Gladiatorial events were a token of the Roman civilization. A brutal form of sacrifice adapted from the earlier civilization of Etruscans, who believed when a person dies, his spirit relies on a blood sacrifice to survive in the afterlife. The first event to take place in Rome was in 264 BC, when Decimus Brutus held a sacrifice to honor his dead father (Roman Gladiator). Soon after these events became an undeniable part of the Romans lives, used for political power and general entertainment.
A gladiators life was far from easy. Most were slaves, prisoners of war, or hardened criminals, therefore they were not free men. Often times they were trained and forced to take part in the events, hoping for their freedom if they were to conquer their grim fate and survived for a few years (wik). This was depicted in the most recent movie GLADIATOR. In this film Russel Crowe Maximus' starts out as an army general under Marcus Aurelius, until Commudus murders his own father out of spite for his fathers loyalty to Maximus and not him. He then inherits the title of king, and condemns Maximus to a gruesome fate as a slave/gladiator. Though this doesn't sound like the ideal life, to some at the time is was an appealing, so much so that some free men degraded themselves so they could battle in the games. Was it for basic living? Possibly but more than likely it was for the Fame and Prestige of a Gladiator. These free men were known as Professional gladiators.
Training was hard for these great warriors, they often trained at special gladiator schools, the largest of which was connected to the great Coliseum by underground passages. Here they learned how to fight skillfully with swords, daggers, nets, chains, and an array of other weapons, and were rightfully endowed with the best medical care around (wik) These schools were privately owned at first, but were soon adopted by the state to prevent them from turning into armies that could threaten the empire. An individual on average would fight about three times a year, and for the rest of the time travel with the troop. The troops swore an oath to their master, and traveled from city to city looking for work (Roman Gladiator). The social class of the Gladiators was rather ironic in itself. On one hand they were considered slaves, that's the lowest class in a social structure, but on the other hand, some gained popularity and were looked upon as great warriors and heroes. Some rose to celebrity status in a short time as in the movie when Maximus became a hero to the public eye, worthy of praise of greater importance than even the king himself. In the movie this was a direct result in the downfall of Commodus, but this isn't factual, as Maximus is a fictional character. It just demonstrates the influence the Gladiators had on the public eye, he was the Rockstar of the Roman Empire'.
Like anything else, these shows were often times...