Helmet of a Thracian Gladiator

Troisième quart du Ier siècle ap. J.-C. Found in the gladiators’ barracks at Pompei, Campagna, southern Italy Campagna, southern Italy

This bronze helmet, richly decorated with a Gorgon’s and a griffin’s head, was probably used by Thracian gladiators during the parades preceding the games in the amphitheater at Pompeii, just before Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. The shape of the visor, which evolved over the course of the first century, is typical of the period. The eye openings have been replaced by a grill covering the upper part of the face, and plume holders have been added on either side of the helmet.

Armor discovered at Pompeii

This bronze helmet is one of a number of pieces of armor given in 1802 to the First Consul Bonaparte by Ferdinand IV, king of Naples. They were buried when Vesuvius erupted and the region of Naples was laid waste on 24 August, AD 79, but saw the light of day when excavations were carried out (1766-67) in the gladiators’ barracks at Pompeii. They were kept at Malmaison until the death of Josephine and thereafter entered the Durand collection (1814) and the Comte de Pourtalès collection (1825), before being purchased by the Musées Impériaux in 1865. Finally, they were transferred to the Louvre from the Musée des Antiquités Nationales at Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1892. The armor, which is richly embossed, was probably used in the parades that preceded the games in the arena.