Image: Gladiator images
Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei
Ancient Sporting Event Images on mosaics and reliefs that decorated the houses and tombs in Pompeii have allowed historians to reconstruct Rome's ancient gladiator games.
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updated 1/6/2009 1:04:35 PM ET 2009-01-06T18:04:35

Gladiators are to return to Rome's most famous fight arena almost 2,000 years after their bloody sport last entertained Roman crowds, local authorities announced.

According to Umberto Broccoli, the head of archaeology at Rome's city council, 2009 will be a time for the five million people who visit the Colosseum each year to experience "the sights, sounds and smells" of ancient Rome.

"We do not need to enshrine historical sites and monuments, we need to make them more spectacular. Museums and monuments must speak to the public in a new way," Broccoli told the daily La Repubblica.

According to Broccoli's plan, modern-day gladiators will engage in realistically choreographed mock fights, wearing original costumes and the same combat gear — swords, tridents, nets and daggers — that was used 2,000 years ago.

The re-enacted contests will be staged in the evening, accompanied by readings from the works of Latin poets such as Seneca. It has yet to be determined whether gladiators will fight on a stage over the arena's subterranean chambers and tunnels or on a stage outside the Colosseum.

Stressing that the fights would not be a Disneyland-like attraction, but a serious project to bring the sporting heroes of antiquity alive, Broccoli also dismissed fears that they might appear too crude.

"The gladiators themselves were vulgar. They were sweaty, they stank and they swore. Why not show them as they really were?" Broccoli said.

Broccoli's proposal has not be widely welcomed. According to Giulia Rodano, the Lazio region cultural councillor, "there might be more appropriate ways to celebrate the tragic time of the gladiators."

"After all we are not talking of Hollywood myths, we are talking of slaves sent to die just to entertain the Romans," Rodano said in a statement.

However, city officials agree that mock gladiator fights would make a better entertainment at the Colosseum than pop concerts, whose vibrations risk damage the monument

"There will be no more concerts there. The amphitheater has no need of publicity through such events," Francesco Giro, the deputy culture minister, said.

Nevertheless, a series of so far undisclosed events are scheduled to take place over the next months at the famous arena.

They are intended to mark the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the Emperor Vespasian, who during his reign from 69 A.D. to 79 A.D. began the construction of the Flavian Amphitheater, better known as the Colosseum.

"2009 will be the year of the Colosseum. The world's most famous monument deserves to be celebrated, and with it the man who conceived it," Mauro Cutrufo, the deputy mayor, said.

More on  Ancient Rome Archaeology

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