In ancient Rome, gladiators fought each other in front of an audience. Though these fights were called "games," they often ended in the death of one of the gladiators.
Although they were celebrated in art and applauded for their strength and fighting skill, it wasn't easy to be an ancient Roman gladiator. They were essentially slaves who were forced to fight, sometimes being matched against wild animals or criminals. While the gladiator games may seem horrible to us today, they lasted almost a thousand years. The word gladiator comes from the Latin gladius, or "sword."