Friday, November 19, 2010

Of All the Roman Gladiators, We Couldn’t Find Maximus

So, I was kind of struggling with what to write about this week; especially, since I already have next week’s post planned out. However, while I looked at various pictures of my travels, I found myself reflecting longer and longer on the ones revolving around Rome. I can’t help but look at the pictures I took at the Colosseum and wish that I was back inside that amazing piece of historical architecture.

As some of you may know, my sister and I spent two weeks in Europe this past summer. For three days, we were given the opportunity to explore the beautiful city of Rome and let me tell you, that place is like none other. As much as I would love to tell you all about those three days, I’m afraid that blog post would be pages upon pages of reading; hence, my decision to focus solely on our day at the Colosseum…for now.

Okay, so you’ve seen it in pictures and movies, and even learned about it in school, but to see the Colosseum in person is quite a sight. Considering that it has been around since 70-80 A.D., it is holding up quite well. Granted, Mother Nature has taken its toll on it, but no one can deny the beauty of this structure.


Sitting Down on the Job...tsk, tsk
So we’re standing in line, waiting to buy our tickets, and I look over to see some men dressed as Roman gladiators. The first thought that popped into my head was that they looked nothing like Russell Crowe and secondly, there was no way I was going to pay to have my picture taken with one of them. I had heard rumors before we left on this trip, that in Rome, when you visit the Colosseum, there would be men dressed up as gladiators and if you want a picture with one of them, it will cost you an arm and a leg. Granted, I didn’t approach one of them, but I assumed from the various reports and stories that I had heard and read that I much rather preferred to keep my limbs. So, with my spiffy little camera, I snapped a few photos from afar…sneaky, I know.

Once purchasing our tickets, and managing to stay in front of two older gentlemen who kept trying to cut in front of us, we finally made our way into the Colosseum. Quickly, I pulled out my video camera and began filming. I didn’t want to miss any of it as I am one of those kinds of people who like to have more than just pictures for memories. Walking up the concrete pathway, into the main arena, I was completely taken back when I saw the enormity of it all. I could almost picture crowds of people standing in the stadium-style arena, cheering (or jeering) for the gladiator below.

“Okay, so where’s Maximus?” My sister laughed.  Yes, unfortunately, Russell Crowe was not there to grace us with his role of Maximus in Gladiator.  I do believe that is the only thing that could have made our day at the Colosseum even better.

The "Hypogeum"
The wooden arena floor has been cut back to showcase the underground chambers and passageways, also known as the hypogeum. As we looked out over the railing, it looked much like a maze—an area that held animals that were used for fighting. How I wish we could have gone down into that. I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be expected to fight for your life, in front of hundreds upon hundreds of people; what it was like to battle fierce tigers, elephants, lions, bears, and other wild animals, in an attempt to survive in the arena. Would people cheer for you, or would they hope for your death? I guess it depended upon the nature of why you were there in the first place.

History tells us that men who were trained to become gladiators were not the only ones fighting in the arena. Criminals and Roman citizens were often executed within the Colosseum. Christians were often subjected to public humiliation or death in the arena. I kept this in mind as I zoomed in on the one thing that grasped my attention.

“Look over there. Talk about irony,” I said to my sister. 

When she spotted what it was that I was pointing at, she shared my expression. There, placed for all to see what a large cross. It sits there as a reminder of the Christian martyrs that died in the arena. Now, I realize that things have changed since the days of gladiators and all, but if the Catholic Church in Rome opted to place that cross there, for that reason…then I applaud their respect.

However, history hasn’t changed too much since those days. People may not be thrown into large arenas to be killed in front of thousands of people, but the nature of killing others because they have a different religious belief continues today.

Before I get on my soapbox about that, I’ll refocus and get back to the topic at hand. Both my sister and I simply could not believe that we were actually standing inside this place. Known for its incredible architecture, the Colosseum, I am convinced, is a sight that everyone should see at least once. As you stand outside one of the numerous entrances, you see that you are surrounded by even more of Rome’s great history. Near the Colosseum, you have the Arch of Titus, as well as the Arch of Constantine. And, on top of that, you are right across the street from the Roman Forum…incredible.  
My sister and I (I'm on the right)

Coming from the U.S., I find it absolutely fascinating when I see buildings and structures that are older than my own country. Granted, that is pretty much the rest of the world; however, to be given the opportunity to see it for myself, I couldn’t feel more humbled or appreciative.


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