On December 4 came the dire news: the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome announced that it was going to cover the site of the "Tomb of the Gladiator" - in reality, the mausoleum of the 2nd cent. AD Roman general Marcus Nonius Macrinus - to protect it from damage caused by exposure to the cold and wet after centuries of protection under 45 feet of mud. Given the lack of funding and the risk that the site might never be completely excavated, the prudent course seemed to be conservation by reburial.
On December 9 The Observer published an article about the plight of the tomb.
On December 10 at midnight the AIRC launched its online petition with ipetitions.com to save the tomb.
Also on December 10 the Italian newspaper La Repubblica published an article about the plight of the tomb citing the Academy Award®-winning actor Russell Crowe whose character Maximus Decimus Meridius in the film "Gladiator" was inspired by Macrinus (click here for the English version):
"Of all the great nations on earth, Italy in particular should be a guide in promoting the importance of exploring and conserving the ancient past... It is from the details of archaeological explorations that we see and understand what links us to our history, what history can teach us and what our future can be with that understanding."
The article continues:
"A 'dream' that leads Russell Crowe, interviewed by La Repubblica, to launch an appeal: 'The members of the City of Rome should always encourage Italian citizens to be proud of the achievements and the glorious history of their country.' And to save the monument, yesterday The American Institute for Roman Culture launched an online petition, 'Save the Gladiator's Tomb,' which involves a worldwide network of scholars and researchers. 'We want to bear witness to the Ministry for Cultural Heritage that there is great interest by the scientific community around the world in this discovery,' says the American archaeologist Darius Arya, who has also done documentaries for The History Channel on the Mausoleum of Macrinus. 'We aren't opposing the operation of backfilling because we understand the reasons, but we would like them to take into account all the possible solutions. As a last ditch effort, we aim to raise funds to save the monument.'"
Academy Award®-winning actor Crowe even tweeted about the AIRC petition five times and direct-tweeted once.
"Meanwhile, the online petition launched yesterday by The American Institute for Roman Culture and addressed to, among others, Minister of Culture Ornaghi and Rome's Mayor Alemanno, is collecting signatures worldwide. The objective is to exceed 5,000 signatures."
"Australian Russell Crowe, born in New Zealand, has launched an appeal to find the money [to save the tomb from being reburied]. The American Institute of Roman Culture endeavored to take action so that the tomb is not buried again [with their online petition]. This is one of the most important discoveries of the last decades, in which even The Guardian in London is interested. Fatum or nemesis it may be, the event brings up reminders of the collapse of the House of the Gladiators in Pompeii, an episode that once again highlighted the guilty carelessness in which we leave to waste away a legacy that, among other things, could be a source of interest, tourism, and, above all, funds."
"All the media attention on the fate of the Mausoleum of Macrinus triggered by Russell Crowe's involvement has reopened the game. And The American Institute for Roman Culture is working to bring Russell Crowe to Rome. 'He's a person who appreciates history,' says archaeologist and History Channel documentary host Darius Arya. 'And he is very interested in the problem of the Mausoleum of Macrinus. Indiana Jones is a fictional character; Russell Crowe is a real person.'"
At the moment, it seems that the Superintendent for Antiquities in Rome, Mariarosaria Barbera, and even the Italian Minister of Culture Lorenzo Ornaghi are talking about the matter. This is yet another opportunity to show the world Italy's interest and leadership in heritage and preservation...
In 11 days the AIRC petition has garnered over 2200 signatures. Many blogs are talking about it, and there are many retweets, from all over the world: this is real crowdsourcing at work.
On December 21 CNN released a video article about the effects of austerity on culture in Italy, including the "Tomb of the Gladiator."
On January 23, 2013, the online version of TIME magazine published an article by its correspondent in Rome, Stephan Faris, including an interview with AIRC's Darius.