04/22/2015 12:33 pm ET Updated Jun 22, 2015

Happy Birthday, Rome From the Rank and File

It's that time of the year again. The third week of April, and Rome commemorates yet another year of its April 21, 753 BC founding. Though going on 2768 years, the Eternal City's birthday is never a bore, thanks to Gruppo Storico Romano, an Ancient Rome cultural association of gladiators, centurions and interactive history.

Gruppo Storico Romano may be best known as Rome's premier combat gladiator school but GSR is more than just bread and circuses. For the past 13 years, the group has organized Rome's city-wide birthday celebration, inviting centurions, emperors, barbarians, gladiators, legions and vestal virgins from across Italy and Europe (as close as Spain, as far as Georgia and Poland) to take part in the annual Natale di Roma parade and participate in re-enactments at the Circus Maximus. Fully geared legions, show-stopping barbarians and more come together to celebrate the Empire with well-orchestrated marches and combat performances.

And every year, I am on the front lines, perhaps because my good friend is a multi-disciplinary gladiator, maybe because I married an archaeologist obsessed with ancient arenas, or most likely because I can never get enough of Rome.

Celebrating Rome's birthday