"Strength and honor," the hero Maximus said in the movie "Gladiator." For some of today's Roman gladiators, the motto may be "Strength? Sure. Honor? Not so much."
Italian police disguised as tourists, as street sweepers and even as fellow faux fighters arrested 20 costumed characters who allegedly had been strong-arming tourists and muscling out competitors, The Australian reported. Nine were charged with crimes of violence, according to the report.
The gladiators are familiar to visitors near Rome's prime tourist spots, including the Colosseum, the Forum, Plaza Venezia and the Vatican. The characters typically charge a fee to pose for pictures or give tours.
Some allegedly would offer to take a tourist's photo using the tourist's camera, then demand an exorbitant fee for the camera's return, Third Age reported.
Police said the suspects were members of seven families that worked with five tourist agencies to corner the gladiator market and intimidate competitors at all the best locations, BBC reported.
Undercover police dressed up as gladiators to see if the more thuggish operators would try to put the muscle on them to protect their turf, according to The Australian. They didn't disappoint. When things started to get ugly, the street sweepers dropped their brooms and moved in to cuff the offenders.