We know that, aside from man-to-man combat, gladiatorial fights would often pit human gladiators against wild animals.

Is there any documented historical evidence that would show what was a bigger economic loss to the owner: losing a well trained gladiator, or losing a somewhat rare animal (say, a lion or a bear)?

For precision sake, let's define the loss in one of 2 ways:

  • Documented sale value of each

  • Documented expected profits from continuing to own each. I assume these would be harder to come by.

  • 1
    Are you sure the animals were trained? I can understand gladiators being trained, but would you really train a tiger? Plus, I understood gladiator fights as being a tool to entertain and please the general populace, the economics might have been secondary.
    – apoorv020
    Dec 20, 2011 at 9:24
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    @apoorv020 - the question doesn't say anything about training the animal (but that's a good thing to ask separately). And yes, the economics might have been secondary, but that doesn't preclude the fact that there may have been an economic difference.
    – DVK
    Dec 20, 2011 at 10:54

4 Answers 4


Slaves cost around 500 denarii at the time of Augustus - fluctuated around that price though depending on the wars.They were trained everyday and expected to live past one or two fights. Wild animals (untrained) were bought for the express purpose of being slaughtered, thus they would be purchased for much less. However, as they are rare they would obviously cost much more due to transport and demand. This being said, they did not require training and they were starved (low cost for food).

Therefore, generally, gladiators would be a bigger economic loss as not only did they have to be bought, they also had to be trained, well kept and well fed - whereas the animals just had to be bought.

  • Excellent first answer! Welcome to the site Alex, I'm sure you'll be a welcome addition. May 20, 2012 at 13:46
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    Nice answer, but it could definitely go into more depth.
    – o0'.
    May 20, 2012 at 20:02

That varied very much by the quality of the gladiator and the animal. A top gladiator cost a lot more than 500 denarii. To lure retired most popular gladiators back into the arena one had to shell out much, much more. Amounts of over a 100.000 denarii were not uncommon.

Gladiators were the stars of their time. A top gladiator was just as expensive as a top football player today.

However, there were plenty of 'cannon fodder' quality gladiators. Lanistas made an investment: they had to feed and train gladiators, and that's expensive. They would look if a prospective gladiator would be worth the investment. If not, though luck. Please try to die bravely.

Some wild animals were expensive and exotic. Others were much cheaper. Tigers no doubt would have been very expensive, and hippopotamuses (hippopotami?) too, if only for the difficulty in transporting them. Bulls, wolves and bears would have been relatively cheap.

So it really depends on who or what is on the show.


Technically speaking, you couldn't lose an animal in a gladiatorial fight. Gladiatorial fights were between people. Fights between people and animals at the circus were not gladiatorial fights in the proper sense of the term.

If this was an exam question, it was probably a trick question.


I am doing Rome for my assessment there's not a lot to look at for this question but i think the answer would be the both, it really depends on the person and the animal say, if you get a hippo or a lion they would be very liked and most people would choose the animal, but than you also get the person and if someone likes that person they would rather the animal to die even if it was rare

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