News From Rome! Gladiators To Fight Again

Colosseum Today
Colosseum Today

News from Rome! Gladiators are coming back to the Colosseum to entertain the crowds nearly 2,000 years after the last bloody contest took place. Plans are in the making for a complete restoration of Rome’s most famous fighting arena. Gladiators will once again take up the trident, nets, swords and daggers in realistically choreographed battles. Not intended for very young children, these fighters will appear and act as they did in the first century, without the show of blood.  According to Umberto Broccoli, head of archaeology at Rome’s city council,”…the gladiators themselves were vulgar. They were sweaty, they stank and they swore.” His plans are to re-create “the sights, sounds and smells” of ancient Rome. But first, a badly needed restoration must take place.

The Colosseum, or Flavian Amphitheater, was inaugurated in 80 AD by Emperor Titus. Large enough to seat 50,000 inhabitants, the Roman populace were entertained by gladiatorial contests, savage animal hunts, and mock sea battles. Incredibly, the arena was capable of being flooded to enable ships to float. Many stage hands were responsible for operating the show. Several worked from high above where a huge awning could be pulled to cover the Colosseum during the heat of the day. Many others operated the maze of underground tunnels and chambers where gladiators prepared for battle and animals were kept to be hoisted up in wooden cages to the arena floor. It was truly a major accomplishment in technology.

Gladitorial Exchange
Modern Gladiatorial Exchange

Traditionally, pop concerts have been held here in the amphitheatre until recently, when chunks and pieces of rock began falling from the structure. Additionally, the thrumming of the nearby subway consistently vibrates the foundation. It has been recently discovered that the Colosseum tilts 16 inches on its southern side, which is possibly due to flaws in the original structure.

Colossuem Interior
Colosseum Interior

Italian tycoon Diego Della Valle’s plans are to finance a $32 million project ( by some reports) to restore the foundation of the ‘leaning Colosseum of Rome.’ However, work has been delayed on the three-year restoration project because of court challenges to the contract bidding process.

Is this a good idea for the  Colosseum of Rome to be rebuilt? It would change the present structure drastically, using modern material.  Is it better to leave the old monumental ruins as they are?

This has been a disturbing matter for me. I love Rome and all of its antiquities, but  the Colosseum, magnificent as it was in 80 AD, was a realm of horrors. Because of its hideous past, I’m personally concerned with the idea of reinstating these gladiatorial battles that are intended to honor and elevate gladiators of the past. Truth be known, many were criminals, almost all forced into battle as slaves or financially in need. They were trained to brutally kill man and beast.

Do we seriously need to make the Colosseum more ‘thrilling’, resurrecting the past stench of Rome?

I sincerely hope that we simply keep the Colosseum a well-preserved major historical ruin and reminder of the Roman civilization entering its ‘prime.’

How do you feel about the restoration of the Colosseum? What do you think of the re-enactment of mock gladiatorial battles? Do you see this as elevating an evil from the past? Or of value historically? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

*Umberto Broccoli

Classico: Roman Wine

taverna in naples

I found myself relaxing at a quiet taverna in Naples one evening while watching the sun set over the boundless sea. Musing, I noticed that my glass of Verdicchio dei Castelli began to create a sparkling prism effect on the white tablecloth. As the sun continued to set, the golden shafts of angled light became even more magnificent. Mesmerizing. Engaging.

When did wine making begin in Italy? And where?

Well, what I do know is that the Greeks, always admired by the Romans, began cultivating grapes in southern Italy well before the first century. They called Italy “Enotria,” the land of wine. Their wine techniques spread northward to central Italy, which were adopted by the clever Etruscans.


In time, the Romans grew wealthy from conquests throughout the Mediterranean, creating markets to invest in vineyards. As a result, vine-growing became very advanced as the Romans knew which areas produced the best wine.

Wine was exported in exchange for slaves to cultivate the large estate vineyards, which grew even larger. People were forced off their land and emigrated to Rome. By the first century Rome was a metropolis with one million inhabitants!

Hail Caesar

“Imports of wine are absolutely forbidden…it makes men soft and unequal to hard work.”   Caesar

For a time, Caesar prohibited Roman wine to pass the borders into Germany. But, Roman vines did spread along the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Trier, on the slopes above the Moselle, began growing grapes as early as the second century. Today these predominately white grapes are a vast supplier of some of the best white wine from Germany.


Pliny, Roman writer and historian, noted that wine-producing had spread like wildfire, covering much of Gaul by 71 AD.

By this time, the Romans had developed over 50 distinct varieties of grapes. The best wines came from Campania, north of Naples on the plain between the sea and the mountains.

Wine was available to all societal levels, like a sacred right. There was, of course, no tea, chocolate or coffee, no soft drinks or spirits. And beer, though it did exist, was considered a barbarians drink. Imagine that!

Greek Symposium
Greek Symposium
Roman Conviviam
Roman Convivian

“Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile.”  Homer, Greek poet

As we all know, wine was a huge part of the Roman’s daily life. So, how did they stay sober?

Romans never drank wine ‘neat’, but diluted it with water, usually one part wine and two parts water. They sometimes used seawater or sweetened with honey. The Greeks diluted their wine even more.

The intention was to enjoy the aesthetic pleasure of the wine while at their symposium by becoming intoxicated just enough to enjoy spontaneity and converse freely. The Roman counterpart, called the convivium, was not as tame. In each society it was considered disgraceful to become intoxicated in public and was not the norm.

How did all of this culminate into the wine we drink today, almost 2,000 years later?

In my next post I will share popular wines we drink today that are the very descendent of these Roman vineyards. You won’t want to miss it so…stay tuned!