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ROME: The Gladiator School

The Ludus Magnus - otherwise known as the Gladiator School - was built by the Emperor Domitian (81-96AD)  and lies just to the east (left in the lead photo) of the Flavian amphitheatre, although it is far better known as the Colosseum. 

In its day, the Ludus Magnus was Rome's foremost academy for training gladiators. 

Fragments of the now famous Severian map of Rome - engraved on marble slabs - had revealed the existence of the Ludus Magnus as far back as 1562, but it was not until its chance discovery in 1937 that Rome's Gladiator School once again saw the light of day!

The original construction of the Gladiator School came about as part of large public building works undertaken by the Flavian emperors. It aim was to create a purpose built district specially equipped to function around the needs of the amphitheatre.

The main entrance of the Gladiator School was off the Via Labicana - as it still is today. It led into a colonnaded courtyard surrounded by the gladiators' quarters.

At the centre of the Ludus Magnus, built on two levels, there was an ellipsoidal arena in which the gladiators practised. It was circumscribed by the steps of a small cavea, probably reserved for a limited number of spectators. 

The cavea had a four-sided portico (of about 100m per side) with travertine columns. It led to a number of outside rooms, to be used by the gladiators and as services for the performances. 

Only a few ruins in Travertine remain of the colonnade which was raised in the place where the columns were probably located originally. Seating was provided, however this was only for a very limited number of select spectators.

There is also a tunnel that connects the Gladiator School with the underground network of the Colosseum that enabled the Gladiators the reach their impressive stage unimpeded by their fans.

The path, with an entrance 2.17 m wide, began underneath the amphitheatre and reached the Gladiator School at its southwestern corner.

Between the second and forth centuries the Gladiator School underwent numerous alterations, especially at the hands of Trajan (98-117AD). However, it was the abolition of gladiatorial contests in the 6th century that eventually led to its closure.

In the north-west corner of the portico, one of the four small, triangular fountains has been restored. 

It lies in the spaces between the curved wall of the cavea and the colonnade. 

A cement block remained between two brick walls, converging at an acute angle.

A large part of the brickwork structures were originally covered by marble slabs that were later removed.

What is left today of the ancient Gladiator School are the ruins of slightly less than one half of the oval mini-amphitheatre and the bottom of one half of the living quarters area for the gladiators.

The rest - unfortunately - remains buried under a number of buildings and a side road.

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Lead photo care of http the others are mine://

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