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Gladiators: A Day At The Roman Games

15th July 2023 – 14th January 2024 at Colchester Castle


#Gladiators #ADayAtTheRomanGames

After months of preparation the arena is now ready for a day of spectacles that will rival Rome’s Colosseum.


Why is this exhibition special?

Head back 2,000 years into the world of the gladiatorial arena in Roman Colchester!

Packed with artefacts from Colchester Museums’ collections and over 50 loans from around the country, including The British Museum, this exhibition reveals the reality of living, fighting and dying, for public spectacle. You’ll even be able to battle the beasts and gladiators yourself in our interactive Arena Battle game. Will you be victorious and win your freedom? 

Exhibition Highlights 

Our top 5 objects not to miss 

Murmillo Helmet

Find me in: Gladiators, Ready!

“Finally, in honour of the emperor’s visit, prepare yourselves for the main event. Which gladiators do you think the gods will favour today?” .

Lion skull

Find me in: Beasts of Britania

Today we present the most terrifying beasts of Britannia and beyond: mighty stags, enormous bulls and ferocious wild boar. But which will be the deadliest?”.

The Colchester Vase

Find me in: The Victor 

“On this special occasion the emperor has awarded our victor his freedom. But what about his opponent? What fate will you award him – thumbs up, or thumbs down? .

Lion mount

Find me in: Put to Death!

Don’t leave your seats! Before the afternoon’s main event, watch the punishment of the criminals condemned by the Governor. There’ll be no escape from our beasts this time! .

Gladiator cup

Find me in: Arena Souvenirs 

The emperor’s games will be a day to remember! What will you buy to remind you of today’s spectacular events? .

Discover loads more objects from the exhibition by exploring our online catalogue!

Discover More

Throughout the exhibition, members of our team and those we worked with will be sharing their unique insights into ‘Gladiators: A Day At The Roman Games’. Simply follow the links below to find out more…

Current Archaeology

Did you know the Colchester Vase was the inspiration for Gladiators: A Day At The Roman Games?

Glynn Davis, Senior Collections and Learning Curator at Colchester + Ipswich Museums, explains how our team used that one object to develop the narrative of the exhibition.

This article featured in Current Archaeology magazine.

The Ancients Podcast

There are countless myths surrounding gladiators in pop culture.

Senior Curator, Glynn Davis chats to The Ancients podcast host, Tristan Hughes about what life might have been like for a Gladiator in Roman Britain. Considering objects from the exhibition, the pair discuss different types of combat and the animals who featured in the arena.

History Hit

Did you know the swastika in Roman Britain was a symbol of good luck?

Filmed inside Colchester Castle, Senior Curator, Glynn Davis chats to History Hit presenter, Tristan Hughes about the scenes depicted around the famous Colchester Vase.

Who Will You Meet At The Games Today? 

Flavia the High Priestess

Flavia is the High Priestess of the Imperial Cult in Britannia. She has been arranging the games, in honour of the emperor’s visit, for the past 12 months. No expense has been spared for the citizens of Camulodunum: gladiators and beasts have been sourced from across the empire for battle in the arena. Flavia has the most important role – she will lead the pompa, including the gods themselves, from the temple to amphitheatre. 

Lucius the Procurator

Lucius is the official in charge of supplying Britain’s arenas with the best gladiators. He has answered the High Priestess’s commission, requesting a spectacle to honour the emperor’s visit to Camulodunum. He has sourced a veteran secutor gladiator, Memnon, who has won his nine battles across the Empire’s amphitheatres. To make this an interesting show he will pitch him against Valentinus, a new recruit from the Imperial Ludus in Germania, who specialises as a retiarius. 

Memnon the Secutor

Memnon has earnt himself a reputation in the arenas of North Africa, having trained as a secutor from a young age. He makes up for the weight and restricted vision of his helmet with his strength and skill with the gladius. He doesn’t know who he’ll be battling in the arena in Camulodunum, but no doubt it will be another retiarius, who won’t be expecting his left-handed attacks. He’s heard the emperor will be visiting – maybe this time he can put on a performance to finally win his freedom… 

Achillia the Murmillo

Achillia fights as a murmillo gladiator and is a veteran from the arenas of Asia Minor. Her familia of gladiators are all women but they take their training and performance as seriously as any men. Achillia often fights Amazonia, her equally matched arena partner. The citizens of Colchester, at the edge of the Empire, won’t be used to the sight of female gladiators. But they’ll be in for a surprise if they think their performance is just some half-time ‘act’. 

Braciatus the Bear

Braciatus was captured as a cub in Caledonia in the far north, beyond the Wall. He spent his early years being transported between Roman settlements across Britannia where he entertained soldiers. After years of torment Braciatus gained a reputation for being aggressive, becoming a feature at the amphitheatre of Deva Victrix. He has been brought to Camulodunum for the midday executions – watch him deliver the Governor’s justice!   

Acinaces the Lion

Acinaces, the magnificent lion, was born in Mesopotamia and after being captured as a cub he lived in Numidia, north Africa. Once fully grown he was taken to Rome where, fighting in the Colosseum, he became a favourite of the emperor. He was brought to Camulodunum at the request of the High Priestess who is keen to impress the emperor on his visit to Britannia. 


Check out our events calendar to find out what’s on during ‘Gladiators: A Day At The Roman Games’.

Plan Your Visit 

When: 15th July 2023 – 14th January 2024

Where: Colchester Castle

Tickets: This exhibition is included as part of Castle admission

Arena Battle: Don’t forget to battle the gladiators in our interactive gallery game!

If you book a visit with a school group, you can also download our brand new ‘Gladiator Schools Trail‘. 


“Gladiators: A Day At The Roman Games” is on the first floor and features digital screens with detailed photographs and additional information, as well as tactile objects such as animal skulls. Audio descriptions can be heard by scanning a QR code attached to each case. We also have a large print guide, which is available in the gallery or can be downloaded by clicking on the button below:

For further information, such as how to find us and what facilities Colchester Castle has, we recommend reading our access information:

Thank You


The British Museum

Grosvenor Museum (West Cheshire Museums)

Ipswich Borough Council

London Mithraeum Bloomberg SPACE

MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology)

Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery

Saffron Walden Museum

Peterborough Museums

Storiel (Gwynedd Museums Service)

Ralph Jackson

Diana + Roy Friendship-Taylor 

Graphic Illustrations: 

Gary Erskine


Arts Council England  

Colchester City Council  

Garfield Weston Foundation + Art Fund 

Localgiving and Postcode Places Trust


Our Partners: 

The British Museum

Colchester Zoo 

Professor Tim Thompson 

Dr David Erikson 

York Archaeological Trust

Exhibition Designers: 

RFA Design, Andrew Galvin + Matthew Langstaff 

 And to all who’ve offered advice and support in so many ways – thank you. 

What's On


Discover something new in Colchester. Browse the diary to find fun, family-friendly events all year round.

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