Did Women Fight as Gladiators in Ancient Rome?

Were there female gladiators in ancient Rome? Although scarce, evidence exists in art, law and written accounts that women participated in this brutal sport during the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire, fighting fiercely with weapons to have fun. But they didn’t fight to nearly the same degree as the men – and did so mostly as novelty acts.

Written history has many tales of gladiators. Historians of the time described women sparring with each other as after-dinner acts in the first century BC and battling beasts, dwarves and other women in shows held by emperors Nero , Titus and Domitian. Gladiators fought in the flourishing city of Pompeii. And an inscription found in the port city of Ostia shows a local magistrate boasting of being the first to “provide women for the sword” since the city was founded.

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