Some 20 "gladiators" have been arrested outside some of Rome's most famous tourist sites in an undercover sting by police aimed at breaking up a violent racket targeting tourists, according to reports.
The AFP news agency said police disguised themselves as gladiators, a costume seen around the Coliseum and other sites, garbage men and members of the public in order to execute the sting.
Those arrested in the sting are alleged to have attacked and intimidated competitors, the AFP said. In one arrest operation, police officers disguised as gladiators were beaten up before other undercover officers moved in, according to AFP.
The Guardian newspaper reported that swords, although only wooden ones, were drawn during the clash in the Piazza Venezia Wednesday. It also said that tourists had complained that they had been threatened.
Other allegations against the gladiators included claims that they demanded more than $40 to pose for a picture. One reported ruse was to offer to take a photograph of a tourist with the tourist's camera, then refuse to return it unless money was paid, MSNBC reported.
In 2003, a gladiator was arrested for carrying a real sword. There was also a fight involving rival groups of people in costumes from Ancient Rome outside the Colosseum.
In 2007, a centurion was arrested after a reported attack on an American man and a Chilean woman, which put them both in hospital.