The Triumphant by Lesley Livingston: Real-Life Lady Gladiators

One of the coolest parts of The Valiant series by Lesley Livingston is the way it re-imagines ancient Rome to include the bad-assery of female gladiators. As we wrap-up our read-along of this series, and celebrate the recent release of the final book in the trilogy, The Triumphant, I thought it would be fun to explore what we DO know about ACTUAL, REAL-LIFE lady gladiators.

Yes. As much as the word of The Valiant is imagined, Livingston did find inspiration in stories about actual women in the gladiatorial arena.

Evidence Exists

There is very little evidence to support the idea of female gladiators (or gladiatrices), but some evidence does exist.

According to a 2012 article from National Geographic, there are at least two artistic representations of ancient female gladiators. One is a roughly 2000-year-old sculpture of a women holding what some researchers believe to be a weapon in her hand.

[Study author Alfonso] Manas believes the woman is holding a sica, a short, curved sword associated with a type of gladiator known as a thraex, or Thracian. Thraexes typically fought in plumed helmets, with small shields and metal leg guards called greaves. Their unarmored backs were particularly vulnerable—and were likely ripe targets for sica.

Previous researchers believe she was holding a tool used for cleaning the skin. But the study mentioned in this article points to the fact that (1) she’s not holding it like a cleaning tool, but rather striking a rather victorious pose and (2) if she’s getting clean, why is she wearing a loincloth?

The second artistic representation that seems to show female gladiators is this relief from the 1st or 2nd century A.D.:

The women facing off in this relief are identified as Amazon and Achillia, likely stage names referencing the mythical Amazon warriors and the ancient hero Achilles (respectively).

Erotic Performances?

Other evidence supporting the belief that female gladiators existed comes largely from eyewitness reports, with Roman elite writing about the fights they watched.

Many of the accounts refer to the female gladiatorial bouts as being “erotic” experiences — something Manas also refers to in his research.

“One of the rules of a gladiatorial fight was that women or men fought with bare chests,” Manas explained. “No doubt the particular appearance of female gladiators would also cause an erotic impact on viewers.”

Lady’s School for Gladiators?

In The Valiant series, Fallon and her fellow gladiatrices train in the Ludus Achillea — a school of sorts, for women gladiators.

But this sort of place probably only exists in the author’s imagination, as researchers have found no evidence that such schools existed — but rather, it’s more likely female gladiators trained under private instruction.

While there may not be much we know about real female gladiators, Livingston’s imagined gladiatrices are certainly worth a read. All three books in this trilogy are now available.

The Valiant

Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

The Defiant

The darling of the Roman Empire is in for the fight of her life.

Be brave, gladiatrix… And be wary. Once you win Caesar’s love, you’ll earn his enemies’ hate.

Fallon was warned.

Now she is about to pay the price for winning the love of the Roman people as Caesar’s victorious gladiatrix.

In this highly anticipated sequel to THE VALIANT, Fallon and her warrior sisters find themselves thrust into a vicious conflict with a rival gladiator academy, one that will threaten not only Fallon’s heart – and her love for Roman soldier Cai – but the very heart of the ancient Roman Empire.

When dark treachery and vicious power struggles threaten her hard-won freedom, the only thing that might help the girl known as Victrix save herself and her sisters is a tribe of long-forgotten mythic Amazon warriors.

The only trouble is, they might just kill her themselves first.

The Triumphant

The final book in the Valiant series takes Fallon and her warrior sisters on an epic journey from the corrupt Roman Republic to the wonder of the ancient world: Alexandria, Egypt.

“You are from a world, Fallon, that values honor over everything else. Rome is not that world.”

In the wake of their victorious fight to win back the Ludus Achillea, Fallon and her gladiatrix sisters have become the toast of the Republic. Only for Fallon, glory turns to ashes when she learns that Cai has been stripped of his Decurion rank and declared infamia, cast down to serve as one of Caesar’s gladiators. All because he chose his love for her over the life of his treacherous father during the ludus uprising.

But treachery in Rome runs far deeper than Fallon ever suspected. While she is fighting for Cai’s freedom, the unthinkable happens and the Republic begins to tear itself apart at the seams. In the chaos that follows, the Achillea gladiatrices lose any protection they might have had once and for all. They’re not the only ones.

When Fallon discovers that Cleopatra is in grave danger, she and her sister Sorcha rally their war band in an attempt to spirit the Queen of Aegypt out of Rome, embarking on a remarkable journey that will take them to Alexandria—the wonder of the ancient world—and beyond. Far beyond. Along the way, Fallon will have to decide where her heart truly lies, as well as what—and who—she is willing to sacrifice to get there.


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