Height: 46.000 cm
Purchased with the assistance of Miss H.R. Levy
Room 69: Greek and Roman life
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Bronze gladiator's helmet
Roman, 1st century AD
Said to be from Pompeii, Campania, Italy
This bronze helmet is said to have been found in the gladiators' barracks at Pompeii. It has a grille of linked circles to protect the face, and a broad brim to protect the back and sides of the head. At the front of the helmet is a medallion of Hercules, symbolizing strength and victory. Although gladiators were sometimes slaves or criminals, many were professionals who trained to be a specific type of gladiator, such as the retiarius armed with net and trident, or the samnite, a more heavily armed gladiator who wore this type of helmet.
Gladiatorial games were originally performed at funerary rituals in the Etruscan area of Italy and the Greek cities in the south. They were brought to Rome in the fourth century BC, and became a popular form of mass entertainment throughout the Empire. Local notables would sponsor the huge costs of the games to public acclaim and political benefits. Every major centre had an amphitheatre, the remains of which, as at Verona or Rome, are often among the most conspicuous reminders of the Roman past.
E. Köhne and C. Ewigleben (eds.), Gladiators and Caesars: the po (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)