Rome’s “Centurions” Schvitz Over Their Future

Manuel Sonnino, 22, is just one of the Jewish "Centurions" who work outside the Colosseum.

Manuel Sonnino, 22, is just one of the Jewish “Centurions” who work outside the Colosseum.  Marie Telling / Religio.

At first glance, the men in leather sandals, pleated tunics, and armored breastplates who pose with tourists at the Colosseum in Rome look like what they hope to be taken for: Roman centurions. Clustered in groups of two or three, these sword-brandishing would-be warriors have become a staple attraction on the ancient cobbled streets of Rome, where they animate the city’s history and pose for pictures with eager tourists. But what’s under the embroidered red sleeves of an astonishing number of them is a little more surprising: tattoos of Hebrew words, Stars of David, and Israeli flags.

By many estimates, well over half of the 40 or so street performers who work in and around the Colosseum are Jewish. Many are proud and practicing Jews. Some even claim to be descendants of the Jews who were enslaved or killed by Roman centurions—the real ones—two thousand years ago. But while the tattoos are there to stay, the centurions themselves might not be.

Read the full story at Tablet.

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