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Five pairs of long greaves have been excavated from Pompeii, some of which are remarkably elaborate. This has led to conjecture that such equipment may have been worn only as parade armor in the procession (pompa) that preceded the games and not in the contests, themselves. The notion is supported by the fact that none of the pieces show the damage that would be expected in such an exchange.
On the other hand, the armor is similar to what is depicted in mosaics, and its extravagant decoration consistent with the theatrical nature of the show. Too, it offered effective protection, and the short stabbing swords and daggers of the gladiator presumably would have been directed to the exposed parts of the body, not to the armor, itself.
Reference: Das Spiel mit dem Tod: So Kämpften Roms Gladiatoren (2000) by Marcus Junkelmann.
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