galleria Borghese, is one of the earliest known examples of contemporary art with gladiators as subjects. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

  • Provocator were the only type of gladiators to wear a full breastplate and they also wore a helmet with a visor and were armed with a sword and shield.
  • Eques entered the arena mounted on a horse. They started their fights on horseback with lances but finished on foot with a sword.
  • Essedarius rode into the arena on chariots pulled by horses and was armed with both a lance and a sword.
  • Dimachaerius fought with two daggers and little armor to weigh him down.
  • Laquerarius was just like a retiarius (see above), but instead of a net, they used a lasso to trap their opponent.
  • Sagittarius was armed with a bow and wore a lightweight pointed helmet.
  • Andabatus carried lances and wore helmets without eye holes and charged blindly at their opponents.

A graffito from Pompeii dating to the 1st c. CE indicates the outcome of a match between gladiators Severus and Albanus (Image via Wikimedia under CC-BY-SA 3.0 license; author Mediatus).

Ancient Roman Gladiator Ads:

Cumis gladiatorum paria XX et eorum suppositicii pugnabunt Kalendis Octobribus III pridie Nonas Octobres. Cruciarii, venatio et vela erunt. Curiculus scriptor Lucceio salutem.

In Cumae, twenty pairs of gladiators and their replacements will fight in October kalends, the day before and the day before the October nones. There will be crucified people, a hunt, in tents. Curiculus, who writes, greets Lucceius.

Cnaei Allei Nigidi Mai quinquennalis sine impensa publica gladiatorum paria XX et eorum suppositicii pugnabunt Pompeis. Telephe summa rudis instrumentum muneris ubique vale . Diadumeno et Pyladioni feliciter.

20 pairs of gladiators of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius, quinquennial, and their substitutes will fight without any public expense at Pompeii. Greetings to Gavillius Tigellus and Clodius. Greetings to Telephus, head gladiator instructor. Good luck, Diadumenus and Pyladio (C.I.L. IV 7991 House of Trebius Valens iii.2.1)

Suspirium puellarum Celadus thraex.

Celadus the Thracier makes the girls moan! (C.I.L. IV, 4397; in the barracks of the gladiators)

So, to learn more about Gladiator Graffiti inscriptions click here.

Furthermore, next month we will be taking a look at another type of graffiti and how it is similar to social media and texting.

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About the Author: Brittany Britanniae

Hello There! Please feel free to ask me anything about Latin Grammar, Syntax, or the Ancient World.


  1. Joseph T Madawela:

    very interesting thank you. must brush up on my classics!