Weird History Super-Interesting Facts About The Sex Lives Of Roman Gladiators  

Melissa Sartore
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Gladiators were the rock stars of their day, but there was also a social stigma attached to their existence. They were slaves who embodied some of the greatest virtues held by Roman society, and that didn't stop women in Rome from desiring gladiator sex or from using gladiator sweat as an aphrodisiac as they tried to satisfy their lust for the fierce, manly fighters.

Needless to say, when it came to sex in ancient Rome, gladiators were in an interesting position - literally and figuratively. Evidence of sex throughout history is based on archaeological evidence - such as sexual graffiti - as well as the works of contemporary writers; fortunately, there's plenty of evidence to show us what it was like both for the gladiators and those looking to find a way into their tunics. 

Despite Their Appeal, Gladiators Were Akin To Sex Workers On The Social Ladder

 

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In Roman society, gladiators had very little standing. Not all gladiators were slaves, prisoners of war, or criminals - just most of them, especially when the gladiatorial tradition began - but the freemen who sold themselves into gladiatorial combat were also in the lower social strata.

Gladiators were on the same level as other men and women who sold their services, namely actresses and sex workers, putting them in a unique position. Gladiators were considered brave, achieved fame for their victories, and were lusted after by women, while simultaneously shunted off to the outskirts of propriety. Crowds admired gladiators for facing their mortality, but, at the most basic level, gladiators were regarded by polite Roman society as little more than laborers, paid and revered for their willingness to die.

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Photo:  Wellcome Images/WikiMedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The Sweat And Blood Of Gladiators Was Sold As An Aphrodisiac

The fluids that came from gladiators were hot commodities in Rome. Gladiator sweat was used as perfume and as a beauty treatment; it was even collected into pots and sold as souvenirs.

The blood of gladiators was also used as an aphrodisiac. On her wedding night, a young woman might have her hair parted using a sword dipped in the blood of a dead gladiator to make sure that her married life was long and fruitful. 

Roman Graffiti Tells The Story Of Gladiator Fan-Girling

At Pompeii, archeologists discovered graffiti that offers insight into how Romans felt about their favorite gladiators. In the gladiator barracks, one inscription reads "Floronius, privileged soldier of the 7th legion, was here. The women did not know of his presence. Only six women came to know, too few for such a stallion." Another says "Antiochus hung out here with his girlfriend Cithera," indicating that gladiators, in fact, had girlfriends. 

The two inscriptions "Celadus the Thracian gladiator is the delight of all the girls" and "Celadus the Thracier makes the girls moan" also seem to make it very clear that Celadus was quite the fighter and the lady pleaser. It's unclear who wrote these lines, though - perhaps Celadus just wanted to leave a good reputation behind.

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Photo: Edmund Leighton/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Women Bribed Their Way Into The Gladiators' Barracks

Gladiators had female groupies, and these women would often find ways into the barracks where the fighters lived. They would bribe guards or stage pseudo gladiatorial performances of their own, acting like viragos, female warriors, with wooden swords to get attention. These behaviors weren't carried out by lower-class women; instead, wealthy women behaved this way. It may have been frowned upon for "good women" to fraternize with gladiators, but that didn't stop it from happening. There's even record of a Roman Senator's wife running off with her gladiator lover.