Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate September 2001

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Gladiators did what they were told to do which was to live and die well. The word gladiator comes from the Latin word gladius, which means sword. The Romans inherited the practice of gladiator games from the Etruscans who used them as part of a funeral ritual. The first gladiator games were offered in Rome in 264 BCE by sons of Junius Brutus Pera in their father's honor after he had died. Gladiatorial combat became a very popular form of public entertainment very quickly in Rome. As Rome expanded so did the gladiator games, but the senate had to pass legislation to limit the amount of money used on the games so they didn't bankrupt themselves. Most gladiators were prisoners of war, slaves bought for the purpose, or sentenced criminals. There were also free men and professional gladiators who fought in the arena. Originally captured soldiers were made to fight with their own weapons and own style.

Gladiators got their exotic appearance from those captured soldiers. The professional gladiators wore a wide leather belt (balteus) and carried a large oblong shield (scutum), a sword (gladius), an elaborate helmet (galea), a greave (ocrea) on the left leg (the one that was placed forward in combat), and a protective sleeve (manica) on the right arm.