L I C E N S E D G L A D I A T O R S
A license to pose
Some people in Rome make a living by posing as "Roman soldiers" around the Colosseum, asking tourist for money if they want their picture taken with them.
I pass around the Colosseum often, and about 5 years ago, maybe more, I started taking notice of these guys dressed up as roman soldiers, making noise to attract the attention of the tourists.
At first, there was a couple of them, the following year four or five, now there is a legion (including women posing as "matronae" and older guys in toga as senators) and there have also been cases of territorial fights. In fact, one of the centurions has been recently arrested because his metal sword (a prop) was considered a forbidden weapon.
For the service they charge from 2 to 5 Euros ($2-5), but a lot depends on the origin of the tourists. Japanese and Americans are sometimes asked for more, because of their spending capacity and also because they are embarrassed when discussing prices for too long.
Once I spotted a couple of them at the bar of the metro station, which was a strange sight indeed. I mean, a roman soldier having a cappuccino and smoking his cigarette! Unfortunately I hadn't got my camera around ...
It seems that 40 of these people have formed an association, which includes centurions, gladiators and even emperors (probably also including some wives), asking for official recognition and, in the end, a steady job.
The news is that the Comune di Roma (the municipality), starting at the end of the year, will release an official license with a title that in Italian language sounds like "figurante", which is the name that in Cinecittą (Rome's Hollywood) is given to film extras. The aspiring gladiators will have to pass an examination that includes some knowledge of English (I'd also include Latin, but I admit that it would be too much) and they'll have to charge a fixed price for the picture.
Isn't this progress?
Rome, March 2003
A riot exploded among the gladiators posing for the tourists; about five of them were apprehended because a fight started, perhaps for territorial reasons. Now the "figuranti" are supposed to have a license granted by the municipality, their attire should be certified and they should charge 5 Euros for posing. The gladiators did not reveal the motives of their fight: some of them, interviewed, said that they all are in friendly terms. The figuranti arrive in the morning, change their clothes in a car or in the toilets of the underground station, and stay on the spot all day.