Gladiators were not only slaves, prisoners of war or criminals; they could also be free citizens of Rome, eager to gain wealth or the opportunity to win fame as a good warrior. However, there were cases when, paradoxically, the profession of a gladiator, among whom most were slaves, was one of the options not to become a slave.
Such a case concerned Marcus Attilius, who was a free Roman citizen. Because of the debts that burdened him and would probably lead him into a state of slavery sooner or later, Marcus decided to take the profession of a gladiator to get money to pay off his debts. He fought as murmillo and was equipped with a sword, a rectangular shield with a rounded shape, a helmet and a quilted fabric protector covering the entire arm up to the wrist. He was a man at a young age, he received the title “tiro”, which was given to gladiators who are just beginning their careers. In his first fight, he was immediately thrown into deep water, because his opponent was a gladiator belonging to the emperor Nero – Hilarus, who already had 14 fights and won 12 of them. Everyone naturally condemned Marcus Attilius to some defeat with an arena veteran, but this, to everyone’s amazement, began his career with a bang and achieved his great victory over Hilarus, causing considerable shock among the audience, and also aroused great admiration for him. Later, he fought with another favourite of the audience – Raecius Felix, who won 12 fights from the government, and who also had to acknowledge his superiority. Marcus Attilius gained huge fame and money, so he managed to achieve his goal, for which he became a gladiator.
Marcus Attilius made a great impression among the audience thanks to his fights, he also had to arouse the admiration of an artist who immortalized his fights and achievements during his graffiti career in Pompeii, which was discovered in 2007. On graffiti we can notice the letter “V” next to Attilius (vicit), which meant victory, and with Raecius Felix the letter “M” (missus), which meant failure and pardon.