Gladiators and police clash in Rome!

A visit to Rome's most recognizable monument, the Colosseum, typically involves an encounter with a kitchy gladiator who poses for your pictures (then asks you for money). For years, men in full gladiator and centurion battle gear, including helmets, swords, tunics and feathered helmets, have set up here, and elsewhere in the city, and have made a fairly decent living doing this, either to the delight or the annoyance of tourists.

A man dressed as an ancient Roman centurion shouts slogan during a protest in front of the Colosseum Thursday.Men who dress as ancient Roman centurions and ask for money to have picture taken by tourist at the Colosseum clashed with police on Thursday as authorities tried to enforce an eviction order.
photo credit: New York Post
However complaints about these faux gladiators -- which included charges of verbal harassment of tourists, sometimes to an aggressive degree, and pandering for money in exchange for photos or shabby tourist advice -- had reached such levels that city officials finally took notice, and took action.

A law was passed, which just recently went into effect, prohibiting the antics of these street performers. Yet it seemingly had little effect, as the opportunistic scofflaws continued offering their "services," undaunted. So today police stepped in to enforce an eviction notice, and to physically remove some of the gladiators, which ultimately resulted in a clash with police that created quite a spectacle. Onlookers were reported to have sided with the gladiators, shouting "We are all centurions!"

The event was both ironic and Fellini-esque, which is to say, it was very Roman.

Not many people know this, but anyone visiting Rome can get their gladiator on. Should the idea of doning tunics and learning how to master a sword appeal to members of your family, consider taking a short, 2-hour class at the Scuola Gladiatori Roma (gladiator school) offered by the reputable historical and cultural association, Gruppo Storico Romano (GSR).

GSR members are knowledgeable as well as highly entertaining, and--importantly--they're historically accurate (and legal!).  Taking a class here, you'll dress up in  traditional gladiator robes and armor, and learn not only fighting and sword techniques but also about the life of a gladiator in ancient Rome. The fighting part may sound icky, but it's surprisingly fun, and what's more, re-enacting historical battles turns out to leave quite a lasting impression on kids. They love it.

For more information, visit Scuola Gladiatori Roma.

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