Gladiator Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Gladiator Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

In the world of skin art, you can expect to find just about anything. One artistic option that pops up from time to time are Roman Gladiators, who were traditionally captured soldiers that were made into slaves and fought for their freedom and even won glory and acclaim, become citizen of Rome!

In today’s article, we’re going to explore the gladiator tales a bit and tell you about gladiator tattoos, going into their symbolism, meanings, and more! If these figures inspire you, then you’re definitely not alone, so read on to find out what this warrior imagery is all about!


What is the History of Gladiator Tattoos?

Gladiatorial combat is literally ancient history, with the first recorded instance occurring as early as 264 B.C. in Rome, as three pairs of gladiators fought in front of spectators during the funeral of Junius Brutus.

It was popular enough that the practice definitely took off, and would continue until the Emperor Constantine put a stop to them in 325 A.D. (though you could still find contests from time to time until around 404 A.D., when they apparently really started ‘cracking down’ on the practice.

With such a long history, while we cannot say exactly when gladiator tattoos started being a thing, it’s likely quite the old practice – though probably well-hidden in Rome, where anything short of military tattoos were considered ‘low class’ due to their admiration for the ‘unblemished’ human form.

With the military, even then tattooing was sparse, with permanent ‘dots’ being the mark of groups like the Senatus Populusque Romanus (translated: ‘The Senate and the Roman People’), though tattoos certainly still happened in Rome and continue to this day.


What Do Gladiator Tattoos Symbolize?

Gladiators are symbols of strength and determination. Forced to fight, Gladiators lived every day like it could be their last, because that was quite possibly exactly the case! This imagery isn’t just reserved for men, either. Female Gladiators did exist and were referred to as ‘Gladiatrices’ or in singular, the Gladiatrix.

When Gladiator tattoos are not worn as a symbol of power or determination, they are sometimes there simply to express a love of history, but more often than not the gladiator imagery is meant as inspiration.

They symbolize the will to fight any and all who come against them, because when you boil down to it, life is about conflict and only the strongest will survive. A final meaning of a Gladiator tattoo might also simply be admiration. Great figures such as Spartacus (not a Spartan, despite the similar name, but a Thracian).

So, whether you love history, feel inspired by the image, want to express your own personal fierceness, or simply admire a hero of the ancient past – there’s quite a lot of symbolism behind gladiator tattoos.


What Do Gladiator Tattoos Mean?

Gladiator tattoos can mean a lot of things.

Like anything else in the art world, meaning is highly subjective, though most commonly the image of a lone gladiator is meant to tell you about the tattoo’s owner and their philosophy on life – that you must never stop fighting if you want to survive.

History-buffs may adopt a Gladiator tattoo of a famous figure, while others who feel that life has poorly prepared them for its challenges might wear a heavily-armored Gladiator tattoo who is armed with something comical, like a large fish!

Most men and women who choose this symbol, however, are simply communicating a fierce and very-capable nature, as this is an artistic choice that doesn’t have to be overly complicated in order to be effective. After all, everyone recognizes Roman Gladiators from movies and the history we grew up reading.

In rare cases, some may have even traced family history to an ancient Gladiator who managed to fight their way out of the arena into a world of glory and fame. The real question here is a simple… what will your gladiator tattoo symbolize? Make it creative, personal, and completely your own! It’s a bold choice and a good one!


Where Do Gladiator Tattoos Usually Go?

Gladiator tattoos are a pretty flexible option. After all, you don’t even have to display the whole gladiator, even a head with a Roman helmet and the shadow of an arena behind it can get the message across and you can fit that easily on the forearm, outer arm, or even an ankle or hip placement.

Due to the amount of interesting color and detail that you can incorporate, however, a Gladiator is a strong candidate for a solid back piece. In this location, you’ll have a much bigger canvas for your artist to work with, and if you take the time to pick a real pro then your tattoo will be nothing short of amazing!

Put it wherever you think is best with confidence. When it comes to strong symbolism, the Gladiator is quite the powerful image, so it’s likely just going to be a matter of whether you want to be able to hide your skin art part-time or not!


Characteristics and Styles of Gladiator Tattoos

Gladiators will typically have Roman helmets or at least recognizably Roman bits of armor, though usually they will be mixed in with weapons or armor from other lands, as they were often captured soldiers who were forced to fight in the arenas.

The styles can go any number of ways – so you should get creative with it. For instance, while it’s a Roman figure, what if it’s tattooed in a distinctly Japanese style? Art gets weird, sometimes, and the effects of a well-chosen style can hit you like a punch in the face.

Most commonly, tattoos such as these will be more photorealistic and colorful styles such as Watercolor can really shine with the amount of detail and the ragtag assortment of weapons and armor that these figures have.

Decide on your base design and concept and then check your artist’s portfolio before you settle – sometimes it makes your perfect mental image into even better skin art with the simple adjustment of a powerful style.


In closing

If you possess a bit of the warrior spirit and fierceness, love Roman history, or even just love the imagery, then Gladiator tattoos might be a good option for you. Just be sure to make the most of your style and color options, because the Gladiator image really gives you an enormous opportunity to create something epic.

Above all else, make it your own, and your Gladiator tattoo will be a piece of skin art that you can enjoy for a lifetime!

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