Rome's Gladiator School – Rome, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Rome's Gladiator School

This historic recreationist school churns out warriors that may very well have had a fighting chance in Rome's pits of the day. 


Tucked away on a side-street of the Appian Way, one of the most crucial and strategic of all Roman roads, the Gruppo Storico Romano (Historic Roman Group) has been recreating one of the most brutal and enthralling bits of Rome’s history for nearly two decades.

The group’s creator, and indefatigable leader is Sergio Iacomoni, but during camp hours he prefers the name “Nero.” Along with four of his coworkers, Nero came up with the idea of gladiator school while working at the Bank of Italy. Instead of more common pastimes, the merry band of friends decided to recreate their own period-correct ancient Roman suits and put them to the test one Sunday morning at the Colosseum. 

To quote Iacomoni, “From that first time, I knew it would be successful.”

Events unfolded quickly thereafter – proving the veracity of Iacomoni’s hunch that first day – leading to the founding of Gladiator School on a private plot of land. Attached to the training grounds is a museum packed with original and recreated memorabilia from Rome’s heyday of battling to the death.

The School is entirely self-sustained through the private and group gladiator classes and the commissions for events, nationwide and abroad, serving interested parties ranging in age from children to spry grandparents. As a living, breathing modern reproduction of the castrum (or Roman military defense camp), participants in Gladiator School partake in everything from two-hour courses up to twice-weekly classes in which participants acquire the mental and physical skills necessary for participating in mock life-or-death combat.

Supplemented with lectures on the history of gladiators, knowledgable professionals like Nero instruct students across a progressive curriculum of offensive and defensive techniques necessary to throw down like a bona fide gladiator. Starting with proper shield-wielding, students progress to sword use and bodily stances, before returning to them to the modern world with a working knowledge of the secrets that once elevated ancient Rome’s most deadly warriors into living gods.

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