Women and Gladiators

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A 573 cm × 397 cm (18 ft 10 in × 13 ft 0 in) Mosaic found in Libya in 1913 in the Villa Dar Buk Ammera. Four depictions of gladiators in the arena. The scenes in the piece show gladiators fighting other gladiators as well as fighting animals. The piece also shows Roman musicians showing that the gladiatorial contests were for entertainment. 

A marble relief carved of two women Gladiators, 'Amazon' and 'Achilia', . The emperor in AD 81-96 made women fight at night in torchlight.

Terracotta depiction of two Gladiators in combat dressed the same way. One Gladiator is using a circular shield while the other one is using a square shield.


A statuette of a Roman gladiator, depicting typical gladiator attire.

When we hear the word "Gladiator" most people would not even think of women. Typically gladiators were men who were covered in armor, were good at fighting, and were vicious. Gladiators would battle in the arena for the entertainment of others. As seen in the Zliten mosaic gladiators would either fight other gladiators or animals. Although we may not typically think of women to be gladiators they have been depicted as such, the Marble Relief shows two women clad in armor fighting each other.

In the story of Perpetua and Felicity both fought for their lives in front of people in the arena much like gladiators. Although they may not have been dressed in a suit of armor or been proficient at hand to hand combat they may still be seen as gladiators. In the arena a life or death struggle for the entertainment of others. They did not look the part but they were definitely fighting. When women have been depicted fighting it normally looks like the "Intervention of the Sabine Women". Here the women do not look like they are ready to go to combat but yet they are definitely fighting. In the story of Perpetua and Felicity we are told that Perpetua shows modesty even when put into a life or death situation. Even though Perpetua was a gladiator in everything except look and name she still held onto her feminine traits showing that women can be gladiators too breaking the stereotype. 

Although women were not normally depicted as gladiators the story of Perpetua and Felicity shows that they certainly can be.