June 12, 2011

The Ancients of Rome

The Colosseum.  The Roman Forum. The Circus Maximus. Pallatine Hill.  In order to experience these, the imagination must be shifted into overdrive.  Nix the honking cars and boisterous crowds of infinite languages, as well as the shouting street vendors being chased by Carabinieri (police).  Add in the whispering shuffle  of leather on cobblestone and the faint rumbling of caged, wild animals yearning for dinner.

Imagine a floor/covering here on the bottom of the Colosseum, hiding all the corridors below.  Thus it becomes an arena much like the modern day version.  The Colosseum was the cultural center of Ancient Rome.  It was the 'downtown movie theater' when Rome ruled the world.  Masses were seated according to 'rank', with women being the 'least of these'.  Gladiators (usually prisoners) fought wild animals for entertainment.  Blood thirsty endeavors.  Funny how violence has always attracted audiences, even from the beginning of time.

Why is the Colosseum full of holes? 
 Good question!  The original structure was built and held together with 300 tons of iron clamps.  All well and good till Rome fell, the Middle Ages happened, and Rome needed metal for weapons.  Someone remembered the 'hidden treasure' within the walls of the Colosseum.  Yes, it was savagely violated by its own.

Over the years, the Roman Forum (just down the block from the Colosseum) has taken more of a hit than the Colosseum.  The governmental mecca of world  power  is mostly in ruins now, with only a smathering of columns surviving. 

But the jaw-dropping craftsmanship!  Stone monuments meant to last forever are true to their purpose.  A little sad, too, that probably nothing this noteworthy will ever be built again.  Costs seem always to trump the effort. 

This is the Arch of Constantine, who, by the way, has quickly become one of my fave historical figures. It sits just outside the Colosseum on your way to Pallatine Hill. It was erected to commemorate Constantine's victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312.

Italian culture fascinated me while visiting.  I wonder what it's like 'growing up' under the shadow of the greatest power in history.  They, today, are tasked with being the caretakers of the 'evidence'.  And, according to our bicycle tour guide (an archeology doctoral student), the sheer volume of Rome's past 'greatness' is overwhelming. 

Can you think of anything in America that was built just for the sheer beauty in gazing upon it?

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