|Learning the art of gladiator fighting|
Wandering around the Colosseum in Rome, you try to imagine what it must have been like in ancient days. The roar of the crowds. The clanging of swords. Being swept up in the excitement of a gladiator fight. Would you be brave enough to enter that arena and battle it out? No need to just imagine it. Head out to the Gruppo Storico Romano (Historical Roman Group)'s Gladiator School on the Ancient Appian Way, don a tunic, pick up your weapon, and learn to fight.
The few hours we spent at Gladiator School were easily the kids' favorite part of our trip to Rome. They loved that they were actually doing something, not just looking at old buildings. (They must have also wondered why the same mom that keeps telling them to quit arguing was happily snapping photos as they thumped on each other in front of an audience.)
One interesting tactic that came up was how Romans would dip their swords in poo so that infection would kill the enemy if they didn't bleed out immediately. Note: No actual poo was used during the demonstration.
|Pinched fingers is NOT a good defense against a Roman gladius sword.|
Each kid really enjoyed getting to try on helmets and shields. Luckily, they weren't required to handle the 27 kilograms (60 pounds) of armor and equipment typically carried by Roman soldiers. One type of battle formation was the testudo or tortoise formation where soldiers marched closely together with their shields facing outwards or upwards like a turtle shell as a defense against incoming missiles. Imagine a group of kids practicing that one.
She showed us a pilum, a type of Roman javelin. It was constructed in two pieces — a soft, iron shank with a pyramidal tip connected to a wooden shaft. The soft iron would bend upon impact, preventing the enemy from merely picking it up and flinging it back at the Romans. The pyramidal tip made it difficult to remove from a shield, thus forcing the enemy to discard the shield rather than waste time pulling it out. After the battle, surviving Romans could walk through the battleground, collect the discarded pilia, then attach a new iron shank to the wooden shaft. Clever, aren't they?
|Demonstrating the pilum (javelin), helmet and scutum (shield)|
Finally, it was time to head outside to begin their training in how to fight like a gladiator. While hubby and I chose to relax in the stands, many parents joined their kids in the training arena. There were only families in our group, but I'm sure that all-adult classes must be common, too.
|What's the best footwear for this activity? Gladiator sandals, of course!|
Come ready for a workout for this is gladiator bootcamp. Everyone was raring to start hitting each other with swords, but agility and strength training came first. Is this how Russell Crowe started out?
|Dodging swinging sandbags|
The students ran through an obstacle course around the arena. Zigzagging between swinging sandbags, hopping back and forth over ropes, somersaults and pushups were all a part of the training. What a way to work off all that pasta and gelato.
|Gladiator school is not for wimps.|
When everyone was panting and looking a little beat, it was at long last time to learn how to fight. It reminded me a lot of martial arts with prescribed attack movements and defensive maneuvers.
|The students practice the cross-body, downward sweep with their rudis (wooden sword).|
Our class ended with one-on-one battles. Points were given for each permissible strike and subtracted each time a gladiator stepped out of the circle drawn in the sand. Hubby kept asking when the lions would be released, but alas, that never happened. Not even a large house cat.
Tip: Be nice to your sibling before attending Gladiator School, or else he/she may decide this is the perfect time for revenge.
This is definitely a fun 2-hour activity for people visiting Rome. If you would rather not learn to battle it out yourself, an evening dinner and show is another option. Those who are here long term can join the Gruppo Storico Romano and really delve deep into this historical reenactment society. They have multi-month gladiator training programs and, for those who are interested in quieter activities, a social anthropology group.
These ladies practice twice a week. Is this what it means to "fight like a girl"?
Would you want to learn how to be a Gladiator?
- For more information about the 2-hour Gladiator-for-a-Day program, see their website.
- I booked our tickets on Viator for US$73.53 per person. No discount for children. Choice of dates and times listed.
- Other guests in our group booked via their hotel concierge.
- Minimum age is 6 years old.
- Wear clothes that you don't mind getting sweaty and dirty.
- Spectators can sit in the shaded stands or at covered picnic tables.
- Free bottle of water with each lesson, but you may want to bring extra, especially during the hot summer months.
- No convenient public transportation near the school, so plan on taking a taxi here. The school can call one for you at the end of the lesson. About 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) from the Colosseum.
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