This set of gladiators is something different from the normal military subjects, but it illustrates a subject that has considerable popular appeal. That appeal was most recently apparent with the enormous success of the film 'Gladiator' (2000) by Ridley Scott, and from the box artwork and some of the figures it is apparent that this film inspired this set of figures.
Though there is much that we do not know about gladiators, we do know that there were four main types, each with their own characteristics in terms of weapons and costume. Several other minor 'specialist' types also existed, and costume, weapons and 'novelty' items would be varied from time to time to provide a different spectacle for the crowds. When comparing the Orion figures with the known facts, however, it quickly seems apparent that the creators were much more concerned with depicting the Hollywood film than the historical individuals. Indeed, several of the figures are easily recognisable from the film, and one figure is even identified on the box as 'Maximus'. Consequently many of the historical errors in the film (which is after all entertainment rather than documentary) have been reproduced by Orion.
The different types of gladiator are not really recognisable in these figures, though the one with the net is probably meant to be a retiarius. Most contemporary depictions of gladiators show them wearing quilted fabric arm & leg defences, yet none of these figures have such protection. Also, gladiators are usually shown barefoot, but nearly all of these figures appear to have some sort of shoe as no toes are sculpted. The armour, particularly the helmet, comes in many forms, as indeed it did in reality, and several figures have animal heads and other devices which would have helped give them a 'character' much like modern wrestlers.
The film shows large numbers of gladiators engaged in re-enactments of historic battles. In fact, they would have engaged in one-to-one combat with each other, and it would have been the noxii (untrained criminals from the local prison) who would have performed this act, which basically meant waiting until everyone had been killed except the last man. Gladiators were stars, and could be extremely valuable, and most were not pitted against wild animals, but a lion and tiger are included in this set. The figure lying on his back (fourth row) may well have been vanquished by his opponent, and seems to have one finger raised - a sign of submission and for the umpire to stop the contest. One figure is identified as a slave, and is in chains, so he could well have been (briefly) part of the wild animal show. When the disposable noxii were put against wild animals they were not given armour, as the whole point was to execute them.
The set also includes a spectator standing shouting, another seated (and giving the thumbs up gesture) a trumpeter and an Emperor.
All the figures are well carved and with interesting detail. Poses are good, and the animation is well done. There are two wounded gladiators, one of whom is holding his wrist where his hand has evidently been severed, and both illustrate the very fine facial expressions that the sculptor has achieved. As we have said, this is more of a set depicting the film we all enjoyed and less one depicting the historically accurate gladiators, but it is great fun. In our review set there was also a joke figure of a gladiator with German World War II steel helmet and a pistol, though this may not be included in all sets.