Think you know all about Gladiators?

Are you not entertained? Gladiators were the celebrities of their time, some were volunteers, some Emperors had a go and women sometimes joined the contests.

Think again, here are some surprising things you might not know…

As a brand inspired by Ancient Rome, it was only a matter of time before we could resist the cries of the gladiator through the mists of time.

When we hear Gladiator today, we most often think of Ridley Scott’s epic 2000 film, starring Russell Crowe in the titular role of Maximus Decimus Meridius and he actually formed the basis of our vision and creative brief for this our latest perfume, Gladiator Oud. (And have you heard Ridley Scott’s follow up to Gladiator movie is underway starring Oscar winning Paul Mescal due to release late 2024?).

The gladiatorial games were the theatres and the sports arenas of their times. The games played were sometimes life and death duals with great pomp and ceremonies in amphitheatres: oval shaped with tiers of seating around an arena floor of sand or dirt and a wall to prevent escape.   The Romans built over 200 amphitheatres, the grandest of all being the Colosseum in Rome.

Qualities of a gladiator

A gladiator at first glance could be considered a brute force, but the qualities and profiles of gladiators were far more nuanced than that. Successful gladiators had to be noble and intelligent as well as strong: able to think several steps ahead of their opponent, to predict their next move. A talented Gladiator did not rely entirely on brute strength. They were highly skilled and strategic, with great intelligence and charisma. Much of their power was in their ability to hold the attention and devotion of a colossal audience of up to 80,000 spectators in an enormous arena.Gladiators needed to have many diverse strengths:

Leather Gladiator armour

PRUDENCE – disciplined and rational

STRATEGIC – self restrained and considered

JUST – understanding what is fair and right, balancing selflessness and selfishness

COURAGEOUS – brave and willing to confront what is wrong

SKILLED – being the best at what you do: it is skill and guile that overcomes opponents Resilience – the length, intensity, gore and heat of the gladiatorial arena was not for the weak

POWERFUL – able to use strength and control to influence the outcome

CHARISMATIC – to be popular and win in the arena successful gladiators were great theatrical performers gaining the support of the braying crowds

The original sports celebrities

The Colesseum

“Gladiatorial games offered their sponsors extravagantly expensive but effective opportunities for self-promotion, and gave their clients and potential voters exciting entertainment at little or no cost to themselves.

Gladiators became big business for trainers and owners, for politicians on the make and those who had reached the top and wished to stay there.” 

Gladiators were major celebrities of their day with spectators cheering for their favourite Gladiators. Triumphant gladiators were glamorised in paintings, murals and sculptures. Gladiator blood was believed to have magical powers and some women tried to gather their blood off the battlefield and dip their hair pins in it. Gladiator sweat was mixed into perfume, believed to be an aphrodisiac. Traditionally gladiators have been depicted in movies as men and slaves, but it wasn’t always true, so who were gladiators?

Not all gladiators were slaves… 

Whilst many who ended up battling in the Colosseum were slaves, prisoners of war or condemned criminals handpicked for their strong physiques and trained. They were often the lucky ones with the opportunity to earn their freedom after years of combat, but there were also professional gladiators who volunteered to participate. As the games gained popularity, many gladiators were free working class men who willingly signed up lured by the fame, crowds and potential money and prizes to be won. There were even gladiator schools that accepted volunteers. The life of a Gladiator was intense but most battles did not result in death – a good Gladiator was expensive to train, and even in defeat, many Gladiators were crowd pleasers. 

A show of strength

Face of a lion

A few Roman Emperors even fought amongst the gladiators: Caligula, Titus, Hadrian, Lucius Verus, Caracalla, Geta and Didius Julianus were all said to have performed in the arena, either in public or private, but unsurprisingly the risk of injury and death were minimal. 

Claudius, characterised by his historians as morbidly cruel and boorish, fought a whale trapped in the harbour in front of a group of spectators.[81] Commentators invariably disapproved of such evidently theatrical displays.”

Women competed alongside the men

There were also a few Gladiatrix – gladiator women, also known as luctarix (female fighters) or gladiatices  – in Ancient Rome. There is not a great deal of evidence of their training, as it seems they were not trained alongside men at Gladiator schools, rather privately. But fight they did, to the same rules as the men, and they drew large crowds and interest not least because the Romans loved novelty

Famed warriors include Amazonia and Achillia, stage names for these fierce and powerful women. In our minds, they remind us of the Amazons of ancient myth, or of more modern myth as the Amazons of Themyscira – Wonder Woman’s sisterhood of warrior women, ruled by Queen Hippolyta. 

Gladiator OUD: our vision

Gladiators were the inspiration behind our latest launch Gladiator Oud, find out more about the inspiration from the Creative Director and Master Perfumer behind the fragrance:

“Our inspiration for this scent is a noble warrior, a victor with the courage, power, wisdom and skill to win: a natural born leader with confidence, integrity and dignity. 

My dream was to create an iconic perfume befitting the name: an addictive and wearable oud combining the skill and physicality of a combat with the nobility of a true leader; all within the impressive theatre of the gladiatorial arena. Looking beyond brute strength our vision was to create a refined, noble perfume that makes you feel powerful and vital.

To realise this we collaborated with  Julien Rasquinet. Gladiator Oud is a magnetic, unisex and effortlessly confident scent. ”

CLaire sokell thompson, Creative director

For this fragrance, I wanted to embody the virility and honour of the gladiator.

With Oud, I gave this the very amber, animalic facet of the fierce and courageous fighter. I added a bold touch of gold with Honey and Hay to celebrate his success.

Finally, as he enters the arena, the respected gladiator is imbued with elegance and refinement by the noble scent of Maximus Decimus Meridius.


The perfume: GLADIATOR OUD

Source references

Electimuss roundel

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