“In general, females were buried with a wider variety and larger quantity of artifacts than males, and seven female graves contained iron swords or daggers, bronze arrowheads, and whetstones to sharpen the weapons. Some scholars have argued that weapons found in female burials served a purely ritual purpose, but the bones tell a different story. The bowed leg bones of one 13- or 14-year-old girl attest a life on horseback, and a bent arrowhead found in the body cavity of another woman suggested that she had been killed in battle. The Pokrovka women cannot have been the Amazons of Greek myth- who were said to have lived far to the west- but they may have been one of many similar nomadic tribes who occupied the Eurasian steppes in the Early Iron Age.”
—Description of the Sarmatian burial mounds at Pokrovka, excavated by Russian and American archaeologists in 1992-95
A female gladiator is apparently a gladiatrix, plural gladiatrices. There, now that I’ve told you that, I’m free to use the word in the rest of this article. Archaeologists and classicists don’t disagree on whether or not there were female gladiators in ancient Rome. It’s clear from a number of contemporary accounts that there were. Just how rare they were is another question, depictions of them in physical form are very rare, but mentions of them in writing are much more conclusive. There are a number of recorded laws preventing high class women from training as gladiatrices, or banning female gladiatrices outright, opinionated poems calling on high class women to stop playing soldier by learning the fighting arts because no man would want them, and other casual mentions of their existence. The most visual evidence has, up until now, been a carved relief of “Amazon” and “Achillia,” the stage names of two gladiatrices who apparently both fought in heavy armor and received honorable discharges from the arena. But researchers have recently discovered what may be the second known depiction of a gladiatrix in history.