Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Colosseum

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I should state again that it was extremely hot while we were there, so by the time we finished walking around the Palatine, we were ready for a break. It was around 3, so we took time off from our march through Rome to find some food.

We found a nice little place right next to the Colosseum, which had a wonderful view of the Colosseum and its parade of tourists. Man, I never realized how many people those cruise ships could pack in there! It looked like they were being led on a death march!

By the time we were done lunch, it seemed like a good time to hit the Colosseum, as we saw many of these groups heading out for the day.

The second floor of the Colosseum is actually a museum or gallery, with various rotating exhibits. It was pretty well done with informative explanatory notes – the theme was ‘eros’ in Ancient Rome.

(I think this gallery helps explain the bizarre ‘exhibit’ the Turks have constructed on the second floor of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. When we were there, there were a few enormous pieces of ‘modern art,’ which looked like big canvases of basically all black, which were totally incongruous with the building and not explained at all. Now my guess is that the Turks were just aping what they saw in places like the Colosseum.)

After that, we walked around the interior of the Colosseum for awhile. The building was inaugurated in 80 AD and used continuously for over 500 years. It could seat at least 50,000 people. What you see in the center was originally all covered with a wooden floor. These things underneath were a complex set of pulleys, trap doors, and alleys leading to prisons and animal cages. The wooden floor was covered with sand, and items were dramatically brought up into the arena from underneath the floor – items such as exotic tigers and lions.

(Interestingly, during the Middle Ages, when the Colosseum was abandoned, exotic plants started to grow in the Colosseum, from seeds which had been inadvertently carried there by animals from Africa, etc.)

Originally, this pit was empty, so that the wooden floor could be removed and the pit flooded to re-enact famous naval battles from history.

The inaugural games last 100 days and featured the slaughter of 5000 exotic animals. In the early 2nd century, the Emperor Trajan held games which lasted 117 days and which claimed the lives of over 9000 men. It is generally accepted that some Christian martyrs lost their lives here, including St Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 107 AD).

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