Colosseum arena floor plan sparks debate

A plan to transport visitors to Rome's Colosseum to the spot where gladiators fought and died by rebuilding the ancient arena's floor sparked debate in Italy on Monday.

Colosseum arena floor plan sparks debate
Archaeologists have proposed giving the Colosseum back its arena. Photo: Dennis Jarvis

The Roman amphitheatre, which was completed in 80 AD, once had a wooden floor covered with sand which masked a series of tunnels once used to bring fighters into the arena – but it was removed by excavators in the late 19th century.

In July, archaeologist Daniele Manacorda proposed that a floor should be put back in, an idea enthusiastically taken up by cultural minister Dario Franceschini on Sunday.

"I really like archaeologist Manacorda's idea to give the Colosseum back its area. All that's needed is a bit of courage," he said on Twitter.

The idea is that the area would be used to house cultural events, concerts – and perhaps even reenactments of spectacular shows from the Roman era.

The area below the arena, where once a complex series of elevators and pulleys raised and lowered scenery and props, as well as lifting caged animals like elephants to the surface, could be turned into a museum.

"It is possible. There would not be any big problems, though the research would need to be extensive because complex questions need to be resolved," Adriano La Regina, Rome's former archaeological superintendent, was quoted as saying by Italian media on Monday.

"The Colosseum is not as delicate a monument as it might seem, it was built as a stadium able to accommodate tens of thousands of people," he said.

But others were not convinced, with Salvatore Settis, a professor of classical archaeology and former head of Italy's cultural heritage council, saying Italy was suffering from an extended slump in its economy which left little space for investment in projects of the sort.

"We are living a dramatic moment for cultural patrimony. In this situation, I do not think that giving the Colosseum back its floor is a priority," he said.

The Colosseum is the biggest amphitheatre built during the Roman Empire. It is 48.5 metres (159 foot) high and welcomes over six million visitors a year.

Long-delayed repairs to the 2,000-year-old monument, funded by Italian billionaire Diego Della Valle, began last September and are expected to be finished in 2016.

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Body of missing American tourist found in Rome’s River Tiber

The body of a missing 21-year-old tourist was found in the River Tiber on Thursday morning, according to media reports.

Body of missing American tourist found in Rome's River Tiber

Elijah Oliphant, from Dallas, Texas, was on holiday with his family in Rome when he went missing several days ago.

Oliphant’s parents reported his disappearance after he left his hotel room shortly after midnight on May 24th and did not return.

Hotel security footage showed him leaving the premises wearing a white undershirt and pyjama bottoms, which he was wearing when he was found.

Oliphant’s corpse was reportedly spotted by passersby near the Ponte Sisto bridge in Rome’s Trastevere district around 10am on Thursday morning. His body was positively identified by his parents.

Members of the fire brigade and river police who recovered the body say there were no obvious signs of violence, but an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. Trastevere police are reportedly investigating the matter.

The Oliphant family had arrived in Rome for a holiday on May 23rd. When Elijah went missing the following day, his parents launched an urgent appeal to help find their son.

His disappearance was featured on the missing persons television show, Chi l’ha visto (‘Who’s seen them?’) on May 25th.

Several foreigners have been found drowned in the Tiber in recent years, though there are no indication that any of the incidents are linked.

In 2016, the body of 19-year-old American student Beau Solomon was recovered from the river.

Rough sleeper Massimo Galioto was charged involuntary manslaughter in the case, but was ultimately acquitted in 2020.

Prosecutors said that Galioto pushed Solomon in the course of a violent argument. Galioto’s defense team acknowledged that the two had argued but said the student had accidentally slipped.

In May 2019, 37-year-old Imen Chatbouri, a former athletics champion from Tunisia, was found dead in the Tiber after a night out. CCTV footage later showed she had been pushed from the Ponte Sisto bridge.

A then-26-year-old man whose advances she had rejected earlier that evening was convicted of her murder in November 2021.