Tourists have long been drawn to the Colosseum and ruins of magnificent Roman temples in the heart of the Italian capital, but starting this week they can immerse themselves in ancient history and even pick up beginners' Latin.

The regional government along with two historical societies is offering free Latin classes to tourists in a bid to lure even more of the sword-and-sandals loving crowd to Rome.

"Given all the excitement over the Roman Empire lately, we thought it was crazy not to do something here in the heart of it all," said Alessandro Pediconi, one of the organisers.

They say interest for everything ancient skyrocketed after the success of Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator and is expected to just keep growing with films such as Troy, starring Brad Pitt, which opened in the US recently.

Educational tourism

The first courses are being offered for English and French speaking tourists using a comic book starring Caesar and featuring cursory history and language lessons.

But the fun won't stop with Latin.

For those itching to really live the Roman experience, organisers plan to team up this summer with the Scuola Gladiatori Roma, or gladiator school, to offer a package with Latin classes and a crash course in gladiator fighting.

After donning tunics and helmets, tourists would be treated to a typical Roman feast.

"Tourists are always looking for something 'typical' of a region - well for ancient Rome it doesn't get much more typical than gladiator fighting and Latin," said Pediconi.

Still, he said the ancient post-supper vomiting ritual would be dropped.