10 History Myths You Probably Still Believe

10. The gladiators’ salutation


“Hail Emperor, we who are about to die salute you!” As disappointing as this sounds, ancient Roman gladiators did not ritually start their combat with these words. The only recorded use of the phrase was in the year 52 AD, when a group of criminals sentenced to fight each other to death in the arena greeted Emperor Claudius in this way. According to some historians, Claudius was so surprised that he pardoned them.

On a related note, gladiator mortality rates weren’t nearly as high as movies want us to believe. Except for those periods when ancient Rome was ruled by unusually bloodthirsty emperors, gladiators didn’t fight to death. In fact, it was a well-paid career many men chose willingly. Most gladiators had sponsors who were rather invested in their wellbeing: it took a lot of time and money to train a fighter, so naturally you wouldn’t want them to die just because some jerks in the audience waved their thumbs the wrong way.

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