Italian police arrest 'gladiators' by Colosseum

Undercover police arrest the 'gladiators'

Italian police have arrested 20 gladiator impersonators, in an undercover operation outside the Colosseum in Rome.

The suspects are accused of intimidating and attacking their competitors, to win a share in a lucrative business.

The men, who dress up in ancient Roman costume, are a familiar feature of the Rome tourist scene.

They can charge up to 10 euros (£8.70) for having a photo taken with tourists.

Angry gladiators

For the police operation officers dressed up as gladiators themselves to infiltrate the gangs.

Other officers, disguised as dustbin men and members of the public, took part in the raid.

They came to the rescue of colleagues who were set upon by angry gladiators.

Police say the arrested men came from seven families, and were working with five tourist agencies that control the market for guides at the Colosseum.

They had divided up tourist sites such as the Colosseum, the Piazza Venezia, and St Peter's Basilica, according to police, and were defending their territory with violence.

The authorities in Rome were alerted to the gangs' behaviour by rival gladiators, who had been chased away from popular tourist attractions.

Dozens of present-day Romans make a living dressed as gladiators and centurions at the city's historic sites.

In return they receive tips, and payments from tour organisers for persuading tourists to go on guided trips.

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