Fighting to the Death in Ancient Rome

M. C. Bishop

This expert introduction explores the world of the gladiator in Ancient Rome: their weapons, fighting techniques and armour. The cult of the gladiator is explored, alongside their less glamorous fates which more often than not ended in violent death.
Publication date:
September 2017
Publisher :
Casemate Publishers
Series :
Casemate Short History
Illustration :
30 b/w illustrations
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781612005133

Dimensions : 198 X 125 mm
This book is available

Regular Price: £7.99

Special price £3.95

Also available as an ebook:
Buy From Amazon Amazon
Buy From Apple Apple
Buy From Barnes and Noble Barnes & Noble
Buy From Google Google
Buy From Kobo Kobo

Casemate will earn a small commission if you buy an ebook after clicking a link here


• Gladiators are widely known, from popular culture such as the film Gladiator, but rarely fully understood
• Part of the Casemate Short History series
• Authoritative and accessible introductions to military history topics

The gladiator is one of the most enduring figures of Ancient Rome. Heroic, though of lowly status, they fought vicious duals in large arenas filled with baying crowds. The survivor could be either executed (the famous ‘thumbs down' signal) or spared at the whim of the crowd or the Emperor. Few lasted more than a dozen fights, yet they were a valuable asset to their owners.

But how did they fight and how did their weapons and techniques develop? Who were they?

This book gives an entertaining overview of the history of the gladiator, debunking some myths along the way. We learn about the different forms of combat, and the pairings which were designed to carefully balance the strengths and weaknesses of one against the other. The retiarii (with nets) were lightly armed but mobile, the secutores and murmillones protected but weighted down by their armour. Gladiators also participated in simulated naval battles on large artificial lakes or even in the arena of the Colosseum.

Although their lives were brutal and short, gladiators often were admired for their bravery, endurance, and willingness to die. They were the celebrities of their day. This book reveals what we know and how we know it: ancient remains, contemporary literature, graffiti, modern attempts to reconstruct ancient fighting techniques and above all the discovery at Pompeii where a complete gladiator barracks was found alongside multiple skeletons tell their story.


I imagine that schools will find these to be useful background primers for a period of history study, and the gladiator volume is well detailed for the wargamer contemplating this particular form of skirmish warfare with its rules and showmanship.
Miniature Wargames - Chris Jarvis

Overall, the book is highly recommendable. […] the content is varied with numerous graphics and photos showing arenas, reliefs, mosaics, which add colour and "flavour” to the content […] It is accessible, convenient, and easy to read.
Imperium Romanum

It's a treasure trove of information spanning hundreds of years of gladiatorial combat in all its forms...a useful resource, especially for secondary school students, who may find that it ties in with their coursework rather well.
Army Rumour Service