Who isn’t familiar with the ‘gladiators’ that stand around the colosseum dressed in bright red capes and leather breastplates? They certainly look and act charming at first. However, the gladiators of Rome are anything but. Last April, a squad of 80 policemen chased out a troop for loitering around the colosseum and harassing tourists. Since 2002, the law has prohibited them from posing in costume around the 2,000 year old monumental ruin. However, it seems the laws have not been fully enforced. If caught, they could face up to one year in jail.
While savoring my maiden experience at the colosseum one recent summer, I had an opportunity to familiarize myself with ‘gladiatorial hospitality’. Two brightly dressed contenders swaggered up beside me, brandishing swords as they took up a ‘hail, Caesar’ pose. It was amusing until we gave them a tip. It wasn’t enough. We had to walk away from disgruntled shouts that continued until we were out of sight.
La Repubblica, a national newspaper, claimed that these gladiators make a living by swindling others. It’s not uncommon for them to demand $13 to $26 and even up to $65 for a picture. Many have made this their livelihood for years and don’t want to give it up. While they have enjoyed some free reign at the Colosseum in previous years, expect to see much less of them under recent law enforcement.
Nobody loves a party more than I, and the sight of gladiators in bright red capes, laced-up sandals, plumed helmets and swords is exciting. But unless you have a firm resolve to stand your ground, just remember to keep a clear distance from them and continue on. The party just gets better from there.
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