The incipit of a piece in the Los Angeles Times:
The gladiators charge each other with a great clashing and crashing of arms and armor. It’s hard to say who looks more fearsome: Atropo or Taurus.
Atropo, the towering Germanic barbarian, wears a mask of black war paint, a headband over her blond hair and a brown tunic and leggings. She wields a trident in one hand and whirls a net in the other.
Taurus, the compact Roman, is a tattooed mass of muscle beneath a battered metal helmet that covers all but his eyes. He circles behind his shield, lunging with the short sword known as the gladio.
The combat rages until Atropo snares the sword with her net, twists Taurus off balance and batters him to his knees. She whips a dagger from her boot and applies it to his jugular.
“Hah!” she snarls. “Now comes the moment when I cut your throat.”
In her conquering gaze, you can almost see a crowded amphitheater roaring in expectation, an emperor rising from his throne to proffer the gesture — thumbs up? thumbs down? — that will decide the fallen fighter’s fate.
Instead, a spatter of applause echoes in a workout room at the Sport and Fitness gym (English names are trendy here) in Ardeatina, an outlying neighborhood of Rome where middle-class Italians and concrete apartment blocks are more common than tourists and ruins.
Atropo helps Taurus pull off his helmet, and the two become 21st century Romans again: Giulia Mazzoli, a mosaic artist, and Michele D’Orazio, a construction worker.
Some people play Dungeons & Dragons in their spare time; some reenact battles; some learn martial arts. Mazzoli and D’Orazio have a pastime that combines elements of all three — and a powerful dose of local pride.