15th July 2023 – 14th January 2024 at Colchester Castle
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?
Our top 5 objects not to miss
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?”.
Discover loads more objects from the exhibition by exploring our online catalogue!
Throughout the exhibition, members of our team and those we worked with will be sharing their unique insights into ‘Gladiators: A Day AtThe Roman Games’. Simply follow the links below to find out more…
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.
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! Schools: 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: