Ella Ide, AFP
Posted on October 11, 2019 at 10:52.
Last updated Friday, October 11, 2019 1:27 PM EDT
ROME, Italy [Reuters] – A vivid fresco depicting a gladiator in victorious armor while his wounded opponent stumbles in gushing blood was discovered in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, the Italian Ministry of Culture said on Friday.
The striking scene in gold, blue and red was uncovered in what experts think was a tavern frequented by gladiators who fought each other, prisoners and wildlife for the entertainment of the public.
"We don't know how this fight ended. The gladiators were killed or had mercy," Pompeii director Massimo Osanna said.
A "Murmillo" fighter, wearing a wide-brimmed helmet with a visor, holds his large rectangular shield in his left hand, while holding the short sword in his right.
On the ground beside him is the shield of the defeated "Thraex", who has suffered deep injuries and is on the verge of collapse.
"What is particularly interesting is the extremely realistic representation of the wounds, such as the unsuccessful gladiator's wrist and chest, from which blood drips wetting his leggings," Osanna said.
"Thraex is gesturing with his hand, possibly asking for mercy," he said.
The fresco – which measures 1.12 meters by 1.5 meters – was found in what excavators believe to be a basement room, as the impression of a wooden staircase can be seen above it.
Treasures of a ruined city
The building was situated not far from the gladiator headquarters in Regio V, a quarter of the site that recently offered several impressive archaeological finds, but is still open to the public.
It was probably a tavern with a higher floor of rooms used by the innkeeper or prostitutes, the ministry said.
The discovery was made during works to protect an area north of the archaeological park under the Great Pompeii Project, launched after years of poor maintenance and bad weather, causing a series of wall collapses.
Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini He said the discovery shows that Pompeii is "an inexhaustible mine of research and knowledge for archaeologists of today and tomorrow."
The ruined city in southern Italy is the second most visited tourist site in the country after the Colosseum in Rome, with over 3.6 million visitors in 2018.
Perhaps the most significant discovery in Regio V so far has been an inscription discovered last year proving that the city was destroyed by Mount Vesuvius after October 17, 79 AD and not August 24, as previously thought.
Most attractive, however, was the skeleton of a man in 2018, whose trunk was found sticking out of a large block of stone that had crushed his head.
He appeared to have survived the initial eruption and tried to flee when volcanic ash blanketed the city, but was slowed down and likely overcome by lethal gases, experts said.