Valerius Maximus, a historian from the age of Tiberius, wrote that during a gladiator fight in Syracuse, Haterius Rufus, a Roman knight, died when he was accidentally pierced by a gladiator’s sword.
This anecdote is a testimony to the early interest aroused by gladiator games even in a province like Sicily, which was undoubtedly more Greek than Roman in culture.
The gladiator games probably originated from Etruscan funerary rites, but they soon became a form of pure public entertainment in the Roman Empire, and after also in Sicily.
The gladiators , whose name comes from gladius, their sword, were usually criminals, slaves, prisoners of war or people condemned to death, who were specially trained to fight.
Their position was servile and shameful: the gladiators were placed within organisations called familiae, run by an owner who took care of nourishment and combat preparation.
Trained by doctores, the gladiators lived in ludi (barracks/schools with small cells placed around a courtyard). Accompanied by the sound of various musical instruments, the fights took place between the encouragement of the audience until one of the duellists fell.
The defeated gladiator was taken away by servants, disguised as Charon or Mercury Psychopomp, then buried without any formalities. On the other hand, the winner, between the rejoicing and excitement of the spectators, received the palm or crown of victory along with trays of coins.