Licensed Gladiators

A license to pose – a nuisance for visitors

Come here, baby!

September, 2002
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.
Many years years ago 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 some money 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, wants to release an official license with a title that in Italian language sounds like “figurante”, which is the name that in Cinecittà (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?

I reported those news in 2002. Now I am writing in 2023 but, as you can see from the news reported below, this problem is still a problem after 21 years. It is so sad that nothing changes in this city….

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.

Another figurante

April 2012
“Let us work at the Colosseum, give us certain rules, let us stay here”. The protest of the centurions who occupied the Colosseum by climbing the second ring of the monument explodes again in Rome. The extras had already occupied the Flavian Amphitheater before Easter: they protest against the decision to remove them from the archaeological areas. At the moment there are two centurions who have climbed the Colosseum, still in the second ring, but a few meters away from the place occupied on Saturday last. In the square there are all their colleagues who criticize the work of the State Superintendence. “Things had gone well at the meeting with the Campidoglio on Tuesday – says Davide Moscato, one of the representatives of the extras -, but then yesterday those from the Superintendency didn’t even show up for the meeting. The question, however, is that the alleged regulation that forces us to stay away from the Colosseum really doesn’t suit us. They must allow us to exercise alongside those monuments where the figure of the centurion makes sense. We can’t go on the Colombo or the Tuscolana”

SEPTEMBER 25, 2015
Rome, at the Colosseum the ‘gladiators’ heavily insult a Romanian journalist. Centurions rude, scurrilous and threatening. Some ‘centurions?, the extras who get paid in front of the Colosseum to take pictures with tourists, are under accusation for a report by the Romanian TV channel Kanal D which portrays them as brawlers and scammers. In the images we see a journalist grappling with some gladiators who first ask for 30 euros for a shot then, after the reporter takes out a wallet full of banknotes, they ask for 100. Heavy insults come out when the journalist refuses: “Romanians of m. ..”, “head of c…” and also a hissed “I’ll beat you” after having shown her private parts as a defiant gesture. All captured by the cameras of Kanal D.

The mayor Raggi is right to ban the centurions from the Colosseum: the appeal is rejected. The Council of State today rejected the appeal presented by a small group of centurions. The Lazio administrative court had already rejected the appeal against the anti-centurion ordinance of the mayor of Rome.

April 4, 2019
Ban on the extras at the Colosseum
The provision, which will be valid until 30 June 2019, “regards the entire territory of the historic center included in the perimeter recognized as a Unesco site. The goal is to protect the artistic, historical, monumental heritage and guarantee the usability and livability of cultural heritage by tourists and citizens, ensuring decorum and safety”. The extras dressed as ancient Romans for a photo, sometimes imposed on tourists, ask for between 20 and 50 euros. Sometimes they have even been responsible for attacks against those who did not adequately meet their economic demands. On March 31, the order signed by the mayor at the beginning of January expired, a document conceived as temporary, pending the entry into force of the new regulation of the urban police which prohibits the existence of figures such as “gladiators” in time undetermined. Or permanently. But the provision signed by the mayor does not satisfy Assotutela at all: «The signing of the union ordinance renewing the ban on any activity similar to centurions – specifies Michel Emi Maritato, president of the consumer association -. The municipal provision will be valid until 30 June 2019 and concerns the entire territory that is part of the Unesco site. First question: why is the extension only three months? Second and third question: why does it only involve the historic center?». The association fears that this will push the centurions to less central but equally attractive sites, such as the monuments on the Appian Way. “Does this mean that the archaeological monuments of the suburbs, equally splendid and important, are second-class for the Capitol and for the mayor Raggi?”.

September 14, 2022 First the photo, then the attack: centurion arrested at the Colosseum
Threats and physical assault against two tourists. For the “centurion”, arrested, the expulsion order was issued which will have a duration of 3 years The “gladiators” are one of the main attractions of Rome, near the Colosseum and close to the main places of interest in the capital. But sometimes they are also the protagonists of news stories, as happened to a 43-year-old centurion arrested during one of the anti-illegal abuse control services. As reported by Repubblica, the man demanded 40 euros from two tourists who had taken two photographs. The centurion was identified thanks to the report of some people present and stopped in the Colosseum area by the policemen of the Celio police station. The court validated the arrest on Tuesday morning: the charge is extortion. According to what was reconstructed by the police, the “centurion”, after having himself immortalized next to the couple of Venezuelan tourists, demanded 40 euros.
The Far West at the Colosseum between squatters and immigrants
“He demanded twenty euros for each photo taken”, the testimony of the couple. The two visitors refused to disburse the money requested but, after a series of threats and insults, including some jerking, they decided to give the money to the centurion. Fortunately, the intervention of the agents was providential. For the “centurion”, the expulsion order has been issued which will last 3 years, being a resident outside the city of Rome.

08/05/2019 A 26-year-old Italian arrested.
It happened yesterday evening at the Colosseum when some Swiss students, on holiday in the capital, approached the so-called “Roman centurions”, asking them to take a souvenir photo. When one of the boys took out his wallet to pay the 5 euros requested, one of the “centurions” deftly slipped the contents of his wallet out: 80 euros in banknotes of 50, 20 and 10 euros, then placed inside a red bag hidden under his cloak. When the agents of the State Police of the “San Lorenzo” and “Porta Pia” police station arrived on the spot to check, the “Roman soldier”, who had seen them arriving, hurried to return a 20 euro banknote to the victim, stating that the remaining 60 euros had been handed over by the student to two other figures who had left in the meantime. The thief refused to be searched and began to yell at the officers. Accompanied to the offices of the San Paolo police station, during the search the policemen found, in the bag hidden under the cloak, two banknotes, one for 50 and the other for 10 euros. A witness also confirmed that he saw the “centurion” take the money from the boy’s wallet. At the end of the investigations, SG, a 26-year-old Roman, was arrested for resisting a public official and denounced in a state of freedom for aggravated theft.

8 December 2022
Threats and extortions, but also illegal activity and beatings in the shadow of the Colosseum. After the arrest of 3 centurions which took place last week, now two “skip the line”, with a past as “gladiators” and with various criminal records, ended up in handcuffs. They approached the tour guides in the archaeological park and threatened them: if they wanted to continue working and living, they had to pay a percentage for each person who visited the most famous amphitheatre in the world. This illegality persists at the foot of the monument; almost all the councils had to deal with it and it has never really been resolved, between ordinances, unrespected bans and appeals to the Administrative Tribunal. So much so that one of the suspects, tearing up the statement of a fine, boasted that he had never paid anything, despite the crimes he had committed.

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