Definition of Spoliarium
What exactly was the
Spoliarium? Definition: The Spoliarium was a building or
the dead bodies of gladiators were taken to be stripped of
their armor and weapons prior to the disposal of their
The Death of a Gladiator -
A gladiator could be killed
by another gladiator or, in the case of the animal fighters,
by a wild beast. Badly wounded , but still living
gladiators (these were the noxii, who had been sentenced to
death in the arena), would receive a fatal blow to the head with a
massive hammer inflicted by a man dressed like Charon, the
Ferryman of the Underworld. The bodies of the noxii
gladiators would then be
dragged from the arena sometimes by hooks in their heels, to
make this chore easier. Their dead bodies were dragged
through the Gate of Death called the Porta Libitinensis,
This name derives from Libitina who was the goddess of
funerals. The corpses of the gladiators were then taken to
The Death of Trained and
Free Gladiators - Auctorati and the Veterani
Some Roman citizens, often
those in debt, sold themselves into gladiator schools for
money. These free gladiators were called auctorati. There
were also experienced and trained gladiators, referred to as veterani
(veteranus), who were extremely valuable assets. The
auctorati and the veterani were therefore treated completely
differently to the noxii. A wounded veterani or auctorati would be
afforded some dignity and care and would be carried from the
arena on a stretcher. Only backstage would someone check if
a veterani or auctorati gladiator was really dead.
Once a gladiators body
reached the Spoliarium it was stripped of weapons and armor.
These valuable items were returned to to the dead
gladiatorís lanista (trainer and owner) or to the
Armamentarium. The Armamentarium would have been located
near the Spoliarium and this was where the gladiator's arms
and weapons were stored. No writers of the
Roman period has actually documented the full horror of the
Spoliarium. One can only guess at the terrible scenes were
dead bodies must have been piled up surrounded by the stench
and blood from the dead bodies. Dead animals were also
disposed of via the Spoliarium.
The Spoliarium - What
happened to the dead bodies?
No one can know for sure. Certainly many of the dead animals
would have been sold to butchers of Rome and sold to the
people of Rome or used to feed live animals which were to be
shown in the Colosseum. But what happened to the dead bodies
of the gladiators? It has been said that Romans believed
that the blood of a dead gladiator had healing properties
and could give greater sexual vigor. There is also the
terrible possibility that their bodies were also fed to the
animals (to give wild animals the taste for human flesh).
Another method of disposal would be for the gladiators to be
thrown into mass graves or into the River Tiber. The bodies of the
veterani gladiators might be reclaimed and given a proper burial.
Excavations at Ephesus (in
modern day Turkey)
Excavations at Ephesus in
modern day Turkey have uncovered a gladiator's cemetery
where a body would be laid in a sarcophagus that rested on
the ground. The cemetery was discovered by accident in 1993.
Epitaphs were very basic but occasionally detailed the
fights a gladiator had won.
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