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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 14:18 GMT
Plans to restore ancient Rome spur dissent
By David Willey
BBC correspondent in Rome

Controversial plans are afoot to revamp Rome's historic centre - to give visitors a better insight into how the ancient city looked.

A 78-year-old Italian professor of architecture, Carlo Aymonino, has been entrusted by the city's mayor with redesigning the area around the Roman forum - once dominated by a soaring, white marble temple.

Rome's Colosseum
Part of the professor's plan is to restore the ancient Colosseum

His plan is to do away with the modern road leading to the Colosseum, the ancient Roman amphitheatre where gladiators once fought wild animals - and each other - to entertain the crowds.

The modern road, built by Mussolini, covers many important ruins.

Professor Aymonino also proposes to fill in the missing part of the outer wall of the Colosseum with red brick.

He wants to clean out the weeds and the rubble nearby and to reconstruct part of the temple of Jupiter - which formed the heart of ancient Rome - adding a transparent dome amid the ruins.

Many classical scholars say they are aghast at the idea of turning Rome's centre into what they fear would become an archaeological theme park.

In modern times, Romans have hotly debated how - and whether - to restore ancient monuments.

For many centuries they simply ripped apart the ruins of imperial Rome and recycled the building materials for new palaces and churches.

Most modern archaeologists prefer minimalist restoration.

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