Gladiator tomb discovered by archeologists

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The 1,800-year-old stone mausoleum on the banks of the River Tiber was hailed by experts as an "extraordinary discovery" and one of the most important Roman finds for decades.

It was built to contain the remains of Marcus Nonius Macrinus, a proconsul and a favourite of Marcus Aurelius, who ruled as emperor from 161 AD to his death in 180 AD.

Macrinus was born in Brescia, in northern Italy, and won victories leading Roman legions into battle.

He became a confidant of Emperor Aurelius, being appointed a proconsul in Asia Minor and describing himself as "chosen out of the closest friends".

Elements of his life were incorporated into Maximus Decimus Meridius, the fictional character for which Crowe won an Oscar in the 2000 film Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott.

In the award-winning film, Maximus is a battle-hardened general and a protégé of the emperor, just as Marcus Nonius Macrinus was.

The intricately carved marble tomb, complete with a stone inscription identifying it as that of Macrinus, was found near the Via Flaminia, one of the arterial roads which led in and out of ancient Rome.

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