Through various mediums throughout history, we’ve glorified gladiators. These men are the idols of man, the quintessential ideal of bad-ass. But what is it about them we find so appealing? A gladiator’s life wasn’t sunshine and roses, it was death and survival. The bodies of friends and fellow fighters pass their cell as they awaited their turn. The stench of blood pierced their nostrils with a hint of smoke and bile. Rods and other metal objects were being heated over a fire to test if his comrade was truly dead.
Then it was time. The gladiator stepped out onto the battlefield, wondering if this would be the last time he’d ever see the sun or a beautiful face in the crowd of a woman he loved. Whatever fate the ruling class had for him, he had to accept it. You don’t exactly have to accept these gory and gruesome facts about gladiator deaths, but they did happen.
1. If You Died, You Were Taken Through A Special Gate
As we all know, gladiators fought inside arenas like the Colosseum in Rome. Gladiators often fought in pairs or mano y mano. Occasionally, the fight would not be to the death at first, one would “tap out” and beg for mercy. The crows and head of show, called the editor, would decide whether the gladiator could live or die at the hands of the other’s blade. When a gladiator won, he was cheered by the crowd and rewarded for his bravery. When they lost, the special gate awaited them.
The special gate was called the Porta Libitinensis. Dead gladiators were put on stretchers and carried out through this gate. Porta means “gate” and Libitinensis referred to the Roman burial goddess Libitina. After passing through the gate, a room was prepared where the body was stripped of its armor. You guessed it, the armor would pass on to another gladiator for use. The bottom line is, don’t be the one who loses, you only get to be special for a few seconds through a cool gate.