Gladiators in the Colosseum next year – less harmful than pop.

All to be in the very best taste, they say. I do like the reason for choosing gladiatorial combat rather than pop concerts as a money-spinner; pop concerts are likely to cause more damage to the building.

The Times

They came. They saw. They slaughtered. And now, almost 2,000 years after fighters and wild animals last entertained the rabble, gladiators are set to return to the Colosseum.

Umberto Broccoli, the head of archaeology at Rome city council, said it was time that the five million people who visited the Colosseum annually saw the kind of shows originally staged there. They should also experience “the sights, sounds and smells” of Ancient Rome.

Mauro Cutrufo, the deputy mayor, said that a series of events would be held next year to mark the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Emperor Vespasian, who began the construction of the Colosseum.

It has yet to be decided whether the mock combats will be staged on a floor placed over the subterranean chambers in the arena or on a stage outside it. Mr Broccoli insisted that the fights would be authentic, with gladiators using the same weapons.

Mr Broccoli, who is also a radio and television journalist, said that this would not be the kind of tacky show put on by the fake gladiators who now pose for photographs, and nor would it be a Disneyland attraction.

Instead, it would be an educational tool for bringing the spirit of antiquity alive. During fight displays visitors will hear descriptions of the gladiators’ life and customs by Seneca, the 1st-century philosopher and imperial adviser.

Asked if the planned shows might be thought vulgar, Mr Broccoli retorted: “The gladiators themselves were vulgar, they were sweaty, they stank and they swore. Why not show them as they were, for real?”

City officials said that mock gladiator fights were a more appropriate form of entertainment at the Colosseum than pop concerts, which risked damaging the monument because of vibrations. In the past Paul McCartney, Simon and Garfunkel and Elton John have performed on a stage next to the ancient arena.

Francesco Giro, the deputy culture minister in the Government of Silvio Berlusconi, said that the Colosseum “has no need of publicity through events such as pop concerts”.

Mr Cutrufo has also suggested putting cloth-covered panels in the gaps of the façade of the Colosseum to give visitors an impression of how the arena looked when it was built. Mr Giro said that any funds should be spent on maintenance, however.

Vespasian, who reigned from AD69 to AD79, drained the lake in front of the opulent Golden Palace of Nero to make way for the Colosseum.

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