Gladiator School: When in Rome, Fight Like a Roman
“Are you ready to time travel?” Marcus Valerio Messalla Barbato by day, Pietro Giusti by night, beckons 10-year-old Joshua. The Canadian boy sets his iPad to one side and seizes a rudis — or gladiator training sword. The time clock is set to the First century AD and the setting is Ancient Rome. Tucked away on a side-street of the Appian Way, one of the most crucial and strategic Roman roads, the Gruppo Storico Romano (Historic Roman Group) has been recreating history for almost 20 years.
A Russian interpreter hands another boy, Sasha, a certificate granting the seven-year-old from Moscow official Roman citizenship. Scorpius is his newly appointed Roman name. Joshua and Sasha’s proud parents attend the ceremony in the circular dirt grounds, dust filling the air. Marcus Valerio draws his sword and lunges swiftly in attack. The boys watch in awe.
“It’s Joshua’s birthday today and we thought the lesson would be a great present for him,” says Joshua’s mother, Paula Jeffers, who found out about the school on the travel website viatour.com. Two hours later, stripped of the traditional gladiator tunic, belt, leather protective glove, and rudis, but firmly gripping his Roman citizenship, Joshua returns to his iPad.