The ruthless, bloody and lonely lives of gladiators have been revealed in a remarkable reconstruction of one of their Austrian training grounds.
Discovered at the site of Carnuntum outside Vienna, the gladiator school is the first one to be uncovered outside the city of Rome.
Now hidden beneath a field, the school has been entirely mapped using non-invasive techniques such as aerial surveys and ground-penetrating radar.
The discovery, reported by the journal Antiquity, reveals intricate details about the daily routine of these famous warriors during the second century A.D
The so-called ludus âis on a scale to rival the famous ludus magnus, the gladiatorial school behind the Coliseum in Rome, the archaeologists, led by Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, said in a statement.
It is thought at least 80 gladiators lived at the school, separated from the town of Carnuntum, which was founded on the Danube River.
Similar to a fortress prison, they slept in 32-square-foot (3-square-metre) cells, usually in isolation, and sometimes with a roommate.
The school had heated floors for winter training, baths, infirmaries, plumbing, as well as a graveyard close by. Gladiators trained every day for public fights in an amphitheatre.
Imaging equipment showed the structures still to be excavated as having the similar building hallmarks to the Collisseum and the Ludus Magnus gladiatorial ampitheatre, both in Rome.
The details contradict the popular view of gladiators as travelling around the country for fights, as seen in the film Gladiator.
The resulting archaeological maps and plans of individual buildings, streets and Roman infrastructure allow the virtual reconstruction of the city layout and the development of ancient land - and townscapes in two and three dimensions, said the team from Austria, Belgium and Germany.
Although some 100 ludi are thought to have existed in the Roman Empire, almost all have been destroyed or built over.
Excavations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries revealed many elements of the Carnuntum complex including a legionary fortress and town, but the ludus was only discovered in 2011.
A spokesman for the Roemisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, one of the institutes involved in finding and evaluating the discovery said: 'A gladiator school was a mixture of a barracks and a prison, kind of a high-security facility.
'The fighters were often convicted criminals, prisoners-of-war, and usually slaves.'
The main courtyard is ringed by living quarters and other buildings and contains a round, 19-square metre training area - a small stadium overlooked by wooden seats and the terrace of the chief trainer.
The institute believes the training area was where the men's 'market value and in end effect their fate' was decided.
Carnuntum park head Franz Hume added: 'If they were successful, they had a chance to advance to 'superstar' status - and maybe even achieve freedom.'
Gladiators took their name from the Latin word gladius, for sword. Some were volunteers who risked their legal and social standing and their lives by appearing in the arena.
Most were slaves, schooled under harsh conditions and socially marginalised.
Irrespective of their origin, gladiators offered audiences an example of Rome's martial ethics and, in fighting or dying well, they could inspire admiration and popular acclaim.
They were celebrated in art, and their value as entertainers was commemorated in precious and commonplace objects throughout the Roman world.
The games reached their peak between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD, and they persisted not only throughout the social and economic crises of the declining Roman state but even after Christianity became the official religion in the 4th century AD.
Christian emperors continued to sponsor such entertainments until at least the late 5th century AD, when the last known gladiator games took place.
The international team now plan to continue mapping efforts at Carnuntum, to reveal even more details about the brutal lives of these ancient warriors.