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Gladiatorial schools

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Ave Civitas,


I am a novelist currently laboring over a series starring Alaric and Stilicho.

I am looking for information on gladiatorial schools.  I know there were arenas all across the empire, but where were the schools?


Surely not all the arenas were not fed from the schools in Rome or Capua.  How many schools were there and where were they?  Did each city with an arena have its own  school (this seems unlikely) or were there regional schools,(in the Gauls, in North Africa, in the Oriens?)  That seems more likely.  But where.


A few scenes in my novel takes place in Nicomedia.  I am pretty sure there was an arena in Constantinopolis north of the palace.


I find mention of schools in books I have "Emperors and Gladiators" and "Invisible Romans", but no definitive city naming other than Rome and Capua.


Again, thanks for your help in advance.



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Gladiator schools were focused on Rome and Capua, these being the centres of excellence in such things, but as you rightly point out schools existed elsewhere. However, the issue is not so clear cut. Formal schools were connected more often than not with established arenas in imperial times. Pompeii had a gladiatorial barracks and its own stone built arena (that Nero had banned from holding events for ten years because of a riot between the townsfolk of Pompeii and visitors from a rival town)There were also less formal schools often in more provincial areas. There were even itinerant bands of gladiators wandering around rural areas giving mostly demonstration fights that had no school property at all, but since education in the empire was often informal in this manner, that was to be expected. There are also hints that wealthy gladiator owners (used for bodyguards or status symbols) indulged in their own training whilst not being an actual lanista as a trade. Cicero mentions the highly regarded troupe of fighters owned by his friend Atticus. For the purposes of your story you have many options.


It is worth pointing out though that if you intend a story based on late empire practice, gladiatorial schools were closed and fights declared illegal by 396. Of course it did carry on behind the scenes nonetheless and persisted in one form or another into the dark ages.

Edited by caldrail

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Thank you both for your replies.


Caesar, thanks for the link to the Smithsonian video.  


Caldrail, what was the source of your information?

I have a personal library of nearly a hundred books but none that provide the information you presented.  Can you give me some book titles, or is what you presented a conglomeration of bits and pieces picked up over the years?


Thanks for the reply.

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Most books on gladiators have this sort of information. One title I do recommend you try to get hold of is Gladiators - Violence and Spectacle In Ancient Rome by Roger Dunkle (Pearson Education 2008). Archeology and history documentaries sometimes add interesting detail provided you're astute enough to spot the rubbish that sometimes creeps into them.

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