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Who were the guards at the gladiator school?
Hi. I've been watching a certain testosterone-charged, sex-obsessed, CGI blood splattered and somewhat New Zealand-accented TV drama series about Spartacus :wink:

Which has me asking a niggling - remotely historical - question: who were the guards at a gladiator school? The series and I'm sure Kirk Douglas's film put legionaries as the guards - which I would disregard as unlikely if I hadn't flicked through the Osprey book illustrated by Angus McBride and seen a legionary-kitted guard in that too.

So who were the guards? Do we know anything about them? And if not actual milites how were they armed? Did Roman law make an exception in their case?
We dont really know. There has been a Legionary type helmet found at Pompeii but that could as well have been the helmet of a Gladiator. Maybe owners of a Ludus would have their own staff to guard the Legionaries, I do not think that Vigiles were used (city guards/firemen/policing staff), nor military of some kind.

Bushido wa watashi no shuukyou de gozaru.

Katte Kabuto no O wo shimeyo!

As a guess, I'd say that former gladiators - either retired or freed - would have made the most obvious guards. They would have owed a debt of service to their former owner anyway, and their skills wouldn't have had much application outside the gladiatorial world. There are several cases in the late republic of men using gladiators as bodyguards or forming them into street gangs, so clearly they weren't kept locked up all the time...

There was nothing in Roman law to stop a man carrying a weapon - he was only forbidden to use it offensively - so these guards could have been well armed. There's some discussion about the nature, or reality, of the supposed ban on weapons within Rome itself here.
Nathan Ross
The guards may have been a detachment from the town garrison. Capua had lost its autonomy for its disloyalty during the 2nd Punic War. It was partly colonized by retired veterans who could have made up a garrison.

But, like Nathan, I'm clined to think the guards were privately raised by the owner(s) of the school.

It sounds like a natural job for recently discharged soldiers, of whom the late Republic had an abundance, many of them waiting for their land grants. Security firms all over the world right now are full of recent vets.
Thanks for the replies everyone. Very interesting.
I agree with most of the above too. As a private business (certainly in Republican times, which Spartacus lived in) it does not make sense for the state to have paid for guards. The lanista of the school would have paid for men to guard the place himself.
Ben Kane, bestselling author of the Eagles of Rome, Spartacus and Hannibal novels.

Eagles in the Storm released in UK on March 23, 2017.
Aguilas en la tormenta saldra en 2017.
Twitter: @benkaneauthor
Quote: They would have owed a debt of service to their former owner anyway,

Can you expand on this please?

Conal Moran

Do or do not, there is no try!
Nathan Ross post=298345 Wrote:They would have owed a debt of service to their former owner anyway,

Can you expand on this please?


Client - patron relationships, perhaps? Freedmen often (always?) took the name of their benefactor and were considered to be part of their societal sphere in some fashion.
David J. Cord
I too think, that former gladiators would be a possibility to be guards at a ludus. What else could they do except for opening a tavern etc. because being a(n ex-)gladiator put them in the status of infamis which does not leave them many options. What abilities does a gladiator have? Fighting - so a guard who could fight if needed to would be good. Also spending many years at a ludus he is used to it, it is his environment where he feels secure, the outside world might be somewhat frightening because he's not used to it anymore.

But as said above, these are all assumptions. So far, I can't remember that any of the books on gladiators I've read (and they are tons Wink ) mentioned who the guards were (except for the aforementioned Osprey book which contains many errors BTW)

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