The Cost to Attend Gladiator Fights in Ancient Rome

Ancient Roman Gladiator looking up toward the people for final judgment
Further ReadingThe 3 Reasons Why The Colosseum Of Rome Is Half Missing

If you lived in the city of Rome during the Roman Empire you would have had the opportunity to attend an amazing sight. In the center of the city stood the Flavian Amphitheater, a massive stone structure where celebrations and gladiatorial fights took place. Today this giant theater still stands and is called the Colosseum because out front of it there used to be a massive golden statue of Emperor Nero. Here is how much it would cost to attend a gladiatorial game.

Generally speaking, most of the gladiatorial games were free for Romans to attend. This was because the Roman Emperors or Senators often would display their opulent wealth by hosting games for the people of Rome. Even though these games were free Roman Citizens were only allowed to sit in certain areas based on their social class.

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Without further ado; here is an entire article going over just how much it would cost for a Roman citizen to attend a Gladitorial game.

Gladiatorial Games Were Paid For By The Roman Emperor and Senators

Most people don’t know this but most of the public works and events in the city of Rome were paid for by the Roman Emperor or Senatorial elite families. This was because most of the population of Rome was far too poor to even afford a ticket to see a gladiatorial game. Simply put, most people in the city of Rome had no money.

From food to entertainment a vast majority of the average Roman citizen’s daily life was paid for by the Roman elite. During the Roman Empire, this meant that the Roman Emperor was often the most popular person in the city of Rome. If you lived in Rome during this time all of your food, entertainment, and drink would have been provided by the imperial household in the name of the current Emperor.

This also included all of the gladiatorial games that took place in the Roman Colosseum. Gladiators from around the Empire would be trained up and brought to Rome to entertain the crowd by partaking in sponsored fights against slaves, war prisoners, criminals, and even large animals.

Outside of major events, gladiator games were a rare sight in the city of Rome. This was because of just how much money they cost to put on. Contrary to popular belief most gladiators did not fight to the death because they cost so much to maintain and train. The sponsors of Gladiators would instead have their gladiator fight to exhaustion and then have a winner declared.

However, since the Roman gladiator games were paid for by the Roman Emperor that meant the people of Rome were not expected to pay. Instead, they could simply show up and take a seat according to their social class.

Roman Citizens Had To Sit In The Amphetheature According To Social Status

Side view of the Colosseum demonstrating seating

Now even though the games were free for Roman citizens they could only sit in certain locations. This was not because a Roman citizen did not pay but rather only those of higher social status could sit in the more comfortable seats closer to the arena floor.

Depending on your social class you were expected to sit in a different part of the arena and watch the gladiatorial games. At the top were the women and slaves of the Empire, under them were the free Roman male citizens, under this were the small merchant class and business owners, and finally under this were the senatorial families and Imperial household on the arena floor.

This tiered system of attendance meant that the Roman people had a strict seating assignment to watch the gladiatorial games. While they did not pay to attend the games they often were unable to seat in a good enough spot to witness the game itself.

Further, while the Roman Colosseum was massive and could fit close to 50,000 people this paled in comparison to the free population of the city which hovered around 500,000-800,000. As such even though you were capable of attending the game for free you would have to fight to get a seat unless you were part of the senatorial rank of families.

As such, even though Romans did not pay to see the gladiatorial games they would have had to sit in a bad spot assuming they even got a chance to find a seat. As such attending a gladiatorial game in ancient Rome would have been a luxury and a highly coveted thing that most people would have to fight to go see.

What Was The Experience of Attending A Gladitorial Game in Rome Like?

Attending a gladiatorial game in Rome during the height of the Roman Empire would have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most Roman people. While your experience might have differed below is generally what you could expect.

First, you would have woken up extremely early around sunup. This was because you and your family would have had to rush to get in line to even get a shot at attending the game before the arena filled up. Above each entry gate would have been an insignia demonstrating the type of social class that was allowed to enter.

Chances are you and your family would have been part of the non-senatorial families. Here the women and men of your family would have been split up; women and the slaves went to the top of the arena to wooden benches while the men went to the stone seating in the center of the arena.

On your way toward your seat, you hear rumors of gladiators being equipped to fight against lions in the arena. This gathers your imagination as you have never seen a gladiator or a lion in person, only in rumors. After fighting past countless families you and your family find your seat. After taking a seat one member of your family goes to get enough bread and water for the rest of your family in the seats.

Below you notice the senatorial seats covered in thick cloth. You wish that your family’s seats were so ornately decorated and perhaps more comfortable than simple stone slabs.

During this time your eyes gaze down towards the arena floor below. At the bottom, you can barely make out five or six armored gladiators all stretching and warming up. Suddenly the crowd goes wild as the arena floor opens up and several cages of lions begin to ascend toward the surface.

At the top assistants to the gladiators open up the cages one by one and the lions are released to fight the gladiators who make quick work of each large cat. Over the course of several hours over 10 lions have fought the gladiators. In between each lion, a passage is read out loud by a public speaker explaining the significance of the lion to the people of Rome.

After countless hours the gladiators leave the arena and the people begin to disperse. Congratulations you just saw your first gladiator game in Rome. The gladiator games in Rome were a way of reinforcing social stereotypes as well as reinforcing the power dynamic in the city of Rome. At the top of the arena were the women and slaves, middle was freedmen and buisness owners, towards the bottom far away from the general population were the senatorial elite families.

However, you don’t worry about any of that because the event was free and you wouldn’t have known anything different than Roman life. The games were fully paid for by the Roman elite because it reinforced their social status and allowed them to display their wealth before the average Roman person.


There you have it; an entire article that goes over just how much it would have cost to attend a gladiatorial game in ancient Rome.

For the vast majority of Rome, there was no cost to attend the games in Rome. In reality, the only people who the games cost anything for was the person sponsoring them; for a majority of the Empire, this would have been the Imperial Family. They would have financed the entire game and the rest of Rome would have simply shown up.

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