24 luglio 2023
by Susanna Bonini

Gladiators come back in arena

Thraex gladiator helmet, reproduction of the helmet of Lusius Storax
Thraex gladiator helmet, reproduction of the helmet of Lusius Storax

Gladiators are returning to the Colosseum, not on the big screen, with a new Ridley Scott-esque colossal, but with an exhibition project that combines history, archaeology and innovation in a novel way.  Opening to the public tomorrow is "Gladiators in the Arena. Between Colosseum and Ludus Magnus," an event conceived and realized by the Colosseum Archaeological Park (ParCo), under the curatorship of Alfonsina Russo, Federica Rinaldi, Barbara Nazzaro and Silvano Mattesini, which consists of a permanent multimedia installation and a temporary exhibition, which can be visited until Jan. 7, 2024, inside the Colosseum's basement.

The idea for the exhibition stems from the recovery and enhancement of the eastern cryptoporticus of the Colosseum, which in Roman times connected the Arena with the gymnasium district built by Emperor Domitian, the most famous of which is the Ludus Magnus.

The display, in some of the underground rooms of the hypogea, features original Roman-era artifacts reproducing images of gladiators in various fighting positions, with their armor reconstructed from life, made according to the ancient technique of embossing and casting by Silvano Mattesini, an architect with a passion for gladiatorial history and owner of the Museum of Roman Military Armament. Thus the complete armor of Murmillo and Thraex materialize before visitors' eyes, alongside the original helmets from Pompeii from the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, the precious amber miniature helmets from the National Archaeological Museum in Aquileia, and the funerary stele of Murmillo Quintus Sossius Albus, likewise from Aquileia.

Also on display are graffiti on the steps of the Colosseum's cavea, left anciently by fans before their favorites fought, and the complete armor of a Retiarius and a Secutor. That of Hoplomachus with his typical round shield, an opponent of Murmillo, is displayed alongside two statuettes from Aquileia, one also in metal alloy. Finally, a video illustrates the stages of armor reproductions, forged using ancient techniques as part of an experimental archaeology project.

The enhancement of the Cryptoporticus and the undergrounds, with the telling of what actually took place in these places, restores the context to its original function and is fully part of the cultural strategy that distinguishes the actions of the Colosseum Archaeological Park, pointed out Alfonsina Russo, Director of the Colosseum Archaeological Park. 

The event, made possible by the partnership concluded between the ParCo and the Hornblower Group, leading U.S. companies in the field of transportation and tourism, aims, Alfonsina pointed out to expand the cultural offer with innovative technologies, which allow the function and historical events of the monuments to be made immediately perceptible.

In short, this is another important result achieved by the public-private partnership "which over the years," stressed Russo, has contributed to the implementation of important projects aimed at improving both physical and cultural enjoyment and accessibility.

Seguici su