"Actually, the use of this phrase as a "gladiator's salute" is a popular myth. It only occurs once in the whole of Roman literature (Suetonius' Life of the Divine Claudius, chapter 21), and was uttered by the condemned prisoners manning galleys about to take part in a mock naval battle (naumachia) on Lake Fucinus in AD 52. According to Suetonius:
- "When the combatants cried out: 'Hail, emperor, those who are about to die salute you (Ave imperator, morituri te salutant),' he [Claudius] replied, 'Or not (Aut non),' and after that all of them refused to fight, maintaining that they had been pardoned. Upon this he hesitated for some time about destroying them all with fire and sword, but at last leaping from his throne and running along the edge of the lake with his ridiculous tottering gait he induced them to fight, partly by threats and partly by promises."