Under Feet of Clay
For those needing to spend an afternoon, perhaps looking to gamble some loose coin, or just meet somewhere public, the local arena is a common haunt. Each arena runs on its own rules, administered by civil authorities. Arenas feature professional slave warriors known as Gladiators, usually fighting for local teams. These teams are owned by wealthy families or merchants, paying specialized trainers to turn slaves into flexible, indomitable warriors. Such trainers are often senior gladiators with successful seasons under their belt but too old or maimed to fight for themselves. In the nature of the sport, many gladiators loose an eye, ear, hand, foot, or worse. Gladiators are kept in spartan living arrangements, their food supply and level of comfort dictated by the success of their team and home. Such bloodsport is forbidden in Chilones, but is practiced in every other city.
Gladiators often earn a degree of local celebrity. Success in the arena earns them a standing among their peers, freemen, and nobles. Well-performing gladiators fetch a high price, and their uses are not limited to the arena. Men who prove able to fight demonstrate a keen mind, discipline, and strength. Trusted gladiators may be purchased from the arena to serve as bodyguards, mercenaries, bounty hunters, or put on display as examples of male virility for high society gatherings. Well-off women of status may purchase gladiators as sexual slaves, and merchants may keep them as well-funded escorts for guards.
Make no mistake, though. For all their renown, celebrity, and potential wealth, gladiators are slaves. When they are successful, their masters are under no obligation to pay them. Gladiators are made from prisoners of war, promising slaves, or the impoverished who sell themselves into a temporary slave contract, granting their family a sum of money and placing a fighting-age male under the yoke of servitude until he has won back the sum plus an agreed upon amount of interest. These men share living quarters in a barracks, though usually under lock and key. They are a resource and source of pride for a city, but also a constant risk. Gladiatorial houses are therefore kept out of the city proper, and the arena is always on the edge of town. The threat of armed uprising is recognized by the city planners, who station soldiers around the perimeter of the circular Colosseums. The grandest of the colosseums, known as the Temple of Blood and Sand in Solonos, can seat upwards of 30,000 spectators, though has never been filled to capacity for an event.
Most gladiator fights are single combat events, one on one combats in which warriors are given a particular set of weaponry. The basic fight provides a helmet, arm guard, small shield, and short sword for each warrior. However, other arrangements are provided by fight-arrangers to keep fights fresh and interesting. Fights are not always to the death; in fact the combat comes to a ceremonial halt when one of the warriors is subdued. Match officials, often a local magistrate or noble being honored, decide whether to spare the other gladiator. If the loser fought admirably or proved his valor, the overseer will command him spared. Accidental deaths or death by condemnation are possible, though only about 15% of combats end with one or more deaths when it is gladiator versus gladiator. Matches can be skewed to hamper fighters on winning streaks to give less fortunate fighters an opportunity. This can be by forcing the gladiator to fight in an unfamiliar style, forcing him to fight two, three, or even more enemies at once, forcing him to cover one eye, using specially blinding helmets, forcing two gladiators to fight while tied to each other, or even more. The various gladiator styles typically employed are as follows, in most favorable equipment to least favorable:
Heroic Regalia : Spear, Short Sword, Long Bow, Quiver (20 arrows), Breastplate, Light Shield, Greaves, Bronze Helmet, Gauntlets, Cape, Armored Kilt
Equites : Spear, Javelins (x5), Scale Armor, Buckler, Plumed Bronze Helmet. When in combat against another Equites or a group of other soldiers, this gladiator may fight on horseback to increase entertainment.
Dimachaerus : Short Sword (x2), Bronze Helmet, Full-Arm Guards (x2), Armored Kilt, Sandals
Murmillo : Spear, Longsword, Iron Helmet, Heavy Shield, Greaves, Full Arm-Guard
Hoplomachos : Javelin, Short Sword, Bronze Helmet, Armored Kilt, Greaves, Full Arm-Guard, Light Shield
Orkanoi : Battleaxe or Greatsword, Banded Mail, Plated Boots, Iron Helmet
Mallearus : Warhammer, Hide Armor, Iron Helmet, Hide Boots, Full Arm-Guard, Iron Gauntlet
Sagittarius : Short Bow, Quiver (30 arrows), Leather Armor, Buckler, Dagger
Thraex : Scimitar, Light Shield, Chain Shirt, Leather Greaves, Iron Helmet
Zorwaios : Greataxe (x1) or Scimitar (x2), Armored Kilt, Iron Gauntlets, Horned Helmet
Crupellarii : Longsword, Hide Armor, Leather Helmet, Hide Light Shield, Hand Ax, Boots
Retiarius : Net, Trident, Iron Helmet, Greaves, Full Arm-Guard,
Laquaerius : Lasso, Dagger, Bronze Helmet, Greaves
Pugnator : Cestus (x2), Wool Tunic, Sandals, Leather Helmet
Gymnomachos : Sandals, Loincloth
For special fights, occasions, or just a show of wealth, gladiators can be pitted against wild animals. These are usually spectacle shows, put on by a gladiatorial house to demonstrate their powers. Criminals being condemned without a chance of redemption are often forced to fight the animals as Gymnomacos, a sure death sentence. Warriors who slay an animal often earn a reputation as that beast for their triumph, earning nicknames like “The Leopard”, “The Bull”, or “The Bear”. Fights against animals are particularly bloody, and most often presented as a combination theatrical performance and blood sacrifice for the gods. Before the animal is released, a priest of the god being honored will pour oil over the gladiator. Should the warrior die, it is he who is the sacrifice. Should the warrior slay the animal, he becomes the priest spilling the sacrificial beast’s blood.
Crime and the Colosseum
One of the common methods of execution for criminals is condemnation to fight in the arena against a well-respected and veteran gladiator. The Gladiator serving as executioner for the combat is usually outfitted as an Equites, if not in full Heroic Regalia. In contrast, the criminal is lucky to be given the gear of a Retiarius, and most often fights as Pugnator. Should the criminal win, he can be spared if he agrees to be purchased as a gladiator and donate the funds from his sale to the city. Such warriors are known as Redemptori, and they are controversial figures in the arena to say the least. The must work against their own poor reputation to gain the support of the crowd, and often are undermined in their fights by those wishing they would have been killed. Redemptori are paranoid they will be given rusted swords, fake armors, or poisoned water before a fight. Their careers rarely last longer than two years before they are killed.
Race in the Arena
Among the slave warriors, there is a surprising amount of equity. Tieflings and Half-Orcs are represented disproportionately in the barracks, making up nearly half the combatants. Despite this, they are rarely the most popular warriors. Dwarves, Half-Elves, and Humans are usually the celebrity faces of teams and most beloved warriors, even if they aren’t as successful as some of their companions. Half-Orcs often earn places as trainers, raising humans and dwarves to fight using their techniques. Among gladiators, half-orcs are incredibly respected warriors, while many tieflings become spiritual advisers. The Zorwan Tradition dominates the religious life of gladiators, even if they also offer sacrifices to other deities. Among Calopene deities, Polumachos and Vikae are far and away the most honored, though Purosphuros is likewise honored. Veteran dwarven warriors often turn to smithing, outfitting their younger companions with the weapons and armor that may steer them to victory. Elves almost never fight in the arena, and the rare Halflings and Gnomes who do fight in the arena are often well-received by the crowds, particularly because odds are skewed against them in the arena, meaning the temptation to bet on the underdog is rewarded by even greater payout than usual.
Major Teams by City
This list is non-exhaustive, and does not include individual competators
Periandropolis : The Bronze Oxen, Blackhawks, Heliodorus’s Blades
Pittacae : Each of the Cathedras fights slaves under their family name.
Cleobonomos : Titans, Northwatch, Westguard, Amphitrians
Biasophoros : Krakens, Valiants, Blue Lightning
Solonos : Yellow Suns, Green Moons, Red Hand
Dikethaleos : Stallions, Northern Thunder, Staff and Sickle