As already stated, most of the ancient Roman Gladiators were slaves or free individuals that fought under a signed contract. These people were often ranked as people of low class, even below pimps and prostitutes. They were also regarded as social and moral outcasts.
Despite the elite typecasting them as those among the immoral, Roman Gladiators were seemingly popular and enjoyed a hell lot of female fan following. Many walls in public places were painted with their portraits and women thought them to be sexually irresistible. Just like present times where popular sportsmen endorse products, the successful fighters of Rome have also done the same in their times.
Some gladiators who enjoyed the celebrity status and were exceedingly popular among the masses were honored with monuments. Yes, they even had inscriptions and gravestones dedicated to them. These were an honor to them by their fans. These inscriptions and gravestones revealed facts about the origin, career and other personal information about those gladiators. Even today, these epitaphs serve as a window that leads us to the true personality of these bravehearts of ancient Rome.
9. Gladiatorial Fights Were Initially A Part Of Funerals In Rome
Ancient gladiatorial shows were initially a part of funerary commemorations. Historians state that one such remarkable spectacle took place in the year 216 BCE when about 22 fights were organized in a period of 3 days in order to mark the demise of a famous senator. With the growing popularity of these gladiator bouts their scale and finesse grew and soon they became one of the most sought after mode of adventure and entertainment for the Roman masses.
Many Roman emperors hosted gladiatorial events to win the hearts of their people but some went a step ahead and participated in these gladiator fights. Several Roman rulers such as Hadrian, Titus and Caligula are known to fight with gladiators though usually with dull blades and strictly controlled conditions. It is said that the deranged Roman Emperor Commodus had wooed the crowds at the arena by killing panthers and bears from the security of an elevated platform. He had competed in some gladiator fights but they were mostly against inexperienced warriors. In fact, he has even fought against terrified and unarmed audience members. Naturally when he won those contests he rewarded himself with the huge prize money.