For centuries, gladiators entertained Roman audiences with life and death combat. But how did these warriors hone their craft? What was it like to attend a gladiator school?
The exact origin of the gladiators and their games are unknown. However, its possible that they can be traced as far back as the 8th century BCE. For many years, they fought each other, wild animals, or condemned persons in front of the crowds of Rome. While some gladiators performed voluntarily, others were forced into it as slaves, Curiously, despite the vast public attention they received, most gladiators were despised and treated shabbily.
Recently, a team of archaeologists, historians, and geologists used ground-penetrating radar to reveal the ruins of an ancient gladiator school just outside Vienna, Austria. This school, the first of its kind to be discovered outside of Italy, was used to train gladiators in the art of hand-to-hand combat. So, what would it have been like to attend this school?
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
The school was a mixture of “barracks and a prison.” Inside its thick walls, 40 tiny sleeping quarters surrounded a central training ring. This ring covered about nineteen square meters, held a thick wooden post which may have been used for striking practice, and was surrounded by wooden seats. A large bathing center was located nearby. Further back, several buildings (possibly administrative in nature) towered over the facility. Archaeologists also believe that a cemetery lies outside the walls. In all likelihood, it was used to bury deceased “students.”
This school, which is located in a park called Carnuntum, was used to train gladiators and to determine their worth. For the lucky and highly-skilled, it represented a shot at fame and even freedom. But for most of the forced participants, there was no happy ending. The gladiator games peaked “between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD.” But they stayed around for much longer. The last known gladiator games took place toward the end of the 5th century AD.