Pompeii rumours grow as Colosseum is ruled out.
When Elon Musk confirmed on Friday that he would fight Mark Zuckerberg at an "epic location" in Italy with an ancient Roman backdrop, many assumed the venue would be the Colosseum in Rome.
The bizarre notion of the two tech billionaires battling it out in a cage fight in the ancient amphitheatre was first mooted in June however the prospect was ruled out definitively by Italy's culture minister on Friday.
Musk, the owner of X (formerly Twitter), said the brawl in Italy with Facebook founder Zuckerberg would be managed by their respective foundations and would be livestreamed on Meta (Facebook) and X.
In a surprise statement, culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said he had "a long and friendly conversation with Elon Musk about a major historical reenactment event" that would result in a donation of "many millions of euro" to two children's hospitals in Italy.
Hailing it as a chance "to promote our history and our archaeological, artistic and cultural heritage on a world stage,” Sangiuliano did not disclose the venue but specified that it would not be in Rome.
This prompted much speculation about which of Italy's many "epic locations" would host the mixed-martial arts fight between Musk, 52, and Zuckerberg, 39.
It has also sparked a flurry of offers from authorities around Italy eager to host the highly-anticipated “Musk vs Zuck" showdown.
Carmine Lo Sapio told news agency ANSA that he "really hoped" the "extraordinarily original event" could take place in the amphitheatre of the Pompeii archaeological park, which hosted a legendary Pink Floyd concert in 1971.
However the renowned Italian archaeologist Andrea Carandini is firmly against this idea, stating that Pompeii was anything but suited to hosting this "clown show".
The president of the southern Calabria region, Roberto Occhiuto, is also clamouring to host the event and has submitted an official application to the culture minister.
Underlining his region as "the cradle of the Riace Bronzes, Occhiuto said Calabria has "all the credentials - historical, cultural and social - required to take up this challenge".
The mayor of Taormina in Sicily has also sent an application to the culture ministry, proposing the town's ancient amphitheatre as "an epic, suggestive and enchanting location" for the fight.
Cateno De Luca wrote on Facebook: "All that would be required is for them to donate at least €10 million to the hospital in Taormina to safeguard the paediatric heart surgery centre."
There were also offers from Benevento, near Naples, courtesy of mayor Clemente Mastella who said the town's Roman theatre would make a "perfect location" for the "super-challenge".
A different sort of offer came from Florence mayor Dario Nardella who in an interview with La Repubblica newspaper on Sunday suggested Piazza della Signoria as a venue.
However, rather than a physical clash, Nardella proposes a battle of wits between the tech titans, recalling the legendary artistic showdown between Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo in 1504.
Paolo Ferrara, a politician with the populist Movimento 5 Stelle, suggested the Teatro Romano in Ostia Antica as "an epic setting" for the event, adding: "it's not in central Rome but it's still immersed in its history."
Even the Cinecittà World theme park south of Rome has thrown its hat in the ring by offering its Ben Hur set as the backdrop to the duel.
Other potential venues mentioned by the Italian media - without official requests to host the event - include the Arena in Verona and the Roman amphitheatre of Santa Maria Capua Vetere near Naples.
The flurry of offers has however been matched by a hail of criticism at the idea of an ancient site in Italy hosting such an event.
"I find it simply incredible that Italy's cultural heritage is being put at the disposal of two billionaires who want to duke it out like idiotic teenagers," said Carlo Calenda, leader of the centrist Azione party.
"It's not a question of how much they are paying" - Calenda said - "There are things that are simply not up for sale. One of these is the dignity and history of a great country."
The mayor of Herculaneum, Ciro Buonajuto, was also quick to say that his historic town didn't need "two billionaires playing at aping modern gladiators!"
When will the Musk vs Zuck fight take place?
As speculation grows about the venue of the fight, the date also remains undisclosed.
Zuckerberg said on Friday that he’s “ready to fight” Musk but not to believe that there’s a scheduled date until he confirms it.
“If he ever agrees on an actual date, you’ll hear it from me" - Zuckerberg wrote on Threads - "Until then, please assume anything he says has not been agreed on.”
One date mentioned was 26 August however this is thought unlikely.
Another date mentioned in the Italian media is 15 March, or the Ides of March, the date on which Julius Caesar was assassinated in Rome in 44 BC.
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