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Women Gladiators????
Hello all.<br>
Nice questions Richard.<br>
First off the hair.<br>
The reconstructed hair style from the Osprey book is of a LEG II AVG member who fought as a gladiator, the hair cut was based upon what is known about female hair styles and what can be seen of the left hand figure in the halicarnassus stone, which isn't much but some form of possible bradding about the top of the head.<br>
The Halicarnassus stone may be one of two stone depicting female fighters, there is a stone in Mastraacht (sp?) that depicts two combatants. There is a good amount of artistic evidence that these gladiators may be women, however the same evidence could be turned on its head to show they are men. The position of the right hand fighter shows him stood with his legs together from the knees up, apparently a common way of depicting females as it accents the hips. Both fighters are shown with shoulders narrower than their hips and with smooth thighs - again both Roman techniques of depicting women.<br>
However, a common way of demonstrating a defeated gladiator is in the position described above because they have lost all virtus, including masculinity so they are depicted using female art techniques. The next time you get a chance, take a look at a lot of standing defeated gladiators, there are often depicted legs together from the knees up.<br>
Thomas Wiedemann, for my money one of the best authors on Gladiators, shares the possible understanding that this is a depiction of two women, unfortunately the stone is badly smoothed (possibly explaining the smooth thighs) so it could swing either way.<br>
The clothing. This is a toughy. Lets start at the top. The halicarnassus stone shows the women without helmets. The two objects at their feet are often considered helmets. I am not that convinced because of three reasons. Firstly someone has gone to a lot of effort on the hair of the left hand fighter, however we are not looking at a photograph so this could just be artistic. The shape of the two objects on the floor look more like the heads and shoulders of two onlookers rather than helmets - although it would be unusual for a depiction of the crowd to be placed on the floor. Again we can argument and counter argument. Lastly, there seems to have been a general rule of thumb that gladiators fought wit their helmets on, but no one knows whether this applies to the women.<br>
In keeping with the above confusing arguments and counters we decided to have most of our women fight helmetless, but more on this below.<br>
Next the tops. Many people think that the women fought topless, there is little or no evidence for this and I suspect alterer motives! =) Using the Halicarnassus stone you can see a chest shape on the left hand fighter, but the stone is so badly weathered it is difficult to tell whether she is topless or not, she is certainly wearing a belt or high waisted subligiculum though.<br>
The waist is clothed down to the mid thigh with a subligiculum, it looks for all intents and purposes the same as a male version.<br>
Due to modern decency and the fact that one of the female gladiators is my wife, they wear tops, these are made up of a wrap of material with a few hidden modern touches as we almost lost one in a a fight much to the embarrassment of the lady but the delight of the crowd. The subligiculum are the same as the men wear in the group, although we are experimenting heavily in these for the men and the women this year.<br>
Manica, the left hand Halicarnassus stone figure can be seen wearing a manica, it is likely that her opponent is too, but this is just guess.<br>
The right hand figure wears a greave and fights with a shield similar to a small scutum used by the men. Our fighters use the thracian height shield greaves (if they wear them) in light of this evidence and their strength.<br>
As for the complete look of the women, we have decided that the women can dress as their male counterparts as complete gladiator types, thracian, murmillo etc ...<br>
This decision is based upon the Essedaria mention in literature. In a specific writing by Petronius they are referred to as women, however a grave stela dedicated to Gallicianus talks of him as a Essedarius, both of these words, the name and the noun are male. So as there where male Essedarius we are taking the leap to assumption that other types may have existed in this dual nature.<br>
Essedarius - Essedaria (historically known)<br>
Hoplomachus - Hoplomachia<br>
And so forth. While I realise that this is pretty circumstantial it is a decision that I have taken until more or less evidence comes to light, unfortunate but there we have it.<br>
The truth is that very little is truly known about female gladiators other than they existed. It is my belief that it was quite a common occurence. I think that a good number of ancient writers never truly covered them because they where considered more of a titillation than a thoroughbred gladiator type by the elite and it would not have been considered the correct thing to spend much time upon. However, by the inaugration of the Flavian Amphitheatre they get a solid mention and Severus banned them for the good of Roman Women, so they must have been popular.<br>
Our women open the games we hold, either in direct combat or mythological reenactment based upon Martials work in the Book of Spectacles and the orderhe ascribes to the many days fighting.<br>
Further evidence can be found run through on our website here <br>
I hope this helps in some way, please feel free to either ask more questions or write to m personally and I will try and help as best I can, this has been done off the top of my head so it may be a little jumbled.<br>
Apologies for any missed spellings.<br>
Graham <p></p><i></i>
Gashford, that's a marvelous summary: many thanks for sharing it. It looks like you do a lot of training and choreographing for these fights. I look forward to seeing your retarius in particular, since how the net is used is something hard to picture.<br>
Practically speaking, are you finding that there is a difference in how the various sword armed gladiators approach combat given their weapons?<br>
<p>Richard Campbell, Legio XX.
the HIGH NOISE/low signal person for RAT.
ICQ 940236
Richard Campbell
Legio XX - Alexandria, Virginia
RAT member #6?
The approaches to the combat is very much driven by the different weapons and shields.<br>
Without going into specifics at this stage we are finding all manner of statndard thoughts do not hold up to regular thought as well as perhaps we generally believe as we read books. I think that this is in part due to the fact that a good deal of people that write books about the subject are historians. While there is nothing wrong with historians - let's face facts without them we wouldn't have this hobby - I feel that quite often they can stray from the historical record when they talk about the practicalities of the actual combat when they have had no real combat experience in real life or reeactment.<br>
Before continuing I want to state for the record that I have nothing against academics nor consider hostorical researchers less or more than people that pick stuff up and have a go, I have seen far too many arguments about that in the short time I have done reenactment to start one here.<br>
But as an example of what I mean let us consider the Thracian stye of gladiator. Many books will state that they really heavily upon speed of movement and light armour. Consequently they rely upon devastating speed in their attacks that others cannot muster. However in our experiments when armoured as a Thracian defence is an easy consideration due to the light shield. It can be used to tremendous effect as it can be moved so quickly giving a sometimes greater defence than the large scutum user. And allowing a greater variation in its use and movement.<br>
Meanwhile we are taught by many that scutarii like the Murmillo and Secutor would rely upon the huge defense of their shield, but again we can often find the reverse to be true, leading into combat with the shield can cause panic in the supposed faster opponent as they loose complete vision of their opponent and the fact that the scutum can easily bind weapons and shield in a second allowing the supposed defending scutarii to almost pick where he would place his shot.<br>
Secondly, we have found that the gladius is a tremendous slashing weapon with certain considerations taken into account. Supposed, recieved wisdom tells us that the gladius was purely a thrusting weapon. Yet so many gladiatorial images have the weapons being used to strike with the blade edge. However, very few finishing blows are carried out with the edge. In our work we have found that the speed that the gladius can be used at can be easily applied to tangle the opponent under a carefully laid combination of attacks, thus opening them up for a fateful thrust or draw. It is this that I believe we see illustrated in a great many images left us.<br>
Now this is without evening starting to consider what I think was one of the nastiest weapons in the arena - the sica. Standard defences where useless against this weapon. If used on the cut the pressure in the point would be multiplied by the angle of the blade. If used to thrust or draw it easily passes shields but still strikes flesh.<br>
I have tried to allude to this in my essay on the stance we have called the Classic Stance, we are working on a series of doctrines that we are subscribing to in the combat we reflect as we believe this will help us train but more importantly allow our techniques to be better criticised by people, the first one can be found here.<br>
<br> <br>
I hope that this helps a little, please feel free to ask away, it is always nice to share what we are trying to achieve and get some feedback.<br>
Graham <p></p><i></i>
One the Ceasar (I mean the title, not julius Smile
50 slave girls (gladiatora ?) with against 50 "dwarfs" (sorry, they were called like this), the girls have a dagger, no armor, almost naked. The dwarfs have longswords, shield, helmet, and light chain mail. no girl survived !!
Since I'm doing a reenactment of a gladiatrix I of course read a lot about this topic lately. One always stumbles across the famous Halicarnassus relief which the Harvard professor Kathleen Coleman has described in her article "Missio at Halicarnassus" in detail (published in "Harvard Studies in Classical Philology - Volume 1002). She comes to the conclusion that the two women were honored at their ludus with this relief because they faught to a draw and were released from the arena for that day stantes missio. This shows that women were fighting against each other in serious combat and not just in mock battles against dwarfs.
Tacitus, Annales 15.32.3:
[32] Eodem anno Caesar nationes Alpium maritimarum in ius Latii transtulit. equitum Romanorum locos sedilibus plebis anteposuit apud circum; namque ad eam diem indiscreti inibant, quia lex Roscia nihil nisi de quattuordecim ordinibus sanxit. spectacula gladiatorum idem annus habuit pari magnificentia ac priora; sed feminarum inlustrium senatorumque plures per arenam foedati sunt.
[15.32] That same year the emperor put into possession of the Latin franchise the tribes of the maritime Alps. To the Roman knights he assigned places in the circus in front of the seats of the people, for up to that time they used to enter in a promiscuous throng, as the Roscian law extended only to fourteen rows in the theatre. The same year witnessed shows of gladiators as magnificent as those of the past. Many ladies of distinction, however, and senators, disgraced themselves by appearing in the amphitheatre.

Iuvenalis, Satura 6 246-264
endromidas Tyrias et femineum ceroma
quis nescit, uel quis non uidit uulnera pali,
quem cauat adsiduis rudibus scutoque lacessit
atque omnis implet numeros dignissima prorsus
Florali matrona tuba, nisi si quid in illo 250
pectore plus agitat ueraeque paratur harenae?
quem praestare potest mulier galeata pudorem,
quae fugit a sexu? uires amat. haec tamen ipsa
uir nollet fieri; nam quantula nostra uoluptas!
quale decus, rerum si coniugis auctio fiat, 255
balteus et manicae et cristae crurisque sinistri
dimidium tegimen! uel si diuersa mouebit
proelia, tu felix ocreas uendente puella.
hae sunt quae tenui sudant in cyclade, quarum
delicias et panniculus bombycinus urit. 260
aspice quo fremitu monstratos perferat ictus
et quanto galeae curuetur pondere, quanta
poplitibus sedeat quam denso fascia libro,
et ride positis scaphium cum sumitur armis.

Who has not seen the dummies of wood they slash at and batter
Whether with swords or with spears, going through all the manoeuvres?
These are the girls who blast on the trumpets in honour of Flora.
Or, it may be they have deeper designs, and are really preparing
For the arena itself. How can a woman be decent
Sticking her head in a helmet, denying the sex she was born with?
Manly feats they adore, but they wouldn’t want to be men,
Poor weak things (they think), how little they really enjoy it!
What a great honour it is for a husband to see, at an auction
Where his wife’s effects are up for sale, belts, shin-guards,
Arm-protectors and plumes!
Hear her grunt and groan as she works at it, parrying, thrusting;
See her neck bent down under the weight of her helmet.
Look at the rolls of bandage and tape, so her legs look like tree-trunks,
Then have a laugh for yourself, after the practice is over,
Armour and weapons put down, and she squats as she used the vessel.
Ah, degenerate girls from the line of our praetors and consuls,
Tell us, whom have you seen got up in any such fashion,
Panting and sweating like this? No gladiator’s wench,
No tough strip-tease broad would ever so much as attempt it.

Cassius Dio, 66.25.1
25 Most that he did was not characterized by anything noteworthy, but in dedicating the hunting-theatre and the baths that bear his name he produced many remarkable spectacles. There was a battle between cranes and also between four elephants; animals both tame and wild were slain to the number of nine thousand; and women (not those of any prominence, however) took part in despatching them.

Cassius Dio, 76.16.1
16 There took place also during those days a gymnastic contest, at which so great a multitude of athletes assembled, under compulsion, that we wondered how the course could contain them all. And in this contest women took part, vying with one another most fiercely, with the result that jokes were made about other very distinguished women as well. Therefore it was henceforth forbidden for any woman, no matter what her origin, to fight in single combat.

CIL xiv 5381 & 4616;
from MEFRA 88 (1976), pp.612-620; very fragmentary inscription.
.... Hostilianus .... duumvir, quaestor of the treasury of Ostia, flamen by decree of the city council, curator of the Youth Games .... who first of all since the foundation of the city [gave?] games with .... and gave women to the sword (?). Together with Sabina his wife he made this for himself and ....

A Senatus Consultum of the Year 11 CE states: freeborn men under 25 years and freeborn women under 20 years are not to allowed to appear in the arena.

A Senatus Consultum of the Year 19 CE from Lavinium superceds the previous one: There are additional punishments to the infamia for men and women of the senatorial and equestrian rank should they appear as gladiators.
Gaia Aelia

What type are you going for ?
Conal Moran

Do or do not, there is no try!
I go for a provocatrix and I just recruited a woman for our group and convinced her to go for a hoplomacha. Since the provocator is the predecessor to the murmillo the pairing should work. I think it's quite challenging to fight in that pairing.

Good luck with the pairings. I am not entirely sure about the provocator ever fighting the hoplomachus (sorry about male versions of the name it just sort of happensWink) I can see your reasoning but have only seen the provocator vs the provocator, wouldn't it be easier to change into a murmillo and have a known pair? This isn't meant as a criticism just a question.

I know this next question might seem a little odd, but what have you foudn to work for your chest coverings. My wiofe and the other members of our group have struggled to come up with tops which look authetic (based upon the athletic wraps) that actually stay up. I have had to save them a couple of times with a quick refit mid show ...

If you would prefer to discuss this with a woman let me know and I will get my wife in touch with you.

Either way good luck and it would be great to see some images of how your gear is coming along.

Take care and all the best.
Salve Gashford,

Quote:Good luck with the pairings. I am not entirely sure about the provocator ever fighting the hoplomachus (sorry about male versions of the name it just sort of happensWink) I can see your reasoning but have only seen the provocator vs the provocator, wouldn't it be easier to change into a murmillo and have a known pair? This isn't meant as a criticism just a question.

Sure, you're right, murmillo (murmilla in my case :?: :roll: ) would be better. Actually I had planed a pairing of provocatrix against provocatrix but the woman I was about to recruit was my height but light built, so I figured hoplomacha would be better for her and I already had started with my gear. Also I like pairings which seem odd like hoplomachus vs. murmillo or retiarius vs. secutor. Unfortunately it seems she lost interest before she actually started training with us. Cry

Quote:I know this next question might seem a little odd, but what have you foudn to work for your chest coverings. My wiofe and the other members of our group have struggled to come up with tops which look authetic (based upon the athletic wraps) that actually stay up. I have had to save them a couple of times with a quick refit mid show ...

If you would prefer to discuss this with a woman let me know and I will get my wife in touch with you.

My breast covering is as you already suggested the strophium which is shown on this fresco of a gymnast. Unfortunately there the fastening of this thing is not shown so I was experimenting with. I heard one version of just wrapping this thing around myself. But to secure that I have to use the "unauthentic" safety pins so far. I'm not that happy so far with that solution so I would very much appreciate it if your wife could give me some advise with that thing.

Quote:Either way good luck and it would be great to see some images of how your gear is coming along.

Take care and all the best.

I just have been to a training camp with some of my group where we met some other groups. Besides drill for the legionaries there was also a little training for gladiators so I could try out my gear so far. But it's not that perfect yet, still needs some improvement. But the subligaculum is quite comfortable to wear.

If I get some photos from the others where I'll be on I might post one here if there's any good one among them.
Avete omnes,

in the Internet I found a Dutch website with a relief that is said to show female gladiators eventually:

[Image: gladiat2.jpg]

You can find the complete site here:


The overall appearance of the two depicted seems to be female indeed as they are shown somewhat delicate. IMO especially the long and slender legs remind me more to women. But of course this might be a question of the stone cutter's artistic ability. Regrettably there is no reference to the origin of the relief.

In this case the displayed armatura would be that of two essedariae. After Marcus Junkelmann the armor of that gladiator class was clearly defined by their helmet (secutor helmet without crest, only decorated with feathers sometimes), their scuta (long oval and not rectangular) and the fact that they wore no greaves. All these attributes are clearly recognizable on the relief.

The right essedaria has given up and as a sign of her capitulation she has put her shield on the ground. When I interpret the picture right then do we see her from behind (look at the feet) with her armored sword arm holding the shield. Her missing left arm seems to appear above the right shoulder with the gesture of the raised finger.

Any opinions?

Greets - Uwe
Salve Uwe,

I came across this article, too but haven't had time yet to read it in detail since I don't speak any Dutch at all but have to figure it out from my feeling for foreign languages. I know that Thomas Wiedemann refers to this relief in his book "Emperors and Gladiators" but don't have it at hand at the moment. I'll revert next week when I'm back from the event in Augustdorf where I'll have my first public appearance in the arena.

With the aid of Harvard professor Kathleen Coleman whom I met at the Amphitheater Conference in Chester I became hold of the highly interesting article by Stephen Brunet „Female and Dwarf Gladiaors“ (Mouseion XLVIII – Series III, Vol. 4, 2004). I’d like to give you a short summary on his conclusion:

The misconception that women gladiators fought against dwarfs is derived from six passages mentioned by ancient authors. But when having a closer look at what they are writing it says that Emperor Domitian liked to have spectacular games and therefore had munera at torch light and women and dwarfs appearing at his shows. But they were never pitched against each other but only appeared at the same occasion.

Martial Sp. 6B and 6 mentions that Titus had female venatores for his inauguration games of the Colosseum. Suetonius Dom. 4.1 mentions that Domitian held hunts and gladiatorial contests of which some took place at night and some included not just men but also women. Statius mentions in Silvae 1.6 that “women and dwarfs appeared at the same spectacle. As one of the central events female gladiators appeared some time before nightfall and fought with such virtue and spirit that the audience thought it was watching a battle involving amazons.â€
Brunet also did a very good lisiting of the evidence of female gladiators as follows:

1. Historical References
Cassius Dio (61.17.3-4) and Tacitus (Ann. 15.32.3) both report that Nero induced women of highest rank to appear in the arena, but not only noble women but also men of the senatorial and equestrian rank. It is not clear if they refer to the games in 59 upon Agrippina’s death or to the year 63. But it seems to have been only one occasion where Nero made upper class women become gladiators.

Martial Sp.6 and 6B and Cassius Dio 66.25.2 mention female venatores at the inauguration games of the Colosseum. Dio praises Titus that the Emperor did not use high class women in this spectacle.

Suetonius Dom. 4.1, Statius Silv. 1.6 and Cassius Dio 67.8.4 testify that Domitian used women for his shows. Statius referring to only one definite occasion while the other two remain vague about the number of shows.

CIL xiv 5381 & 4616 mentions the duumvir of Ostia being the first one to offer the people of Ostia a gladiatorial show involving women. Since in the inscription the word mulieres instead of femina is used we can assume that they were not of high status.

2. Fictional Accounts
In Petronius 45.7 Echion describes that a rather shabby show became a crowd-pleaser because of the appearance of female essedarii.

Juvenal 1.22-23 is about a venatrix named Mevia who has the habit of killing Tuscan boars and holding spears in her right hand with her breast uncovered.

Juvenal 6.246-267 is about Roman matrons practicing wrestling and playing at being gladiators going through their gladiatorial training in full armor and heavy helmet. This is not about them appearing in the arena though.

3. Legal Measures
The notice in Athenaeus (4.154a) mentions a man whose will required that the most beautiful female slaves in his household had to fight as Gladiators although in the end this provision was not implemented because the people forbade it as being contrary to law.

The Senatus Consultum of AD 19 from Larinum forbids the appearance on stage of members of the senatorial and equestrian orders and their participation in certain activities concerning gladiatorial combats. This contemplates that women of the upper class might potentially appear in the arena but it does not prove that they actually did and that it was a comman problem.

Hadrian banned the sale of a slave or maidservant to a pimp or a lanista unless the owner gave a reason for doing so (SHA Hadr. 18.8-9). We can assume that female gladiators came from the same sources as male gladiators, i.e. volunteers but most often by some sort of purchase.

Septimius Severus banned performances by women (Cassius Dio 75.16.1).

4. Artistic Evidence
Here we have only one definite depiction, i.e. the famous relief from Halicarnassos which can be found today at the British Museum showing the two female gladiators Amazone and Achillia who fought so bravely that they got a draw (stantes missio).

It is not clear if the funerary relief from Maastricht shows two female gladiators or if the defeated essedarius is just shown in a womanly manner with his knees together and legs turned in to express his inferiority.
After reading the whole topic it just ocorred to me about were would gladiatrix sleep. In the common barracks with the men? Would they have separate places? And what about training? Would it be together?

Considering that there in certain non-roman societies women had perhaps equal status as men, i would think that some times in gladiatorial training there could be some fighting beetween the sexes.

So with this in mind would it seem logical for a gladiatrix to fight a gladiator?(even if it was 2 gladiatrix agains 1 gladiator)
I know that there arent any evidences (at least that i am ware of).

Does this make any logic?

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