Gladiators were the primary form of entertainment during the Ancient Roman Empire. These powerful, awe-inspiring men-at-arms would fight to the death in what was seen as a very glamorous calling. It’s been a long-held belief among some people that Roman gladiators were merely long-standing criminals and slaves coerced into fighting. While it may be true that the initial ‘wave’ of gladiators tended to be those who were caught red-handed breaking the law, or had been conquered from other lands, the reality is that some of the latter Roman gladiators enjoyed a celebrity status.
While it’s true that many of the world’s biggest wrestlers from WWE have enjoyed celebrity status too, many have gone on to achieve A-list fame far quicker away from the wrestling ring than those who remain in it. You only have to look at ‘The Rock’ Dwayne Johnsonand Dave Bautista, whose Hollywood careers have set them up for long-term stardom. Many years before The Rock, Hulk Hogan was the wrestler on everyone’s lips, appearing in commercials and movies too in a bid to enhance his profile – with clothes on as opposed to solely pants!
Back to the Roman Empire, once some people realized just how exciting and thrilling gladiatorial battles could be, it soon became an absolute free-for-all of locals looking to sign up and become the next unbeatable gladiator, agreeing contracts voluntarily and even spending time at so-called training schools to try and hone their fighting craft before being unleashed into the white heat of battle and fight for cash prizes. This changing demographic saw gladiators become less about the blood and gore and more about the pre-battle build-up and intense promotion of duels.
More recently, the world has developed an undeniable fascination with Roman gladiators and the lengths they would go to achieve notoriety in Ancient Rome. At the turn of the Millennium, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator movie, starring Russell Crowe as general Maximus Decimus Meridius, captured the imagination of millions of viewers at the box office. Heart-broken by the murder of his father by a young upstart named Commodus, who takes to the throne and forces Maximus into slavery, Maximus sees no other way to avenge his father’s death than to fight his way up that gladiatorial ranks. HBO’s Game of Thrones must surely have used gladiatorial arenas as inspiration for Meereen’s fighting pits too. The Spartacus Gladiator video slot, that’s available to sample at VegasSlotsOnline, was another release inspired by a gladiator who led the major slave uprising against the Roman Republic.
Some gladiators had promoters, yes, you heard correctly
As being a gladiator became something of a profession rather than a punishment during the Roman Empire, it soon became apparent that gladiators required full-time support. Like WWE wrestlers, this arrived in the form of promoters. Promoters would train, feed and water their gladiators, teaching them all the tricks of the trade and building them up into marketable fighting machines. So valuable were some gladiators to their promoters that the latter would encourage fights to go ahead not for the kill but only to wound or severely injure their opponents, elongating their careers and the promoters’ potential prize income.
Some gladiatorial fights were as scripted as WWE
While some gladiator battles didn’t go on to end in a death, others were also heavily staged, particularly in the case of many Roman emperors. An article on History.com states that some fought under highly controlled conditions, even using dull blades on occasion so as not to encounter unnecessary injury. On occasion, emperors such as Commodus would prefer to attack animals rather than fellow gladiators in the arena – from the comfort of his raised platform, of course. There were also examples of Commodus entering gladiator duels that had been artificially arranged to give him an unfair advantage. He fought various raw, rookie fighters fresh out of training school, as well as random members of the gladiatorial arena audience, just to make him look strong and powerful.
In truth, there is a lot that wrestlers and gladiators have in common. Both have won fame and support from the middle and lower classes and have a tendency to become a symbol for the opposite sex. One could argue that WWE is merely the latest brand in a long-running saga of staged entertainment that’s been a winning formula through the generations and centuries.