Gladiators Return to Colosseum--in New Exhibit

Special to the Times

Nearly 16 centuries after banning the deadly sport, Rome is staging a gladiator spectacle of sorts at the Colosseum, taking advantage of the continuing popularity of the Academy Award-winning blockbuster "Gladiator."

You won't see combat, but the "Blood and Sand" exhibit, which opens Thursday and runs through Jan. 7, includes authentic gladiator weapons, helmets and armor, plus ancient sculptures and mosaics depicting training exercises and combat.

The Colosseum exhibit will be upstairs, in a gallery one level above the stage where gladiators fought. Also on display will be ancient coins, portraits and epigraphs illustrating the construction of the arena, which was completed in AD 80. The exhibit will be open 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily through August; then it will close earlier as the days get shorter. Admission is about $6.

"Blood and Sand" is one in a series of events at Italy's most visited monument that celebrate its ongoing restoration. The project includes excavations that have uncovered a private passage built by Emperor Commodus (AD 161-192), the villain in the movie "Gladiator." Another feature is a new elevator for visitors who have trouble with the steep, worn steps.

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