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Rome ‘gladiators’ fined €800 for charging tourists for photos

Two men were fined €400 apiece on Sunday for dressing in 'gladiator' costumes and charging tourists for photos - a practice which was banned last December.

Rome 'gladiators' fined €800 for charging tourists for photos
Men dressed as Roman centurions parade in front of the Colosseum. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Police said on Monday morning that the men were stopped by officers in the Pincio neighbourhood, to the north-east of the historical centre. They were asking passersby for money in return for a group photo. 

“They were fined €400 each and their costumes were confiscated,” police said.

Rome officers also confiscated a total of 7000 items from illegal street sellers over the weekend, with one such seller biting a police officer in retaliation, who then had to be treated in hospital.

The confiscated costumes. Photo: Questura di Roma

A photo with a costumed gladiator (which is what they call themselves most of the time, despite usually dressing as Roman centurions) may seem like harmless fun, but city authorities have sought to crack down on the practice after a string of complaints accusing the actors of overcharging or even pick-pocketing unsuspecting travellers.

The ban targets anyone portraying a historical subject – centurions are specifically singled out – in photographs or videos in return for cash. It has been in place since December, and was an update of a previous regulation introduced in winter 2015.

But the battle between Rome's centurions and local authorities has been going on for years; back in 2002, a law obligated costumed 'street actors' to pass an exam, including English language and a general culture test, before they could work in the capital.

Authorities said the fines were necessary in order to “protect public order” and safeguard the city's “cultural, artistic and monumental heritage”.

One of the main issues is that the gladiators often aren't clear that that there's a charge for a photo with them, and some are conned out of large amounts for a photo – particularly if they haven't worked out the conversion rate of their currency into euro.

A viral video last summer showed a Romanian TV crew getting their wallets stolen by a group of Colosseum centurions who took €100 as compensation for a couple of photos in front of Rome's most iconic building.

In the video, the Romanian film crew ask onlooking police officers to help them get their money back, but the officers advise them it's better not to take action.

Member comments

  1. Actually these guys are dressed as legionnaires, not centurions. The crest on their helmet is facing the wrong way for them to be centurions..

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CRIME

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

Authorities in New York announced on Thursday the return to Italy of 14 more antiquities, worth an estimated €2.3 million, as part of an investigation into smuggling of stolen artifacts.

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been conducting an extensive investigation over the past two years into looted antiquities that have ended up in New York museums and galleries — including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During a ceremony on Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police representatives, 14 more artifacts – some 2,600 years old – were officially returned to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said.

READ ALSO: Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the past year to 17 countries, including Italy as well as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Greece, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in January 2022, Thursday’s repatriation included the silver “Sicily Naxos Coin,” minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and amarble head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had “relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean,” it added.

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