The Hunger Games is a great book trilogy. I just finished it last week and I am actually happy that Hollywood is releasing a movie of the first book (expect sequels) and they seem to be holding close to the story and themes in the books. It's no secret that scattered throughout the trilogy are myriad references to Roman culture. I'll touch on the obvious, but I think you might enjoy some of the more obscure references and how this adds another layer to the underlying world of the stories. If you have enjoyed the books or plan to see the movie, read on, I think you might be intrigued at just how detailed the author, Suzanne Collins, is with her historical references.
If you haven't read them, "The Hunger Games" is a sci-fi book trilogy set a few hundred years into the future of North America. The world has survived several catastrophes and some technology has been lost while other technologies have been adapted as needed (fascinating article about that). There is advanced medicine, cloaked flying ships, and the ability to produce genetically manipulated animals, for example. It's not post-apocalyptic exactly, more like a world that has survived several catastrophic events and changed as time progressed, while the world population has shrunk considerably, I don't think it was due to any one apocalyptic event. The population is divided into distinct "Districts" that produce raw goods under the heavy hand of the all powerful Capital city. It tells a story common to many sci-fi books... a cautionary tale of what humans in the future could be like if they fail to learn from human history and naively choose to repeat it.
The author pays homage to and incorporates many, many themes and allusions into the books. There are the references to reality TV, the invasion of Bagdad, a nod to both Bradbury and Orwell, a little Spartacus, and reference to the American colonies. The most intriguing part though is that the books make no secret of the references to Rome and Roman culture (as well as a little Greek storytelling influence from Theseus).
It is in many ways these books are a modern allegory to Rome and I find that completely fascinating. A few of the references are obvious, but to those unfamiliar with the culture and history of Rome, many will seem unfamiliar or obscure. That is, you probably missed them altogether. The books are told from a 1st person perspective and you only know what the protagonist knows. I think the books actually take on a deeper meaning when put up against this tapestry of history and some parts of the Hunger Games world the author chooses to not elaborate on become much more intricate when you see the historical allusions. There are indeed references to Gladiators and some people find the "children as gladiators" angle in the book to be very off-putting. To be fair the stories are much more nuanced than that and a lot of the plot doesn't directly involve the gladiator-like "Hunger Games". The author's characterization, plot, and style don't dwell on the gruesome, but it is in there. It's a bleak, gritty world she has created, but not horrific.
As a disclaimer, I am no Roman scholar, but for the last year I have been working on the development a game called Coliseum about Roman Gladiators. It's a great game and has kept me in constant immersion in books and facts about Rome and Gladiators. This immersion in Roman culture caused a lot of the subtle Roman references in the books to jump out at me a bit and what I noticed, I am happy to share. Other blogs and articles have probably touched on this subject, but not in any great detail. I want to get into the specifics of the Gladiator and Arena references, as well as more general similarities to Roman culture. You might be surprised how much the author packed in there.
I don't want to ruin the books for anyone, but I will be exploring the world of the Hunger Games and making comparisons to Roman culture and specifically Gladiators. I will try to be generic as possible. You will come away with an overview of the world, locations, and some names, but not the specific characters and hopefully I will reveal nothing about what actually happens in the plot of any of the books. You will be more familiar with the world and places and culture that reference back to Rome when you do read it though. If you want to explore the books for the first time entirely in the dark, then stop here, go read them first, and come back. Just do it soon if you want to avoid spoilers. There is a movie coming out this week based on the first book so you might want to turn off the TV and avoid the mall, teenagers, and social networking sites too.
PART TWO -- Society and Culture and What Not--
This seems to be the first Roman "thing" people jump on in the books. "Those names are Roman in origin." Yes, yes they are. And they work well. Most of the characters who are citizens from "The Capital" (and pretty much only these characters) have actual Roman names (Caesar, Portia, Venia, Octavia, Flavius, Seneca, Tigris, Claudius, Plutarch, etc.) and both Cinna and Coriolanus seem to have Roman names with a deeper historical reference to actual people. Names like Alma Coin are also interestingly historical. Besides the Capital, there are also several "Districts" and people from these have non-Roman names. This seems to indicate that the Districts are more like what the conquered Provinces were to Rome. This blog explores the meanings of the names more in depth if you are curious, but you know... spoilers.
We'll just get this out of the way. Yes, there is a scene where many of the characters ride through the city center on chariots pulled by four horses. Along with the names mentioned above, it's a very neat (and obvious) Roman reference. In Rome, emperors, returning generals, senators, and sometimes even popular gladiators would ride through the city in a chariot. It was a way to make yourself known, win the approval of the masses and was a very public spectacle. It works well in the books too. Chariots used in this way were like the modern day red carpet extravaganzas (they should really start using chariots at the Oscars,just sayin'). Interestingly, they have cars and planes in Panem too, but chariots are used in this instance as part of the Hunger Games media spectacle. Historically, using chariots or not, gladiators were paraded through the streets on the day of the fights as a way of drawing the crowds to the event.
The Capital is the actual name of the ruling city of the country of Panem, where the books take place. It is very much an allegory of Rome. The people there are wealthy, concerned with appearance and parties, and hold all the positions of real power.
Rome was a slave empire. The entire economy was held up by slave labor, but this had a downside, it meant those at the top, the middle class and wealthy citizens who lived in Rome and the other large cities, were basically unemployed, had little to do, and were often bored. To keep them from revolting, Rome would hold constant entertainment: chariot races, gladiator fights, parties, festivals, etc.
Panem itself is a reference to the latin word for bread and the method by which Rome kept it's citizens docile was through the use of food and entertainment (panem et circenses). The Hunger games are just as much about appeasing the Capital citizens as anything to do with keeping the Districts oppressed. Indicating that one main theme in the books is a direct reference to this key Roman practice.
In Panem, only the people of the Capital seem to be treated as actual citizens, the Districts are treated like provinces. The taxes collected from the conquered Roman provinces in the form of raw goods, money, and the direct labor of slaves were what enabled Rome itself to live a life of such splendor and excess. This is seen in Panem as well.
Little things such as comments made by Capital citizens, overeating at a party and then vomiting the food up ---just to eat more, and the remark two characters make that their displays of affection are mild by Capital standards, all reinforce the ancient Roman views of food, parties, public appearance, human rights, and sexuality evident in The Capital of Panem. As the books progress you learn more about the Capital and it's culture and secrets, but it is still mostly just alluded to in passing. It does sound more and more like Rome though.
Panem is divided into several social classes. The same hierarchical and fairly ridged social classes that divided Rome. In ancient Rome you had the wealthy at the top called Patricians then Plebians and Slaves. Social status was carefully maintained and determined if you could own property and if you were considered an actual citizen. The Patricians were the wealthy aristocrats and inclusion in this group was mostly hereditary. Most Patricians lived in Rome or other wealthy cities. In Panem, they all live in the Capital. In The Capital there are those less wealthy citizens who run shops and keep things like trains running on time. Just as in Rome where there were some jobs in the government and temples that could only be held by a Patrician. These people are still citizens and possibly while middle class in practice, are still Patrician. In Panem, they still have all the benefits of living in the Capital as citizens.
Below that on the Roman hierarchy are the Plebians (or just Plebs). This is basically everyone else except slaves, but can be divided into distinct groups. The wealthier merchant class and the basic poor laborers. This is seen in Panem in several places. In the Districts, there are the merchants such as the Baker and Butcher (and to some extent the Mayor) who are also seen as distinctly more affluent, able to feed themselves regular meals, but are by no means wealthy. They are counted among the laborers and in Rome would have been considered and treated as Plebians, but not slaves. In Panem, there isn't really a middle class. The merchants are still barely above poverty and are still non-citizens of the Capital. Part of the country of Panem, yes, but not the affluent Capital.
Slavery in both Rome and Panem is evident in two distinct roles. The basic laborers in the mines and fields are forced to de facto slavery by station though not by name. Sometimes at gunpoint, other times with the fact that in each District there are only specific jobs you can have and if you don't do them at the wage offered, you don't eat. Just like in ancient Rome where slaves did the farming, mining, and building for little more than food and housing, often inadequate.
Slavery in Rome had another component. Slaves filled skilled roles as well such as shopkeepers, architects, artists, scribes, and personal attendants. In the Capital this is the role of the Avox. These are "traitors" who are forced into slavery and act as the basic servants in the Capital. they do all of the hard labor and dirty jobs as well as act as personal and household attendants. The Avox have their tongues removed so they can't talk. In some ways, their close proximity to the Capital citizens and maiming of the body (by removal of the tongue) suggests a variation on the Roman slave eunuchs. (If you don't know what a eunuch, I suggest you look it up yourself.)
The Hunger Games does not explore the government of Panem in any great detail. You have the President who rules from the Capital and each District has a Mayor. Nothing else is really revealed, except that the Gamemakers wear purple robes (I'll explore that later).
The President, if you read closely, has been in power for decades. He isn't an elected president as you might think of in a democratic country. He is in all respects a ruling Emperor who came to power using military force. The term "President" just seems to be handed down as a title of power form the past. The books also reveal that power in the Capital is maintained through intrigue, influence, poison, scandal, money, etc. all very Roman in their description as the same things happened in ancient Rome with the rise and fall of Caesar and the various Roman Emperors that followed. The Hunger Games books make no mention of any kind of Senate or ruling body, though there is reference to other powerful, wealthy individuals that seem to have influence.
Roman Provinces were ruled by Governors who reported directly to Rome (think Pontius Pilate from biblical reference) and Roman towns were controlled by Magistrates who performed many of the day-to-day enforcement or Roman law and maintained order in towns. Since each District is mostly just made up of one large town, the Mayors in Panem fill both of these roles perfectly.
Panem has one military/police force called the Peacekeepers. They seem to be the standing army of the all-controlling Capital. Interestingly, you seem to have to be a citizen of the Capital, or from a closely and highly favored District, to serve in the Peacekeepers. The Roman equivalent was the Roman army unit, the Legions were made up of Legionaries and their officers, Centurions and Generals. To serve in the Roman army, you had to be a Roman citizen. There is no great description of the organization of the Peacekeepers military unit across Panem, but there is one very specific reference to the Roman Legions. The fact that Peacekeepers must commit to 20 years in the service and can't marry during that time-- the Exact official requirement of a Roman soldier.
Also interesting is that the Tributes from the "Military District" will volunteer to enter the gladiatorial-like Hunger Games instead of being forced to enter. Something Roman citizens would sometimes do when enrollment in the Legions became mandatory. You could escape 20 years as a soldier if you were a successful gladiator and you might have the same odds of survival. A successful gladiator, however, would have a lot more money and fame than a career soldier.
The reference to a standing, working military base located outside the Capital might also be a reference to the fact that in ancient Rome the Legions could not enter Rome, the ruling city, for fear of a military coup. (perhaps you have heard reference to Caesar crossing the Rubicon? That's when that riule was broken.) The only soldiers allowed in Rome were the Praetorian Guard and they were the personal bodyguard/police force under direct command of the Emperor who also used them to control the capitol citizens.
Yes, even mundane things like the layout of the town and cities are direct references to Rome. It doesn't seem unfamiliar though as many cities in the world now follow the Roman grid design with the city square and government buildings in the center. Why don't we use a circular city design in North America like those often seen in classic European fortifications, some Native American tribes, and even in the Middle East? Because Rome conquered so much of the world and influenced so much architecture. The towns in Panem are very specifically described... and they are very Roman.
There is a town center, a square surrounded by the local businesses and contains the legitimate market. It is bordered by the Justice Building. The Capital also has the "City Center" which seems similar on a grander scale (as it was in Rome). The rest of the town is on a grid and people live in small houses or apartments. There is a nice section of town off to the side where larger houses are situated and where the Victors of the games live.
In the Roman Empire, towns varied in size, but were very uniform. They had a central square called the Forum where all business and most politics took place. It was surrounded by temples and businesses and often dominated by a large marble building called the Basilica. In the Roman era, these Basilica were official government buildings with courts and law offices, where contracts were signed and the Magistrate worked and received official visitors from Rome. It usually overlooked the Forum and had a raised platform for addressing the crowds (just like the Justice Building). The main population also lived in town in small houses or more likely apartment buildings. Wealthy citizens might have a large house in town (a Villa) and sometimes a country estate as well.
Luck, Gambling and Religion:
One thing The Hunger Games doesn't have that the Romans did is a major pantheon of gods and a superstitious populous. In fact religion of any kind seems to be entirely absent in Panem. However, there is a catch phrase used frequently, "May the odds be ever in your favor" and this hearkens directly to Roman culture. Romans were concerned with fate, luck, odds, etc. almost to a fault. They believed that your life was fated from birth, but could sometimes be changed by the gods and your own actions. They spent a lot of time with soothsayers trying to see this fated path. Romans were also big gamblers. They had several different deities that dealt directly with luck and fate; Fortuna, Nemesis, and the Fates. In fact all of the gods could interfere with your life and influence your luck. Sometimes when Roman writers and poets talked about Fortune or Luck they are referring to a personified deity, not just the generic concept.
In The Hunger Games, the Capital seems to spend a disproportional amount of time gambling on the games and worrying about odds. In the Districts there is a lot of discussion about the unlucky ones who get chosen for the Hunger Games and those lucky ones who survive, etc. If anything I would say the religion or at least superstitions of Panem involve Luck (in the Capital, beauty might also be considered a religion). The main character sometimes dismisses this dependence on luck, but many of the other characters don't.
PART THREE --The Games, The Arena, and Gladiator Types--
All of that cultural stuff aside, what I find particularly neat about The Hunger Games is all the gladiator references. It is often more subtle than you realize. In The Hunger Games, there are a type of gladiator contest called... The Hunger Games of course. The Capital forces two people form each district, called Tributes, to fight to the death in an Arena. It is a very modern update on the idea of a gladiator fight. The crowd watched via TV and the arena is much more like something from The Truman Show where the "Gamemakers" have complete control over the cameras and the Arena conditions, but not the players. It's more of a cross between a gladiator free-for-all, wilderness survival, and a reality show.
Ancient gladiator fights varied a lot, but the basic premise was pretty close to modern day wrestling shows such as the WWE... with the addition of deadly bladed weapons. The primary purpose of the fights was to entertain, not to kill. A lot of fights didn't end in death, despite what is shown in movies. The professionally trained and popular Gladiators were expensive and time consuming to replace. As long as they put on a good show that lasted for a while and bled a little, they were often spared. Gladiators were even trained to die properly for the crowd when the time came. Bad shows would end in death and accidents were frequent. Gladiators would sometimes fight in teams and often fights were balanced between gladiator types. Roman crowds loved to see a fast gladiator type against a slower more armored one. There were also elaborate sets, forests, water hazards, structures, wild animal hunts, blindfolds, feats of skill, and even all out naval battles with water flooding the entire arena floor. There were fights where they just put a sword into a slave's hand and pushed them into the arena. A lot of what actually happened is lost to history of course.
The Tributes in The Hunger Games, the teenagers who have to go to the Arena, are not just tossed in unprepared. They have a support team over the course of several days to help them prepare. There are also people in charge of doing nothing but preparing and running the Arena where the fights takes place. Not surprisingly some of these roles all have direct Roman counterparts.
The Gamemakers seem to be a generic term that encompass several historic rolls. Gladiator shows, called Munera, had a main sponsor, in later Roman periods this was the Emperor (or government). However, he sometimes did little more than pay the bills. In Rome there was an Editor or Munerator who would watch the games and make life and death decisions about the contestants based on the whims of the crowds. It could be the Emperor, or another powerful individual, Senator, Magistrate, or sponsor. In the Hunger Games, this seems to be the role of the Head Gamemaker.
There was also the roll of the Impresario. These individuals were charged with the production of the entertainment in the Arena. If the fight needed an artificial set, or special animals, pairings of specific types of fighters, or even a grand reenactment of a military victory, complete with historic costumes, they were in charge of putting on the show. Preferably making is as entertaining as possible and within budget. The role of Impresario varied widely, but generally speaking, they were simply the producers of the spectacle. On the floor of the Arena was also depicted in historical pictures a referee or umpire called a Rudarius (one who holds the long wooden staff or sword) who had some role in making sure fights had an element of "fairness". Basically they didn't want the fight to be over too quickly as a longer fight means more entertainment. Sometimes the fighters were even allowed to rest and stop for a drink. The Impresario and the Rudarius are the Gamemakers in every respect.
It is also worth noting that the Gamemakers in The Hunger Games wear purple. In Rome only the Emperor could wear a toga entirely of purple, but the Senators wore clothes fringed with purple. This signifies in the books at least that the Gamemakers might be some kind of prestigious position either politically or socially with status similar to that of a Senator in ancient Rome. They also spend a lot of their time at banquets or parties eating and drinking wine, so it fits.
The Mentors in the books oversee the competitors and help them prepare, talk with sponsors, and even help them in the Arena to a very limited extent. The historical role they mimic is that of the Lanista. Now a Lanista would often own the gladiators or their contracts and made money from their fights or compensation on their deaths. They were the owners of a sports teams, if you will. On a day-to-day basis though, they made sure the gladiators were trained properly and well fed, similar to modern athletes. They also arranged public appearances, because a popular (or at least familiar) gladiator would gain more favor with the crowd and possibly earn their sympathy if they had a bad fight. Lanista wanted their gladiators to survive. It was both a business and a personal investment for them. Powerful Lanista could own their own schools and even fill the roll of Impresario. Mostly though, they were the coaches and mentors. The most common profession for a retired gladiator, one who "won" the games, was to become a Lanista. The Mentor you see most in the book is very concerned with the Tribute's survival, but it isn't clear if the Mentors from other districts aren't more concerned with the rewards to be gained for them and their District if their Tribute wins.
Worth touching on is the fact that the Tributes had access to professional and knowledgeable trainers. This is also a historic role. It could be filled by the Lanista, but more commonly they hired professional ex-soldiers and ex-gladiators to act as trainers for the new gladiators. I believe in some references these were called Doctore. Other times sometimes just Lanista or just "trainers".
In the Hunger Games books, we meet several former Victors. These are people who have won the games and are then rewarded with food, money, and large homes. They also take on the role of Mentor for the new Tributes each year. Notably, they aren't treated as citizens of the Capital, although they do spend a lot of time there and are well known to the Capital citizens. It is important to note the historical similarities here to that of the successful gladiator.
A gladiator could generally retire after five years or if they gained fame with the crowds and frequently won fights in the Arena, the Editor might grant them a Rudis. This was a symbolic wooden sword signifying that they were free from their contract. Gladiators who won their freedom were also called Rudarius. They had "won" the games similar to how the Victors in The Hunger Games win. However, it goes deeper. Retired gladiators would often become trainers or Lanista, but sometimes they were eager to go back into the Arena to fight again, being unable to give up the blood lust or possibly the attention of the crowds. This is seen in the books among the Victors. Retired gladiators also much sought after as entertainers and were offered large sums of money or coerced into going back in and fighting again. Some gladiators won Rudis multiple times over. The easiest and best way for an Editor to please the crowd was by bringing back the most popular and famed of all gladiators.
True to the Roman ideals of worshiping god-like beautiful people, the most beautiful and impressive gladiators would often earn more gifts and more attention from the populous. Gladiators were even known to provide product endorsements. Romans also placed much value on oratory skills and showmanship. Gladiators, especially famous retired ones, were much sought after frequently by wealthy Romans as sexual liaisons. Gladiators were the movie stars and sports heroes of the day, but with less freedom as they were still treated as second class citizens. If they weren't a citizen before becoming a gladiator, they wouldn't become one when they earned their freedom. They were no longer considered slaves or criminals, but freedmen, just not citizens of Rome. These elements are all evident in the books.
--Buildings and Places--
There are several Arenas discussed in the Hunger Games. They are specially designed for each annual game and only used once. They vary in size from large to small, but all seem to be round. They are designed to give the crowds, watching through the eyes of the cameras, the best possible vantage of the action. The Gamemakers control the traps, water, temperature, and other things in order to manipulate the drama and entertainment. There are corridors underneath where tables and animals can be raised and lowered from the Arena. All said, the similarities to ancient arenas are present in more than just the name.
Rome had many different Arenas as each major town had their own. They were called Amphitheaters and the sand floor where the fights happened was the Arena, though the name has become interchangeable. Most of them were round, and made out of wood, stone, or both. The most famous and largest of course is the Coliseum in Rome. It also has corridors underneath and on the sides where things could be raised, lowered, and introduced into the Arena. The Roman arenas were very much like a modern stadium, while in the Hunger Games the Arena is a high-tech modern biosphere. Little things like the use of trumpets and the arrangement of the fighters standing still before the signal is given for the games to start have some historical significance as well.
The Cornucopia is also worth mentioning here. While I don't think it was ever used in the Roman arenas, the concept of the Cornucopia, which we often see at Thanksgiving, has a different origin story in both Greek and Roman myth.
This is where the Tributes live, eat, sleep, and train leading up to the games. In Rome, a gladiator school was called a Ludus. The Ludus is where gladiators lived, ate, slept, and trained under the watchful eye of the Lanista and Doctore trainers. Most cities had one atleast one. They were often close to the Amphitheater. There were also medical facilities and medical staff available to help heal injuries. Gladiators were an expensive investment. The largest Ludus was in Rome and was called the Ludus Magnus, which had tunnels that opened right into the Coliseum itself. It's interesting to note that the Training Center in Panem doesn't border the Arenas, but the Tributes never really leave the Training Center until they go to the tunnels that lead directly into the Arena.
In Panem, the Remake Center is where the Tributes go to be "beautified". The Remake Center seems to hold the same role as the ancient Bath Houses, which were more like full feature beauty spas and gossip emporiums. While not social centers in Panem, the Remake Centers are probably where the populace goes to meet the hygienic/appearance expectations of society. In the Capital, cosmetic surgery and personal appearance is taken to a level far above what we see ancient Rome and even our modern world. However, the are a few key phrases that are with mentioning from these passages. The books describe one of the characters having all the hair on her legs removed... not too different from the modern North America really. Then it goes on to say that all the hair on her arms and torso are removed too, which isn't as common in our modern society. This tiny addition is a very Roman concept and you might have missed it. Romans saw body hair as barbaric and removed it from their arms, legs, torso, and faces. Men didn't wear beards in most of Roman history. It's an interesting little addition to the book.
|They removed all of our body hair. Now where are those weapons?|
Finally, I'll talk about the Gladiator fighting styles. In Rome, there were distinctive fighting styles that gladiators trained in and these were distinguished by specific weapons, shields, and strategy. In The Hunger Games, there are no shields, but there are many, many weapons. The choice of weapons seems to indicate a direct reference to some of the ancient Roman gladiator styles. It is important to note that while the books will refer to "a pile of various weapons," The ones described in detail are Roman in nature. There are no European polarms, or claymores evident here. Also missing are Japanese and Chinese style weapons. There is mention of throwing knives and axes, snares, and a few other things, but most of the weapons reference back to Greece and Rome. There is a "short, sturdy sword" that sound like a Gladius and daggers, spears, bows, clubs, and tridents.
Now, many of the Tributes were not extensively trained and just used whatever they could get their hands on quickly, including rocks. There were other Tributes that the books described as having extensive training at their home districts from their Mentors and these are called "Careers". Interestingly, these professional, career fighters (even given the choice any of the weapons), all seem to conform loosely to a popular gladiator fighting style.
Instead of trying to tell you what characters I though were using a specific fighting style, I'll just list the ones I noticed while reading and you can assign them to characters as you see fit.
Hoplomachus - They used spears over about anything else and would have knives in reserve as back-up weapons. If you have seen a Greek Hoplite warrior, say the Spartans from the movie 300, then you can just say that this was the Roman Arena version of that.
Murmillo/Provocator/Secutor - Were the heavily armored types similar to the heavy Roman infantry soldier. They generally used a short Gladius sword and the heaviest and best armor and largest shields in the Arena. Secutors would leave off the heavy leg armor so they could move around faster.
Threax/Thracian - Used very light armor and relied on quick movement and their ability to dodge. They had a curved sword, but were also very commonly depicted with knives and a small shield for deflecting atttacks. Actually, most gladiators kept a knife in reserve, but this is the only class that would sometimes fight with a knife as their primary weapon of choice.
Retiarius - The most recognizable and iconic of all Gladiator styles. They used a Trident (a three pronged fishing spear that was also a weapon) and a Net intended to entangle opponents. Sometimes a cord would be tied to the trident or net to make it easy to draw back and use again. If you noticed any styles right off in the books, it was probably this one.
Dimachaerus - Used two swords or weapons of the same type, one in each hand.
Cestus - These were a type of fist-fighter, brawler, wrestler, or boxer.
Venator - Those trained specifically to hunt wild and exotic animals, usually with a bow and arrow, sometimes with horses. These hunts were usually a separate event from the Gladiator duels and Venators weren't considered gladiators, though the Romans weren't immune to putting a fighter wielding a bow or other ranged weapon such as a sling or javelin into a free-for-all event just to "see what happened".
Animals - Yes, the Roman arena had exotic animals that were often killed for sport or performed as gladiators in their own way. Lions, tigers, wolves, bears, rhinos, crocodiles, chimps, baboons, and a dozen others. It's worth noting that in Panem, they don't put wild animals in the arena. They genetically engineer exotic creatures for fighting. Which is about the same thing. (Here is a list of muttations for reference... and spoilers.)
If you want to know more about Gladiators in Rome, there is an excellent source here and on wikipedia. If you are a high school student looking for some book report material or something though, I recommend you check out one of the many books on Rome and Gladiators at the library. The resources online are horrible compared to the excellent and accurate books available, trust me, I have looked.
That's about it. Remember, May Fortune forever favor the bold.