I used to work for a company and we would go around doing gladiator reenactments. It was great and fun; however, one thing that the boss always said was that if I could find a reference to any gladiator having used an axe, I would be allowed to use one in the fight.

Now I have been drawn to fight a Hoplomachus as a Murmillo of a Thracian, but the offer still stands if I can find a reference to using an axe. We like to try and keep it as historically accurate as possible. I am bored of fighting with a gladius - it's not as fun.

I know that Spartacus (the recent TV adaptation) had their Secutors use axes; however, I cannot find anywhere any kind of historical reference to this and wonder if it was just for entertainment purposes.

I know that it is traditionally a sword for a gladiator, but does anyone have anything at all?

  • 3
    Actually, part of the spectacle of the gladitorial games was that they'd pit fighters with different (and exotic) styles against each other. Since Germans were known to use axes in battle, it beggars belief that they'd never used one equipped with his native armament in a contest.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 9, 2014 at 12:32
  • Gladiators used all kinds of weapons including axes. Axes were actually a pretty standard weapon in the ancient world. Apr 13, 2014 at 1:42

1 Answer 1


None of the standard fighting styles would have been armed with an axe (at least none of them that I can find reference to). However...

This mosaic at Galleria Borghese in Rome, believed to date from between 320 AD and 330 AD, clearly shows a gladiator armed with an axe on the far right:

enter image description here

These mosaics memorialize great gladiatorial matches (the little circles with the lines through them show the person depicted was killed in the match). An un-cited explanation on Wikipedia claims that

The name of each gladiator depicted is given in inscription next to the figure, with a Ø symbol (possibly the Greek letter Θ, for θάνατος "dead") marking the names of gladiators who died in combat.

I think I'd consider this a pretty solid reference to "any gladiator having used an axe".

  • 12
    This is absolutely not an ax: it's just a gladius crossing the foot of another fallen gladiator missing in that mosaic. No gladiator class ("armatura" in latin) ever used an ax. May 14, 2018 at 10:19
  • In commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gladiators,fragment,_Roman,_300-400_AD,_marble_and_limestone_mosaic-Galleria_Borghese-Rome,_Italy-_DSC04934.jpg it's clearer that it's a foot and dot an axe.
    – Pere
    Jan 29, 2022 at 18:25

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