Mal Stylo's comment is "It's all here - educating the public, farbs and authenticity standards, women in uniform!" As for me, I'd be hard-pressed to decide between thumb's up or thumb's down on this one. - Jonah

Gladiators Battle in the Colosseum -- Again

(3/31/03, Reuters/Yahoo!)

By Estelle Shirbon

ROME (Reuters) - Centurions and gladiators in breastplates and plumed helmets besieged Rome's Colosseum on Monday in defiance of an official order banishing them from the monument.

"After 2,000 years, Rome is reliving the revolt of the centurions," read a banner held aloft by the costumed characters, who eke out a living posing for tourist photos.

The culture ministry has ordered them away, complaining that they are a blight on the Colosseum, which attracts some three million visitors a year. But the latter-day legionnaires vow to reclaim their stamping ground.

"How dare they say that we disfigure the Colosseum?" raged Franco Magni, alias "Brutus," wearing knee-high strappy sandals and gleaming body armor.

"They've built lifts and souvenir shops inside the Colosseum to make money out of it but we're being driven away, stopped from doing our work. It's a disgrace."

The band of about 40 bare-legged centurions and gladiators waved their swords, raised their fists and chanted "We want to work!" as bemused tourists took snapshots.

"They have no right to kick us out. The tourists love us," said Giorgia Paladino, a woman "gladiator" in a short white tunic, gold-colored breast-plate and helmet.

Many of the tourists watching the protest were supportive.

"I don't think the Colosseum is a fun visit per se and so they add a little bit of humor and fun to it," said Paul Kenny, from Ireland.

"It's a job, why shouldn't they be allowed to do their job? They're not doing any harm," said Katerina Atmatzidou, from Greece, in between taking snaps.

The Colosseum's costumed troupe has been under fire from authorities before. Rome council once berated them for wearing tacky uniforms and carrying cheap plastic swords, threatening to impose regulations on their outfits to make them more authentic.

Tourists have also complained that the faux Roman soldiers and gladiators charge exorbitant prices for posing in pictures.

The 21st century battle is a far cry from the bloodletting of the year 80, when thousands of gladiators and wild beasts were slaughtered during the inaugural games at the Colosseum.