The Samnite was an early class of gladiator, quite popular during the period of the Roman Republic. Eventually, other gladiator types joined the roster, such as the Gaul-inspired Murmillo and the Thracian-inspired Thraex.
Under the reign of Emperor Augustus, Samnium became an ally and integral part of the Roman Empire (all Italians had by this point gained Roman citizenship). Around this time, the Samnite gladiator fell out of favor, probably because insulting the Samnites was no longer seen as acceptable behavior, and the Samnite was thus replaced by similarly armed gladiators, including the Hoplomachus and the Secutor.
The Samnite is armed with:
- Gladius: Roman short sword.
- Scutum: large shield (rectangular or oval; often in the traditional asymmetrical Samnite shape).
- Greave: leg guard (often only worn on the left leg, as was common for Samnite warriors).
- Plumed Helmet.
In addition to this gear, real Samnite warriors wore a cuirass (the traditional Oscan square or triple-disc pectoral) over the chest and carried a shield which tapered at the bottom and flared at the top, to better protect the chest and shoulders.
In the series, the Samnite reflects this by being the only gladiator type seen to wear body armor, adding:
- Cuirass: Protective breastplate/pectoral.
Although individual gladiators of a single class might fight with widely different gear, in general, the Samnite fought in the gear of a warrior from Samnium: a short sword (Gladius), a rectangular shield (Scutum), a greave (ocrea), and a helmet. The helmet had a crest, a rim, a visor, and a plume (galea); this last element gave "an imposing appearance". The Samnite's greave was worn on the left leg and reached to just below the knee. It was made of leather and sometimes had a metal rim. He also wore an ankleband on the right ankle. The Samnite's sword arm was protected by an arm guard (manica); this became a common piece of equipment for most gladiators. The sword was the Samnite's most common weapon (the word gladiator comes from the Latin gladius, "sword"), but some seem to have fought with a lance instead.