A group of scholars, archaeologists, scientists and members of the public have signed an online petition to protest a government plan to cover the “tomb of the gladiator” after it was first discovered in Rome in 2008.
Recent dramatic budget cuts in Italy have made preservation and reconstruction funds all-but-extinct in the city that is falling apart. Reburying the tomb, which is along the Tiber on Via Flaminia, is the cheapest fix, unless the city can come up with two to three million euros it will cost to protect the tomb from winter weather.
But the tomb “is one of overwhelming cultural and historic value not only for Italy but for all of humanity,” says the petition, not only because it was one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the last decade, but also because the lavish mausoleum belongs to Marcus Nonius Macrinus, the general upon whom the character Maximus, played by Russell Crowe, in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator was based. (Which also explains how a tomb of one of Marcus Aurelius’ generals came to be known as the “tomb of the gladiator.”)
Earlier Monday, Russell Crowe himself retweeted the petition link to his 668,018 followers and, according to an interview with the Academy Award-winning actor published in La Repubblica, yesterday he started an online petition of his own sponsored by the American Institute for Roman Culture to encourage Roman heritage officials to consider all their options before the 1800-year-old mausoleum is reburied.