How Much Did Gladiators Cost in Ancient Rome? The Truth!

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the words „Ancient Rome“? I would take a guess and say that Gladiators were among your first thoughts! And for good reason. The concept of Gladiators fighting in an arena (more on why they did that here) has always fascinated people. But all gladiators were either slaves or had a servile status. That meant that most gladiators had not become gladiators of their own free will, but were bought and then forced to fight as Gladiators.

But how expensive was it to buy a Gladiator in ancient Rome?

In 40 AD, 13 fully trained Gladiators were sold for 2,250,000 denarii. For comparison, a normal slave did cost about 1,500 denarii and a Roman legionary made 1 denarius per day.

The main reason for the extremely high price of fully trained Gladiators was the extensive training that they had to pass. The training of a Gladiator could take years and there was always the risk that the aspiring Gladiator injured himself and became worthless. Additionally, the Gladiators also had to eat a special diet which did also cost a lot over the entire span of his training (especially since he didn`t bring in any money before his training had finished).

But buying Gladiators and then leasing them out for Gladiator fights was still an extremely profitable business. The famous lawyer and politician Marcus Tullius Cicero actually compliments one of his friends in a letter for his investment. His friend had bought a group of Gladiators and Cicero calculated that his friend would have made his initial investment back after only a few fights.

And since Gladiators had a pretty good chance of surviving several fights, the chances that the friend of Cicero would make a nice profit with his Gladiators were high.

Speaking of the letters of Cicero: If you want to experience the Late Roman Republic through the eyes of one of its greatest politicians, then I can highly recommend you this book here* in which all the letters of Cicero are collected and translated.

Ok, so Gladiators were extremely expensive!

The high price of Gladiators was one of the reasons why a day of Gladiator games didn`t exclusively consist of Gladiator fights. In fact, the Gladiator fights would only be the highlight in the afternoon, the rest of the day was filled with other – cheaper – events.

The best way to show just how expensive a Gladiator was is to compare the cost of buying a Gladiator to the cost of daily goods and the salaries in ancient Rome. But that is a story for another time.

And here you can find out more about the price of slaves in Ancient Greece.

Take care of yourself because you deserve it. You really do.

Until next time

Yours truly

Luke Reitzer


Cicero: The Complete Letters of Marcus Tullius Cicero.*

K. Nossov; Gladiator: The Complete Guide to Ancient Rome`s Bloody Fighters (2011).*

F. Meijer; Gladiatoren. Das Spiel um Leben und Tod (Amsterdam 2003).*

M. Junkelmann, Das Spiel mit dem Tod. So kämpften Roms Gladiatoren (Mainz am Rhein 2000).*

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