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Depiction of a fight between a retiarius (left) and a secutor (right) (mosaic from Leptis Magna , approx. 80-100 BC)

The retiarius ( Latin for "net fighter") was a lightly armed Roman gladiator . It was also referred to as iaculator (Latin for "thrower") or aequoreus (Latin for "belonging to the sea").

For other types of gladiators, see Gladiator genera .

Equipment and armament

In contrast to the other gladiator types, the equipment and armament of the Retiarius had no resemblance to military models. Rather, it is reminiscent of deep sea fishing. The retiarius was only lightly armed. He carried a trident (tridens or fuscina), a throwing net (rete) and a straight-bladed short sword or dagger. His only protection was hand and arm protection on the left arm ( manica ) with a metal shield ( galerus ) on the shoulder. He was dressed in a loincloth ( subligaculum ) and a belt ( balteus or cingulum ).


The trident was the retiarius' main weapon. The design is always angular and has an undecorated, straight crossbar. In most depictions, the shaft is a little longer than the fighter. There is only one single find identified as a gladiator's weapon (Zaghreb, Croatia - undated). Finds are often incorrectly assigned to a gladiator's trident. All finds with uneven tips and additional crossbars were identified as banner tips of the Roman Legion, finds with barbs at the tips and round crossbars as trident from the fishery.

(Throwing) net

The retiarius used a knotted net with a diameter of approx. 3 m, weighed down at the edge by thick rope or lead weights. The net could be square or round. Sometimes it was also called "Iaculator" (thrower) because of the net that was thrown.

Special weapon four-pointed dagger

A grave relief (grave relief of SkirtosTomis, Romania 200 - 250 AD) and traces of wounds on a thigh bone from the gladiator's grave in Ephesus indicate a melee weapon with four points, which was used in addition to the gladius. No other sources are known so far and precise conclusions about the use of this weapon cannot be drawn.

Tunica (rare)

Juvenal and others mention fighting auctoratii (non-slaves, fighting voluntarily) as Retiarius tunicata. Individual images also show retired men in tunic. The reasons for this are so far unclear. Possibly nobles fighting as retiarius covered their bodies in this way.


The exact origin of the retiarius is not known. There are currently three theses.

  1. Naumachia. Naumachia were simulated sea battles. The exact equipment of the fighters is unknown, but the use of trident is possible. Perhaps this was so popular that it was used to develop its own mixer. There are no primary sources for this thesis.
  2. Reenactment of the duel between Pittakos and Phrynon. In 606 BC Pittakos, one of the seven Greek sages, fought as a military leader of the Mytilenians against Phrynon of Athens. Representing a field battle, a duel was fought in which Pittakos caught his opponent with a net and then killed. The details of the fight vary. The net was sometimes hidden behind a shield, sometimes he fought with a net, trident and sword. The Romans knew this story and perhaps it inspired the retiarius's equipment. Only secondary text sources are known, no images.
  3. Pontiarius. 332 BC BC Alexander the Great besieged and conquered the Phoenician port city of Tire, which was situated on an island. During the siege, the Macedonians had to build a narrow dam and were attacked by the defenders with nets and tridents from the city walls. The battle for a pons, an elevated bridge, could have recreated this important historical event known to the Romans.

The first representation is the Chrysippus chalice, found in Lyon, France and dating back to 30 BC. Dated. This earliest portrait shows fighters with clearly military-inspired equipment. He wears an Attic-Boeotian helmet, chain mail and greaves. A rope allows him to retrieve the thrown trident. All of this corresponds most closely to an actor's portrayal of the siege, rather than a balanced sports fight.


The retiarius fought first against the murmillo and less often against the essedarius . From the middle of the 1st century AD, however, he specialized in the secutor as an opponent. Occasionally there were also fights against the scissor .


Web links

Commons : Retiarii  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ KM Töpfer: "Signa Militaria. The Roman standards in the republic and in principle ” . In: Monographs of the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Edition 91 (2011) . Schnell & Steiner, S. 422 .
  2. ^ T. Bekker-Nielsen & DB Casasola: "Ancient nets and fishing gear" . In: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Cádiz (ed.): Proceedings of the international workshop on 'Nets and fishing gear in classical antquitiy: a first approach' (2007) . S. 136 .
  3. a b S.G. Owen: On the tunica retiarii . In: Cambridge University Press (ed.): The Classical Review Issue 19 No. 7 (1905) . S. 354-357 .
  4. F. Kanz & K. Grossschmidt, "", in: Status of anthropological research on the gladiator cemetery in Ephesus . In: Archaeological Institute Vienna (ed.): Annual books of the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Vienna (01.2005) .
  5. SM Cerutti & L. Richardson, Jr .: The Retiarius Tunicatus of Suetonius, Juvenal, and Petronius . In: The American Journal of Philology (1989), issue 110 . S. 589-594 .
  6. ^ A. Steenbeek: "Iusti Lipsii Saturnalium Sermonum libri duo, qui de gladiatoribus" . In: Brill's Studies in Intellectual History (2011) .
  7. Diogenes Laertius: "Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, Book I". Retrieved on March 25, 2019 (German).
  8. a b A. Manas: “Was Pontarii Fighting the Origin of the Gladiator-Type Retiarius? An Analysis of the Evidence " . In: The International Journal of the History of Sport (2018) . DOI: 10.1080 / 09523367.2017.1402760.