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Евсеенков А.С.

A retiarius (Latin: retiarius) was a type of gladiator armed with a net (rete, retia) and trident (tridens, also referred to as a pitchfork - furcina), and almost unprotected by armor. The name literally translates as "fighter with a net," or "net-man". The net of a retiarius was round, about 3 meters in diameter, weighed down by lead weights on the edges, and possibly tied to the wrist by a rope. Additionally, the retiarius was armed with a pugio dagger, and sometimes used a quadrens - a four-pronged fork, to finish off a defeated enemy. Since one of the main weapons of the gladiator was throwable (the net), he was sometimes called a "jaculator," that is, "thrower". The protective gear of the retiarius consisted of a manica with a shoulder guard, sometimes fabric wraps on the legs (fasciae), and the clothing consisted of a subligaculum and balteus.

Bone of a gladiator killed by quadrens, found in a cemetery in Ephesus, and reconstruction of the quadrens.
Example of netting a retiarium grid

Retiarii were often featured in gladiatorial combat, as due to their specific gear, their tactics differed sharply from the typical behavior of sword-fighting gladiators, making these battles interesting to watch. The absence of a shield and helmet forced the net-man to constantly move during the fight, avoiding close attacks. With a successful throw of the net, the retiarius could entangle, knock down, and finish off the opponent. If the opponent caught the net and started to pull it towards himself, the retiarius could cut the rope with the pugio and free himself. With the trident, retiarii both attacked and parried the enemy's blows. Most often, retiarii fought against secutores and murmillo, such a battle symbolized the duel between a fisherman and a fish. Sometimes one retiarius was pitted against two secutores simultaneously, in which case they were placed on a special elevation. It should be noted that the retiarii were not popular with the public due to the lack of impressive gear and a rather cunning and insidious manner of fighting.

Tombstone of Retiarius Skirtos with a quadrennium in his hand. Constanta, Romania. 1-3 century AD
Bas-relief with a retiarium. Found in Smyrna. Second half of the 1st century AD
Bas-relief with a retiarium. Aizanoy, Chavdarhisar, Kutahya, Turkey. 2-3 century AD


Retiarius Equipment:

Traditionally, gladiators fought on sand, but when reconstructing the battle on a hard surface, it is recommended to use authentic shoes, such as kaligs.

Retiary, reconstruction
Retiary, reconstruction

Related topics

Gladiator, Manica, Balteus, Subligaculum, Pugio, Thracian, Secutor, Provocator, Murmillon, Shoulder Guard, Trident


ΑΓΟΡΑΚΙΤΟΣ vs ΜΑΡΙΣΚΟΣ. Bas-relief with a battle on a hill. Bas-relief found in Turkey. Archaeological Museum of Trieste. 2nd-3rd century AD
Bas-relief with a retiarium. National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden, Netherlands. 1-2 century AD
Bronze figure of retiarius. 1-2 century A.D. British Museum, London.
Fragment of a bas-relief with the battle of retiarius, 1-2 century AD.
Bas-relief with gladiators. Necropolis in Kibyra, Burdur Museum. 2-3 century AD
Bas-relief with gladiators. Necropolis in Kibyra, Burdur Museum. 2-3 century AD
Bas-relief with a retiarium. National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden, Netherlands. 1-2 century AD
Terracotta oil lamp with retiarium. Gallo-Roman Museum, gladiatorial scene, Fourviere Gallo-Roman Museum, Lyon
Mosaic with Retiarius the Numidian. 1-2 century AD
Retiary. 1-2 century AD, 72 mm, bronze. Hixenbaugh Ancient Art Gallery, New York
Bronze statuette with retiarius. 1-3 century AD
Retiarius is left-handed. The bas-relief was found in Chester, England. Walden Museum. 2nd century AD
Oil lamp with retiarium. Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne, 1st-2nd century AD
Roman glass with green glaze, decorated with scenes of gladiatorial fights, here secutor and retiarius: circa 2nd century AD