Female gladiators (i.e., sing. gladiatrix, pl. gladiatrices) were popular with crowds until A.D. 202, when Septimus Severus outlawed fights between women. Prior to 202, matches were fought between female slaves (under Domitian) and surprise bouts between the pampered and aristocratic wives of the Senators (one of Nero's delights). Accounts of specific female gladiators are rare, save for the story of Achillia and Amazon.

These two women fought to a standstill in an arena in Halicarnassus, a city in Asia Minor. After fighting to exhaustion, they both stopped, removed their bronze helmets, and turned to the stands to hear their fate. The spectators cried out for mercy for the fighters, who stood their ground with dignity despite their wounds and fatigue.

The sponsor of the games announced that the lives of both women would be spared. At least, until their next fight.

Knowledge of this event comes from a memorial sculpture that can be seen today in the British Museum; the women are toned and muscular, with swords and shields at the ready. Given the rarity of such a reprieve, their fighting must have impressed all who saw it. Based on their armor and the cut of their shields, it is likely that the women were provocatrices, middleweight fighters whose weapons were shortswords and heavy shields.

Facts from: http://www.discover.com/dec_01/featglad.html

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