About two thousand years ago, fifty thousand people filled the Colosseum in Rome to participate in one of the most fascinating and violent events to ever take place in the ancient world. Gladiator fights were the phenomenon of their day – a celebration of courage, endurance, bravery, and violence against a backdrop of fame, fortune, and social scrutiny. Today, over 6 million people flock every year to admire the Colosseum, but what took place within those ancient walls has long been a matter of both scholarly debate and general interest.
In 2008, archaeologists unearthed an extremely rare and impressive marble mausoleum, along a section of ancient road, in Rome, Italy. The largest and most ornate tomb was commissioned by a famous Roman general, Marcus Nonius Macrinus (fl. 161 CE), who had loyally served the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180 CE). Macrinus’ life and exploits provided the model for Russell Crowe’s character, Maximus, in the award-winning film Gladiator (2000, Ridley Scott). Few archaeological discoveries have struck a such chord with a worldwide audience, and over time the international press came to refer to the site as the “Tomb of the Gladiator.”
Four years later, with no end in sight to the current financial crisis in Europe, the funds needed to support many heritage sites have evaporated, including those for the “Tomb of the Gladiator.” In this interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Dr. Darius Arya, CEO of the American Institute for Roman Culture, about the historical importance of the “Tomb of the Gladiator” and what is being done to prevent its reburial. Dr. Arya shares his opinions, opening up a dialogue on how best to conserve our ancient, cultural patrimony.