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In the Roman amphitheaters also female gladiators fought

In the Roman amphitheaters also female gladiators fought. Gladiators weren’t just men. There is evidence that testifies to the existence of female gladiators. But unlike men, most female gladiators weren’t formed by slaves, foreigners or poor townspeople forced to take up arms for money or coercion. But out of passion. In fact, some women developed such a passion for fighting that they voluntarily decided to go down to the arena.

The female counterpart of the gladiator – an armed fighter who engaged in violent duels, against other fighters in the munera, or against animals in the venationes, for the entertainment of the spectators in the arenas of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire – were therefore the gladiators. They were rare, however they are attested in archeology and literature.

One of the testimonies: in 19 A.D. a senatorial decree was issued under Tiberius which forbade men and women, related by kinship to senators or equites, to appear on the scene or to show themselves in gladiatorial garb.

A previous decree of 11 AD prohibited girls under twenty from performing in an arena.

In the Lives of the Caesars, Suetonius narrates that the emperor Domitian offered venationes and nocturnal gladiatorial shows, in the light of torches, including fights between men and also between women; Cassius Dio adds that in the night fights he sometimes threw dwarves and women against each other in the arena. According to the paintings, it seems that the gladiators fought bare-chested and rarely wore helmets.

In Petronius’ Satyricon there is also a reference – perhaps based on a real show – to a female essedarius, or to one who fought on a Celtic-style chariot.

In an inscription found in Ostia Antica, a certain Hostilinianus boasts that he was the first editor to bring female gladiators to the city.

During one of the shows offered by Emperor Nero, men and women appeared, even of senatorial rank, both in the guise of bestiarii and gladiators. Nero himself, at the games organized in 66 AD. from Patrobio to Puteoli, today’s Pozzuoli, for Tiridates I of Armenia, he had women and children of color, coming from Ethiopia, exhibit in the arena.

In addition to Suetonius, both Martial and Stazio speak of the gladiators employed by Domitian.

A firm condemnation against the gladiators of the Flavian and Trajan period is expressed in the satires of Juvenal. Septimius Severus banned the shows with gladiators around 200 AD.

A Roman-era female skeleton unearthed in 2001 in Southwark, a borough of London, has been identified as that of a female gladiator.

The most convincing evidence of the existence of gladiators is a 1st or 2nd century marble bas-relief found in Halicarnassus and currently on display in the British Museum. The bas-relief, in which two gladiators in combat of the provocatrices category are represented, testifies that some women fought with heavy armor. The inscription indicates their pseudonyms, Amazon and Achillia respectively, and tells us that they were granted the missio, that is, the suspension, having both fought valiantly in the battle.

The two fighters wear the subligaculum and traditional gladiator equipment, such as greaves and sleeves. Both are armed with a sword and a shield, but do not wear a helmet or a tunic (they are bare-breasted, as depicted in the Amazon).