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Meet the Gladiators: The Dimachaerus

May 4, 2017

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Meet the Gladiators: Hoplomachus

May 19, 2017



Zeus was the crowd favorite. Heavily armored, a mountain of armor and equipped with more than one weapon, Duncan was certain he was dead.


The last few weeks I've been introducing to you the gladiators who appear in The Arena, a scifi novel. But the colonists on Neo Roma made an attempt to base their gladiator types on historical examples from Rome. The first week we looked at the Dimachaerus, mobile fighters with two blades and almost no armor. Last week we focused on the laquearius, who had a bit more armor but still mobile. Today I'd like to introduce you to the first kind of gladiator our hero, a dimachaerus, had to face in The Arena: the Hoplomachus.


We'll look at their weapons, armor, and discuss the kinds of opponents and fighting styles you would expect to see them use.




The Hoplomachi have both a ranged weapon and two up-close weapons. Their name means “Heavily Armed” so these guys are One weapon is a spear called a hasta. The spear was around six feet long and wasn't used for throwing. It was meant to be used as a thrusting weapon only.


Along with the spear, a hoplomachus would also carry a gladius, the signature sword of the Romans. A gladius is a short sword, around 27 inches long, and straight. The gladius is primarily a thrusting weapon.


Finally, the hoplomachus also carried a large shield. While some may class a shield as armor, you need only to go back and rewatch the Captain America movies to be proven otherwise. Shields certainly could be used as weapons though body slams or the edges. This is why historical re-creationists in the Society for Creative Anachronism put edging on their shields so they don't injure one another in combat. (Though it still hurts!)




Unlike the previous two gladiators I covered, the Hoplomachi get a decent amount of armor to go with all those weapons. They had a visored helm with a big ridge to protect their heads. His lower left leg, one one he'd likely not have a shield to cover, would have a protective covering as would his right arm with tied linen or leather.


Opponents and Fighting Style


As mentioned before, in Rome and in the fictional Neo Roma, the heavily-armored gladiators were often paired with mobile lightly-armored opponents to make the fight interesting. A common opponent for them was the murmillo.


All this armor in combination with a shield gave the Hoplomachus an advantage over the lightly-armored gladiators. They had to get around both the shield which would be used to bash their opponent when they got in close.


To keep them at a distance, the spear would keep them on their feet. Spears can be used to smash an opponent like a stave, used for stabbing, and can be devastating if the user chokes up on the spearhead and then lets it jab forward, through a loosened grip.


If the spear is broken and the fight moves in closer, the hoplomachus has the gladius to rely on. The gladius may have been a short sword but in use with a shield, there's a reason the Roman army was so effective. It can get into the nooks and crannies of cracks in armor and works well hiding behind a shield.


Further Reading:

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