‘Gladiator’ emperor’s mini-colosseum uncovered

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Commodus, the Roman emperor who inspired the film Gladiator, may have had a private arena where he killed wild animals and practised his warrior moves in front of hundreds of people.

'Gladiator' emperor's mini-colosseum uncovered
The outstanding discovery was made in Genzano in the archaeological
complex of the so-called Villa of the Antonines, the original imperial
residence which extended in Roman times in ‘Ager Lanuvinus’, the
ancient Lanuvio, birthplace of Marco Aurelius and Commodus [Credit:
Luciano Sciurba/Il Messaggero]

Archaeologists from New Jersey’s Montclair State University have discovered an amphitheatre-like structure which they believe once belonged to the emperor, who was famous for his feats as a gladiator and apeing the combatants who fought in front of huge crowds in ancient Rome.

The archaeological site is located about 18 miles (28km) from Rome in the ancient Via Appia region of the modern Italian territory of Genzano.

'Gladiator' emperor's mini-colosseum uncovered
Archaeologists discovered the arena as they excavated thermal baths at the
Villa of Antonines [Credit: Luciano Sciurba/Il Messaggero]

The New Jersey team have been excavating the remains of the complex since 2010. They claim ancient textual references and the discovery of some high-quality marble busts at the site in the 18th century suggest the villa belonged to the Antonine imperial family, which included emperors Antoninus Pius (ruled 138-161 CE), Marcus Aurelius (ruled 161-180 CE), and Commodus (ruled 180-192 CE).

The newly-excavated arena, described as a miniature of the Colosseum in Rome, was found near a bathing complex. It spans more than 9000 sq m and had a capacity of over 1300 seats plus an imperial stage. Archaeologists believe that Commodus used the amphitheatre to kill animals, Italian daily Il Messaggero reports.

'Gladiator' emperor's mini-colosseum uncovered
Archaeologists have so far unearthed part of the arena’s curving walls and yellow, red and
purple floorings made of marble from Italy, Greece and north Africa
[ Credit: Luciano Sciurba/Il Messaggero]

“These investigations have brought to light hundreds of fragments of imported marble floor and wall decoration, evidence for lavish, colored glass mosaics, and an elliptical, amphitheatre-like structure that may be connected with Commodus’s interests in performing in the arena,” Deborah Chatr Aryamontri, co-director of the excavation, said.

A spiral staircase that descends almost three metres to underground chambers below the mini-Colosseum suggests Commodus may have had his own private dressing area where he prepared to kill the wild beasts, Aryamontri concluded.

'Gladiator' emperor's mini-colosseum uncovered
The arena measures over 35 x 24 metres, with an auditorium of more than 9,000 square metres
 and a capacity of over 1300 seats [Credit: Luciano Sciurba/Il Messaggero]

Archaeologists also say that the arena might have also been used for the performances of naval battles.

It is claimed that Commodus, who was obsessed with being a gladiator, featured over 735 times in bouts during his lifetime – even though he was a weak and cruel ruler who would regularly inflict barbaric punishments on innocent people.

'Gladiator' emperor's mini-colosseum uncovered
It is believed that Commodus used the arena for practice and for his first semi-public
appearances as a killer of animals iand as a gladiator
[Credit: Luciano Sciurba/Il Messaggero]

He ordered his subjects to regard him as the second coming of Hercules, because of his ability to kill wild animals.

In the 2000 movie Gladiator, which won five Oscars, Commodus, played by Joaquin Phoenix, abandons his imperial throne to take on army commander Maximus, played by Russell Crowe.

Author: Sanskrity Sinha | Source: International Business Times [August 14, 2013]

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