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REBURYING THE GLADIATOR

In 2008, the tomb of general Marcus Nonius Macrinus was discovered close to Rome. He was the Roman general who inspired Russell Crowe’s character in Gladiator. In the movie he loses his family and is sold as a slave while in real life our general becomes a rich and famous man.

Born in Brescia, Macrinus became a senator when he was about 25 years old, and a consul at 41 (circa 154 AD). He was also a police commissioner, magistrate, proconsul of Asia, and close advisor of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who is also one of the most important Stoic philosophers. Daniela Rossi, the archaeologist who led the dig, found a row of columns at least 50 feet long and more than 10 inscriptions on the tomb that detail Macrinus’ life.

The tomb was destined to become a perfect tourist destination; instead, it looks like it is going to be reburied because the Italian Ministry of Culture has no funds to conserve it and make it functional. “It is a painful choice but we cannot risk losing the monument,” Maria Rosaria Barbera, Rome's archaeological superintendent, told La Repubblica newspaper. “The marble can't face another winter, we must bury the site in order to preserve it.”

Many archeologists disagree, stating that it will ruin the monument forever, and there are petitions on line to try to save it. Unfortunately, so many important Italian archaeological sites are closed due to the financial crisis and it is almost impossible to continue digging, to conserve the ruins or to keep looters out because archeologists don’t even have enough funds to fill their cars with gas and reach the sites.