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"Altera Roma, the other Rome": this is how Cicero defined Ancient Capua, the current city of Santa Maria Capua Vetere, remembered for the legendary, dramatic and bloody revolt of gladiators led by Spartacus in 73 b.C. and celebrated in 1960 in Stanley Kubrick's film Spartacus.

The figure of Spartacus still appears in countless films and TV series, becoming a symbol of the fight against slavery.

The fate of this man, despite being born free, led him to slavery, becoming one of the most important gladiators in Roman history. His role was the mirmillone, meaning a robust and heavily equipped slave. He worked in the great Amphitheater of Capua, the largest of the Roman era before the construction of the Colosseum.


Gladiators were usually slaves, prisoners of war, criminals sentenced to death, people who could not pay their debts and even young people from impoverished families or volunteers lured by fame and wealth. Poor people were enslaved even for minimal crimes, or when they could not pay the financial penalty, children abandoned because they were not recognized by their father. Anyone who became a gladiator was automatically infamis for the law and a non-respectable citizen. From a legal point of view, these men were considered merely property.

They were given only minimal care and were often treated like beasts.

They were forced to wear an iron collar, with a bronze plate.

Above this bronze plate was an inscription that invited those who read it to detain the runaway slave and bring it back to the owner with the promise of a reward of a gold coin:

"I fled, if you take me back to my master, you will receive a penny.”

A humiliating object but very common for the time.

Furthermore, every fighter was required to take a solemn oath called sacramentum gladiatorum which recited:

"I will endure being burned, bound, bitten and killed to honor this oath"


The gladiators were headed by a Lanista, entrepreneur and owner of the gym (ludus) who organized the gladiator shows and made a profit even if the gladiator died during the fight.

There are many elements that lead us to believe that gladiatorial games were born in Campania. As we have already mentioned, the oldest gladiator school was in Capua (now Santa Maria Capua Vetere), where Gneo Cornelio Lentulo Batiato, one of the most prestigious lanisti of his time, worked. Therefore, we can say that the Lanista was nothing more than a manager dedicating his profession to the Ludi Gladiatorii, owner of a Schola Gladiatorum and of numerous gladiators, bought by slaveholders, forming his Familia. Purchased slaves were led inside the gyms where they trained in the hope of being able to acquire freedom.

The Lanista who managed valuable athletes could improve their social position.

This makes us understand that what we see in films is not always true, since the fate of

gladiators was rarely death. It is easy to understand how, for all those involved in these games, it was convenient to keep the best gladiators alive. In addition to the Lanista, there was a medicus who assessed the overall health of the gladiators, in order to assign them the most suitable gladiatorial class, developing their physicality and muscle tone with diets and training.

Subjected to heavy daily training, the gladiators were gradually introduced to the art of fighting. Gladiators who belonged to the same gym became part of the gladiatorial family.

After a certain number of matches, if he was still alive, the gladiator could receive the rudis, a wooden sword similar to the one used to train. From this moment he stopped fighting but, if he was a slave, he did not necessarily regain his freedom. He often remained in the ludus as a coach, janitor, or became a referee.


The diet of the gladiators seems to have been mainly composed of legumes, onions, garlic, cereals, fruit, dried fruit, fennel seeds, meat, dairy products, honey, wine, oil, spiced barley cakes with honey and they drank infusions of fermented fruit and wine.The most famous and important dish for gladiators was the Garum. Plinio il Vecchio in his book "Naturalis Historia" describes the Garum with these exact words:

From the intestines of the fish and from the entrails that should be thrown away, after having them macerated with salt so that there is that typical rotten blood of things that decay,

another type of sauce was also obtained, which was called "garo".

To watch a trailer about Gladiators Tour: Youtube Eliana Sandretti

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