Gladiators were either captured soldiers from rival armies, condemned criminals selected for their ferocity, strength and skill, or very rarely free people who chose to fight. In Ancient Rome, gladiators entertained the public with deadly and bloody battles to the death.
To ensure the best spectacle, Gladiators were trained in the art of killing, using a wide-range of lethal, crowd-pleasing weapons. Those who survived became legendary heroes. Losers became food for the lions.
In gladiatorial combat, gladiators were expected to die without asking for mercy or crying out in pain. If a defeated gladiator had fought courageously and won over the crowd's sympathy, his life would be spared. It is unknown what the death rate for defeated gladiators was, but it is usually assumed that most gladiator's careers lasted less than ten fights. Winners would often receive laurel wreaths or money from the crowd, but the greatest gift was his freedom, symbolized by receiving a rudis (wooden training sword).
Upper-Class Romans would often drink the blood of fallen Gladiators.