History News: Gladiators Back at the Colosseum!

Excerpted from TimesOnline, written by Richard Owen.

After 2,000 years, gladiators are to return to the Colosseum – though only in mock fights.

Umberto Broccoli, head of archaeology at Rome City Council, said a series of mock combats would take place next year to give the Colosseum’s visitors a feel of the shows originally staged there, along with “the sights, sounds and smells” of the arena.

The events would be launched to mark the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Vespasian, who began the construction of the Colosseum, completed by Titus, his son and successor.

Sergio Iacomoni, who runs a “gladiator school” where history enthusiasts learn how to use gladiatorial weapons, said it was ready to take part. Founded in 1994, the club has 200 members.

full article

Archaeology News: Roman Gladiators

Gladiators were bean-eating vegetarians who fought barefoot, participated in refereed matches and suffered floggings if they became inebriated or behaved inappropriately with women, new findings suggest.Those conclusions counter a number of popular Hollywood myths, such as “gladiator sandals,” the notion that these athletes could do as they pleased outside of the arena, and the idea that all gladiators fought to the death.

Discovery News has posted an intriguing new article about the lives and training of Roman gladiators, which, it turn out, were not at all like we see in the movies:


Archaeology News: Circus Maximus to be Restored

We returned last month from a Rome vacation, and rode past this sad park a few times. It’s heartening to hear this great news!


After 1,500 years as a ruin, gladiators’ stadium to be restored

By Peter Popham in RomeThursday, 3 April 2008

It still bears its thrilling ancient name, and the antique ruins on the Palatine Hill, the heart of ancient Rome and home of the Caesars, still gaze down upon it. But now it takes a feat of the imagination to see Circus Maximus as it must have been in its pomp.

Today it is little more than a long, narrow park, 340 metres in length, with a small archeological dig fitfully in progress at its south-eastern end. It can still hold a crowd: Genesis played a free concert here last year, and Bob Geldof persuaded Rome’s mayor, Walter Veltroni, to let him use it for the Italian leg of the Live-8 spectacular in 2005. The rest of the time it is the haunt of dog-walkers, joggers and the occasional conceptual artist.But 2,000 years ago this was the most exciting spot in the city. Long before the building of the Colosseum, crowds in their hundreds of thousands packed the stands to watch 12 teams of charioteers scorch the earth. Gladiators and wild animals fought in mortal combat, and the central arena was often flooded so miniature triremes could battle it out for the Romans’ delight. If a particularly large number of people had to be crucified, Circus Maximus was the obvious place to do it.The strip’s last big show was in AD549. Then the Barbarians arrived and laid it to waste, and for the next millenium and a half it was no more than a very large allotment with a fancy name.But now, after the centuries of neglect and years of debate and campaigning, Circus Maximus is finally to get some attention. Beginning on 20 June, the city’s archeological authorities are to begin a careful and respectful restoration.Eugenio La Rocca, Superintendent of Rome and lecturere in archeology at Rome’s Sapienza University, said: “We are trying to realise the old dreams that Rome has maintained from the 19th century up to the present. We will do our best to restore this site, which was of the utmost importance in our history.”[Emperor] Tarquin drained the site 2,500 years ago, but it was Julius Caesar in 46 BC who erected the first buildings here, which were consumed by fire in AD64. With the Emperor Trajan, the performances began to assume the wondrous proportions that we only know today from films.”Professor La Rocca stressed that he will not be attempting to restore the Circus to its former glory. “We will clean up the whole site to make it practicable and legible, and give it a simple curved enclosure,” he said. During chariot races the long track was divided by a raised spine of beaten earth, and this is one element the authorities plan to recreate.They will also continue excavating, with greater urgency. Despite the fame of the Circus, Professor La Rocca told La Repubblica newspaper, “Paradoxically we have little information about it. Pliny claimed it could hold 250,000 spectators but others said 150,000, which seems much more likely.” Treasures recovered from the Circus and other sites will eventually find a home in a new Museum of the City of Rome, to be built a few steps away.

Archaeology News: House of Augustus, Rome


House of Augustus opens to public

A single fragment of painted plaster, discovered in masonry-filled rooms, led the experts to unearth a series of exquisite frescoes commissioned by the man who would later become Rome’s first emperor. On Sunday following decades of painstaking restoration, the frescoes in vivid shades of blue, red and ochre went on public show for the first time since they were painted in about 30BC.

One large room boasts a theatrical theme, its walls painted to resemble a stage with narrow side-doors. High on the wall a comic mask peersFresco in House of Augustus through a small window. Other trompe l’oeil designs include an elegant garden vista, yellow columns and even a meticulously sketched blackbird.

Builders’ names preserved

The Rome authorities have spent nearly 2m euros preserving the four Augustus rooms – thought to comprise a dining-room, bedroom, an expansive reception hall at ground-level and a small study on the first floor.

The quality of the work has been compared with that in Pompeii

Experts say the frescoes are among the most splendid surviving examples of Roman wall paintings, on a par with those found in the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Full article from BBC, with more photos:


Reading about Italy: A Thousand Bells at Noon

4.0 out of 5 stars Always changing yet eternal by G. Franco Romagnoli
ISBN-10: 0060519207

Well known television chef and cookbook writer G. Franco Romagnoli turns his attention to his native city in A Thousand Bells at Noon, his affectionate, intelligent essay about its vicissitudes and its magnetism. Loosely organized by chapter into various topics, it touches upon such subjects as what makes a “true” Roman (it’s more than just living there), the impossibly temperamental system of government, the vagaries of historically categorizing Roman places, people, and events, and the joys of wandering Trastevere, one of the oldest and most representative of Rome’s many neighborhoods. Romangnoli probably never intended this collection to be either guidebook or memoir, simply the setting down on paper of his thoughts and impressions about a place he knows well and loves dearly. Reading these essays brings back memories of visits to the Eternal City and evokes a bit of its timeless essence.