Meet Our Gladiators











Murmillo or Myrmillo

Named after the Greek term for a fish. He fights with a bare torso, with subligaculum, a loincloth, and belteus or metal belt edged in leather. He wears a manica on the right arm and more padding on his lower left leg partially covered by a short greave.

The brimmed helmet holds an angular crest of feathers or horsehair. He is protected by a tall oblong scutum mirroring the legionary shield, covering the fighter from his greave to his helmet. The only weapon was a straight bladed sword or gladius. The weight of the equipment makes the murmillo one of the heavy weight gladiators who never fought their own kind, but who were generally paired against a thraex or hoplomachus.

      


Secutor

The “persecutor” was also known as contraretiarus, specifically created to fight the retiarius. They were developed from the mumillo and shared the same equipment with only a different style of helmet. With large scutum, gladius, a short greave on the left leg and a manica on the right arm the secutor would easily become over heated and exhausted.

He needed to close with the retiarius quickly and end the fight. Secutors were a favourite of the Emperor Commodus, and possibly Caligula as well. On occasion two secutors would attack both ends of a bridge defended by a single retiarius with apple-sized stones as well as his normal weapons.

      


Hoplomachus

Or oplomachus; was equipped with a helmet, small round shield, a pair of high greaves, quilted cloth trousers and a manica on the right arm.

They fought with a spear and dagger and their name means “fighting with weapons” and although associated with the Greek hoplite, the bronze shield or parmula was far smaller than the aspis.

The spear was generally held with both hands, the dagger kept in the left hand for close range fighting. Popular in the west rather than the east, he was generally paired with a murmillo.

      


Thraex

Or Thrax; dating from the early 1st century BC, the thraex uses very similar defensive equipment to the hoplomachus: a manica on the right arm, quilted-leg wrappings, two tall greaves and a brimmed helmet with tall crest. However the helmet crest is finished with a cast griffon head, associated with the goddess of retribution Nemesis. The crest was adorned with feathers, crista, sometimes with two side plumes.

The small shield or parmula was almost square and convex, around 55cm by 60 cm. The weapon was the short sica with at first a gently curved profile but by the Imperial period it becomes more “bent”. Overall the weight of equipment makes the thraex a heavy weight, and they were often pitted against the myrmillo and sometimes the hoplomachus.

      


Retiarius

From the name for net, “rete”, the net man carried no shield, helmet or greaves. A manica protected his left arm and fought with a net, trident and dagger. A galerus was attached to the left shoulder over the manica in part protecting the head. Such gladiators made their appearance in the early Imperial period, and with the secutor became part of the most popular pairing by the mid 1st century AD. The retiarius would try to successfully throw a net over their opponent, but often missed. Left with just a trident and dagger he could use his trident either in his right hand or with two hands. A two handed grip allowed for heavy blows and strong parries. The small dagger or pugio was the weapon of lat resort or used to dispatch a defeated opponent. The lightest gladiator, he was also the least prestigious in some ways performing as a light infantryman, second to the heavily armed legionaries and gladiators.