Uncovering the Queer Truth: Homosexuality Among Roman Gladiators

Colosseum / The History Channel

Did you know Roman gladiators used to go at each other in more ways than one?

There were the arena fights where enslaved men fought – sometimes to the death – for Rome’s entertainment. And then there were the sexual – sometimes romantic – relationships between gladiators.

The ancient Romans were a society that valued strength, power, and masculinity. However, despite these traditional gender roles, there is evidence that homosexuality was prevalent among these warriors. In this article, we’ll delve into the truth about same-sex relationships among Roman gladiators and explore how society viewed it.

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Homosexuality Among Roman Gladiators: Historical Evidence

Ancient Rome’s art and literature give way to the sexual relations between the gladiators. The term “gladiator” comes from the Latin word for “swordsman.” Many Romans believed these fighters had to be sexually active to be strong and brave in battle.

One of the most famous examples of homosexuality among Roman gladiators is the story of Priscus and Verus. Priscus and Verus were two gladiators who fell in love with each other while training at a school in Rome. Their love story was so famous that it was adapted into a play performed before the Roman Emperor Nero.

There are also many examples of homoerotic art featuring Roman gladiators, which suggests that homosexuality among these fighters was not seen as taboo or deviant. It was so common that it was even depicted in art meant to be displayed in public places.


The Role of Homosexuality in Gladiator Culture

It is worth noting that homosexuality among Roman gladiators was not just about sex but also about love and companionship. Many of these relationships were as long-term, profound, and valued among society as any other heterosexual relationship. Some historians believe that homosexuality among gladiators was seen as a way to create strong bonds and increase the chances of survival in the arena.

This is not to say that all Roman gladiators were queer. However, many gladiators did engage in same-sex intimacy, and there are many stories of gladiators who were willing to risk their lives to save their lovers in the arena.

The View of Homosexuality Among Roman Gladiators by Society

Despite the public acceptance of gladiator x gladiator relationships, some still saw it as deviant or immoral. In 390 AD, Christian emperors enacted laws to punish same-sex relationships. However, enforcement of these laws was not as strict as in other societies, and Romans often tolerated homosexuality as long as it did not interfere with the social order.


The truth about homosexuality among Roman gladiators is that it was a common and accepted part of their culture. While some discriminated against or disapproved of same-sex relationships, they were in the minority. Romans celebrated and admired homosexuality as a natural expression of love and desire. They viewed a gladiator’s sexual relationships as just one aspect of their masculinity and strength.

Uncovering the Queer Truth: Homosexuality Among Roman Gladiators
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