Heroes In The Making: Rome’s Gladiator School

Rocco Forte Hotels

With epic tales of emperors, gladiators, and conquests, ancient Rome is especially thrilling for children. At the Gladiator School of Rome, little historians are given free rein to their imagination by stepping into the sandals of a Roman gladiator for a day.

Gladiator School opened its doors 20 years ago as a passion project of Sergio Nerone Iacomoni - known at the School as ‘Nero’. Sergio founded the Historic Group of Rome, a research-based non-profit programme designed to faithfully reconstruct the Eternal City’s long and fascinating history. Noticing younger visitors showing a keen interest in gladiator sports, the group decided to open the School.

"The word ‘gladiator’ is magical. It awakens a sense of rebellion.”

A history of rebels

The gladiator games were all the rage for almost a thousand years, reaching their peak between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD. Gladiators performed to a packed Colosseum and many were hero-worshipped - from the indomitable Spartacus, famously sold into slavery before leading a rebellion against his captors, to Marcus Attilius, a free-born Roman who, like today’s visitors, enrolled himself at gladiator school of his own volition.

Today, Gladiator School is a fun, interactive exploration of the past and for Sergio, it’s because of the anticipation of what’s to come that students arrive ready and willing to learn:

“History plays a central role in the School, the Roman Empire is famous worldwide as one of the greatest historical periods of humankind. The word ‘gladiator’ is magical. It awakens a sense of rebellion.”

It’s easy to see why ancient Rome engages a young audience. What better way to burn off some holiday energy than with an immersive history lesson on the famous gladiator games?

“Our School is like stepping into a time machine”

An action-packed two hours at Gladiator School is unlike any sports day little ones will be used to. Entering the School, students find themselves in a reproduction of an ancient Roman village, complete with authentic wooden houses and temples, an amphitheatre and a themed soundtrack.

Getting into character right away, aspiring gladiators don their tunics and take up wooden arms ahead of training. After being put through their paces with energetic warm-ups and combat techniques, the children are invited to put their newly acquired skills to the test in a good-natured battle with their teacher.

Students will discover how a gladiator’s social status evolved over time from slave to superstar and, rather than being disposable in the arena, battles were more strategic. Prize fighters were the hottest social currency, and expensive to train, house, and feed. In fact, Sergio dispels the common misconception that battles were fought ‘to the death’ as a Hollywood fantasy:

“Gladiators were celebrities. They were professional fighters loved by the people, and they performed with the assurance that they wouldn’t die in the fights - mainly because a lot of money was involved in the shows.” 

Graduate gladiators

A veteran of Gladiator School, Sergio continues to champion its lively tribute to Rome’s rebellious past. All students graduate with a Gladiator Certificate, free entry to the interactive museum, and a lasting memory of a truly extraordinary experience:

“People leave feeling like they have been a part of this unique historical period... To feel like a Roman is to feel like a Divinity.”

Gladiator School is just a short drive from Hotel de la Ville or Hotel de Russie, where our dedicated Rocco Forte Kids programme will ensure young heroes can recharge after a day in the battle arena.

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