A squad of 80 municipal policemen booted a small legion of costumed gladiators and centurions from Rome's Colosseum yesterday.
The policemen warned the 30 sword-swishing, faux gladiators that they will no longer be allowed to hang out at the 2,000-year-old monument.
A 2002 law prohibits anyone to pose in costume around the Colosseum.
Following the warning, those who pose near the arena dressed as ancient Romans will face up to one year in jail.
"These costumed people and their behavior are inappropriate. We will check every day that they do not hang around the monument, as well as other archaeological areas," Antonio Di Maggio, deputy chief of Rome's municipal police, told reporters.
Visited by more than six million people a year, the Colosseum is Italy's most lucrative archaeological site. According to a report by the daily La Repubblica, in 2011 the monument sold at least $46 million worth of tickets.
Trying to benefit from the huge business, the breastplate-wearing, tunic-donning characters have long been known to hassle tourists.
"They’ll pose with you as you’re trying to take a picture of just you and the Colosseum and then they’ll hop in the picture and say that because they’re in costume, you owe them money," student Carol Foster told the National Geographic's Intelligent Travel.
Prices for a shot range from 10 to 20 euros ( $13-26), although having to pay 50 euros ($65) isn't uncommon for scared tourists.
"Every last one of the Colosseum’s gladiators and centurions are ex-convicts," La Repubblica said, citing policemen who regularly patrols the area.
Many have been posing for pictures for years and are not willing to give up.
"We cannot accept to lose our job. This will end badly. Rather than move from here, we’ll burn down the Colosseum," a kicked-out gladiator told the daily Corriere della Sera.
Image: Costumed gladiators will no longer be allowed to pose for pictures and ask for money around Rome's Colosseum. Credit: Adrian Pingstone/Wikimedia Commons.