Warrior rabbits of history returns! This time with a Roman murmillo, a type of gladiator, from the second century AD.
Gladiatorial games were popular in ancient Rome for so many centuries that the Romans themselves weren’t sure how it actually started. But especially early on, the games often consisted of prisoners of war that were forced to fight each other. They were often dressed up and equipped as a kind of stereotypical version of a warrior from their own home country. So a gladiator could for example be a gallus, and play the role as a warrior from Gaul.
Kind of insensitive, huh? And it got even worse after a few centuries when people like the Gauls had been part of the Roman empire for quite some time. Suddenly the parody just isn’t quite as funny. So new types of gladiators started to develop to replace these earlier types. Like the retiarius, equipped like a fisherman with a trident, and the murmillo, that in a far-fetched way was associated with fish. That way, you could have a symbolic fight between a fisherman and a fish. Cool stuff!
Female gladiators - how common were they?
So this rabbit is a murmillo. Its equipment is based on the only known (and confirmed) ancient depiction of female gladiators. That depiction is a 2nd century relief from the ancient city of Halicarnassus, in what is today Turkey. It shows a fight between two female gladiators with the awesome stage names Amazon and Achillia. They aren’t wearing the characteristic helmet, but otherwise they are equipped like murmillos. Including the weird detail of having an armguard (manica) over only one arm, and a greave on only one leg. This rabbit happens to be left-handed, so you can see that the armguard covers the sword arm, while the greave protects the leg on the same side as the arm that would hold the shield.
Otherwise, we know precious little about female gladiators. They are mentioned in ancient sources, so we can be pretty sure that they existed. But was it just unusual to see a female gladiator or one in a billion kind of rare? We don’t know. When the emperor Domitian held games with female gladiators around 90 AD, he seems to have done it just because he thought it was fun to be kind of scandalous and to upset the Romans and their strict views on gender and morals. If you google, you'll probably find pictures of a sculpture that people will claim is of a female gladiator. Others will say it just depicts a woman cleaning herself. Female skeletons have been found in graveyards dedicated to gladiators. Some will say it's evidence for female gladiators, some will say it's evidence that the family of the male gladiators could also be buried in these graveyards. That's how it is, we keep getting tiny hints and we can't really be sure in what direction these hints point.
So maybe it says a lot that this only depiction of female gladiators was found all the way off in Halicarnassus, at the outskirts of the empire. Where the views on what women could or could not do might not have been as strict as back in Rome itself.
And maybe you wonder how that fight between Amazon and Achillia ended? Apparently they both survived and the match ended in a tie. What happened to them after that? Like so much in history, we just don’t know.
Check out some more warrior rabbits!
Well, I have thought of drawing vikings in general, or Varangian guards!