Gladiators were divided in three groups according their armament weight – heavy, medium and light. In table below are listed gears of various gladiator types and there are also different weapons. When one looks table one type differences sharply from others – namely Retiarius. He really was a light fighter which gave him speed and strengths to fight long. Table also tells why certain gladiator types were good match for each others. For example Myrmillo and Thraex were in same weight category.
Lighter fighters were also Bestiarius, Eques, Essedarius and Dimachareus. Eques were a classical cavalry fighter with shield and spear. Usually they started the games and fought against each others. So they did not mix with other type of gladiators. Essedarius were chariots fighters and this pair was probably copied from their enemies. Romans did not have any chariots warriors but for example Celts in Britan and Egyptians in east had a history with this kind of warfare. Dimachareus was rather rare seen and evidently only in imperial times in Eastern Empire. One rare gladiatorial figure was also Arbelas, who was an extremely heavy fighter. He had a heavy scale jacket over waist and sometimes scissor type of sword or kind of axe with long blade.
Hoplomachus was a rather typical gladiator type and it’s origin was in Creek. These gladiators had a round shield which was like the one Creek hoplites used to have. This shield – Parmula – did not give too much protection and also his breast was bare. But his legs were covered with quilted graves to the waist. Hoplomachus fought mainly against Myrmillo and sometimes against Thraex. Actually Hoplomachus had very much same gears than Thraex. Differences were mainly in shield and sword.
Your choice – which gladiator would you prefer?
When one thinks about gladiators one can not have thought about their rank. Which would be the toughest? All gladiator types have their strong points and weak points. Some of them are fast and can fight long time. Some are heavy and very well protected but their weak point may be their endurance to fight long time. I have picked five different features and ranked gladiator types according to those. I would estimate that five most important features for fighter is his capability to
– attack weapons
– protective defence gears
– range of motion
With typical fighters maybe the defence has Myrmillo, Provocator and Secutor. Best attack may have Hoplomachus, Myrmillo and Retiarius. In speed above others is Retiarius. Also in range of motion are Retiarius together with Hoplomachus. Lightest fighter Retiarius has also durability to go on fighting a long time.
When one calculates points of five most important factors the three best are:
1. Retirius 39 points
3. Myrmillo 38 points
3. Provocator 38 points.
Here we can leave aside fighters with horse. Results may be surprising but Retiarius fighters are still very famous among us and it tells that they had a big impact in ancient times. They live in history. Myrmillo is not big surprise because he had the best protection. He just needed to stay in protection of his big Scutum and fight when moment was right. Same applies also for Provocators. So one very light and two heavy armed gladiator types have best chances. Of course one has to admit that Retiarius needed to be very brave to go fighting with so light protection. Not all could do that…