The Romans eventually outlawed human sacrifice to the gods, but gladiator games were practiced until the Roman Empire became Christian. How did the Romans consider the gladiator games different?

  • 2
    Carthaginians sacrificed their own children. Dying gladiators were slaves.
    – Luiz
    Jun 25, 2019 at 18:02
  • 9
    What research have you done? Why do you think these two are similar?
    – MCW
    Jun 25, 2019 at 18:45
  • 1
    For starters, gladiators were barbarians, rather than Roman citizens.
    – Lucian
    Jul 1, 2019 at 14:24
  • Gladiators were regarded in similar terms to slaves, that is they weren't free and were regarded as socially inferior due to not owning their own bodies. Having slaves die in the ring for public spectacle was no different to someone being executed for a crime. Deliberately executing someone to appease the gods was deemed barbaric. Romans did commit human sacrifice on rare occasion though. They buried alive Gallic and Greek couples in the Forum Boarium and Vestal Virgins at the Colline gate.
    – Daniel
    Jul 10, 2019 at 20:08
  • 2
    Any argument why would they consider them the same? It is had to give counter-arguments if we don't know what is the argument. Eg. slavery is illegal in most modern societies yet you have jails. What is the difference?
    – Greg
    Jul 11, 2019 at 4:28

1 Answer 1


TL;DR: Most of the people that died during the games were not gladiator fighters, the types we most commonly see in the pictures or representations, but were people sentenced to death.

To understand why the gladiator games were widely practiced and were seen like normal, we must first differentiate the people that participated in such games. We find four main categories of fighters: noxii, damnatii, ad ludum and auctocrati

noxii: Composed mostly by prisoners of war considered not suitable for fighting. They were used mostly in recreation of Roman battles (on the side that lost) or for "fighting" in bestiarii games (with wild animals) in particular in damnatio ad bestias (games were all the people were supposed to be killed by the animals with no survivors).

damnati: They participated in the same games like the noxii, but they were composed of slaves (instead of prisoners of war) sentenced to death.

ad ludum: These were criminals sentenced to death. They were lucky in participating to the games because they could potentially win their freedom if they were successful enough as a gladiator (an opportunity not given to the noxii or damnatii). Otherwise they died like sentenced in the first place.

auctocrati: These were initially free man who accepted the life of a gladiator as paid volunteers. They were the best trained and best equipped fighters of the arena and never participated in slaughtering games (unless they were the slaughterers).

For the most part the games were organized in fights between the well trained and well equipped auctocrati versus the other types of fighters, resulting most of the time in the death of a person already sentenced to death by the Roman law.

Fights between auctocrati were common as well, but were more like technical fighting, most of the time without death or serious injuries. Under Augustus' rule, the demand for gladiators began to exceed supply, and matches sine missione (death match) were officially banned.

  • 4
    +1, but sources would improve this answer. Jul 10, 2019 at 16:26
  • 5
    Most of this can be found on the wikipedia page for Gladiator with relative sources. I'll try to integrate the answer with sources as soon as I can
    – Viralk
    Jul 10, 2019 at 16:52
  • 2
    slaughters should be slaughterERs
    – fgysin
    Jul 11, 2019 at 13:03

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