History, Facts and Information about the Praegenarii
Gladiators were divided into different classes according to their weapons and fighting styles. The Praegenarii were not true gladiators as their purpose was to entertain the audience during intervals and they always fought with blunt weapons. A Prolusion or Prolusio was the name given to the opening fights, the warm-up acts which preceded the main gladiatorial combats. The Praegenarii consisted of many different types or groups of fighters and entertainers.
Definition of a Praegenarii
What type of gladiator was a Praegenarii? What was their purpose? What was their style of combat? And what type of gladiator was matched as their opponent?
- Definition: The Praegenarii was a 'mock gladiator' used as a fill-in act during intervals and scenery changes
Opponent: The Praegenarii gladiator only fought with other Praegenarii
Weapons: This type of gladiator fought with blunt weapons - the wooden weapons called arma lusoria. Their purpose was to amuse the crowd, not to kill each other. The Praegenarii used a wooden sword called a rudis. But they would also use other weapons used by the real gladiators such as the lasso and the net
Body Armor and helmet worn by this type of gladiator: The Praegenarii were clowns. They adopted the body armor and helmets of other gladiators but their sole purpose was to amuse the crowd. To make the crowd laugh.
The types of men who were employed as Praegenarii were often deformed in some way. Dwarves or people who were missing limbs were seen. However other Praegenarii specifically trained fighters who were able to provide a good 'warm-up' act to the main games.
The Praegenarii might also have been involved in animal acts where trained animals performed tricks.
Special skills such as those of acrobats or gymnasts might also have been employed as Praegenarii.
Clothing worn: Clothing associated with the different types of gladiators or exaggerated clothing to create a comical sight
As the Praegenarii entertained and amused the crowd they were accompanied by sound effects or light hearted music using cymbals, trumpets and a water organ (hydraulis).
It is possible that other entertainment was provided involving walking a tightrope from very high points above the arena. It was also possible that a petaurum was also used to entertain the crowds. The petaurum appears to have been a board moving up and down, with a person at each end, and supported in the middle - similar to our see-saw only it appears to have been much longer. The petaurum machine, from which those who exhibited were raised to a great height and then seemed to fly to the ground. The persons, who took part in this game, were called Petauristae or Petauristarii. These different types of entertainment provided spectacle and danger and could often result in death.
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