Gladiators: Heroes of the Colosseum

23 June 2017 – 28 January 2018


Gladiators: Heroes of the Colosseum features more than 110 original artefacts including pieces of the Colosseum, authentic elaborately decorated bronze gladiator helmets and original arms and armour preserved in the ashes of Pompeii.

Gladiators is a timed ticketed experience where visitors will be able to immerse themselves in the everyday lives of Ancient Roman Gladiators with interactive games and displays that reveal who gladiators were, where they lived and how they trained.

Gladiators: Heroes of the Colosseum is produced by Expona and Contemporanea Progetti and features artefacts from seven Italian museums and institutions.

Take the journey back in time to be a part of history and go behind the scenes to learn the story of these armed athletes who fought to entertain and inspire the people of Ancient Rome.


Exhibition Themes

The Roman Empire 

Gladiators were elite, armed athletes, who took part in violent, and often deadly, combat in public spectacles, the greatest arena of all was the Colosseum in Rome. Thousands of gladiators and animals fought and died in this wonder of the ancient world.

Step inside the history books and observe the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the most powerful economic, cultural, political and military forces in the world at the time, and birth place of the Gladiator.

Who are the Gladiators? 

Hollywood likes to cast them as heroic freedom fighters, but what was life really like for Rome’s arena-warriors? Who were Spartacus, Commodus, and Flamma and where did they come from? How did they become Gladiators? 
Unearth the training techniques of these ancient athletes, learn how they prepared themselves for the battles ahead and the different gladiator fighting styles, armour and weapons used. 

Traditionally purchased as slaves, successful gladiators gained thousands of supporters, enjoyed lavish gifts, and could even be awarded freedom if they’d tallied up enough victories. However, as fights were usually to the death, gladiators had a short life expectancy. 

Rome and the Colosseum 

Explore the lives of the gladiators and the colossal stage upon which their fate was determined, the Colosseum. Theirs was a world of specialised training, discipline, regulation, and peril, but also of hope, of fame, redemption, and if they survived, even wealth and freedom.

Take your seat in the Colosseum and witness what happened on the sands of the arena. Learn how the Colosseum was built, who was and wasn’t allowed to sit in the arena and why there were secretive underground passages! 

A day at the Arena

The Colosseum was used by the emperors to show off their power, wealth and to support their popularity. The show included comical acts, displays of exotic animals and fights to the death between animals and Gladiators or between Gladiators. 

Hear the roar of the crowd as the Gladiator battle begins – a celebration of courage, endurance, bravery, and violence against a backdrop of fame, fortune, and social scrutiny. 

Throughout the years as the Empire began to fall Roman gladiators became some of the most iconic characters in history and have defined how we think of entertainment in ancient Rome. 

The gladiators’ tales are incomparable to anything we see or do today, making them fascinating and yet incomprehensible.