A gladiatrix (pl. gladiatrices) was the female counterpart to the male gladiator, an armed fighter who engaged in violent combat with humans or animals for the entertainment of audiences in the arenas of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire. Though unusual, gladiatrices are attested in archaeology and literature.
The Larinum decree under Tiberius banned senators' daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters, and "any female whose husband or father or grandfather, whether paternal or maternal or brother had ever possessed the right of sitting in the seats reserved for the equites" from training or making paid appearances as gladiators, implying though not confirming that some females did already appear as gladiators. Their first attested appearance is under Nero, at the games organised by Patrobius for Tiridates I of Armenia. There is also a reference in Petronius's Satyricon - possibly based on a factual show - to a female essedarius, or one who fought from a Celtic-style chariot.
The Emperor Domitian liked to stage torch-lit fights between dwarves and women, according to Suetonius in The Twelve Caesars. From depictions it appears they fought bare-chested and rarely wore helmets, no matter what type of gladiator they fought as. Women apparently fought at night, and the fact that this coincided with the main events of a Games indicates the possible importance or rarity of female gladiators. Most modern scholars consider female gladiators a novelty act due to the sparse writings about them, but writer Amy Zoll notes that the fact that those ancient historians that do mention them do so casually may suggest that they were "more widespread than direct evidence might otherwise indicate." The author of an inscription found in Pompeii boasts of being the first editor (promoter or sponsor) to bring female gladiators to the town.