Travel: Barbarians or Heroics?

Although my muscles were silently crying tears, I made my way onwards toward the Colosseum that silently towers in the background. However, I first attempted to give my bones a reprieve by pausing in the shadows of these ancient roman giants and taking in their confident stances that have stayed steadfast despite the centuries.

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I know I’ve used this word far to often, but the first thought that comes to mind is ‘breathtaking.’ Its no wonder that it has consistently held its title as a ‘Wonder of the World.’ The structure is a monstrosity after all; built of concrete and stone, it has weathered the ages and remains the largest amphitheater ever constructed to date.

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The iconic name ‘Colosseum’ is believed to be derived from the nearby (although no longer in existence) colossal statue of Nero that was erected in bronze and towered at a height of 30m within the vestibule of Emperor Nero‘s imperial villa the Domus Aurea.

Considered a pinnacles of Roman Architecture and Engineering, it lies east of the Roman Forum and was erected during the Flavian dynasty under the reign trifecta of VespasianTitus, and Domitian.

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Shadows creep as the sun sets.

It held between 50-80 thousand spectators and was the site of gladiatorial contests and public spectacles for the entertainment of the public.

Events such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, reenactments of famous battles, classical mythological dramas, and even executions were regularly on display.

Unfortunately, it fell into disuse in the early medieval era, and was only reincarnated by necessity as  grounds for housing, workshops, religious quarters, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine. It even maintains close connections with the Roman Catholic Church, as each year, on Good Friday, the Pope leads a torchlit “Way of the Cross” procession originating from the Roman Ruins surrounding the Colosseum.

An epigram by the Venerable Bede often misattributed as a reference to the colosseum states the following:

 Quamdiu stat Colisæus, stat et Roma; quando cadet colisæus, cadet et Roma; quando cadet Roma, cadet et mundus 

“As long as the Colossus stands, so shall Rome; when the Colossus falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, so falls the world”

Although the correct structure in question was the previously stated Statue Of Nero, one can’t help but consider the subtle symbology behind this statement.

The Roman’s were certainly an articulate and knowledgeable civilization that flourished for centuries despite systematic weaknesses. They knew how to effectively wield power across long distances, develop a unified army, distribute responsibilities amongst individual civil administrations, develop a system to control public finances, and maintain a class system. The empire didn’t fall in a sudden blaze of glory, but was whittled away at by circumstance, much as the Colosseum continues to lose it skeleton to greedy stone robbers.

I realize this is a de facto analogy, but it really causes one to ponder. What do you think?

Travel: Roman Ingenuity

I suppose I could have visited these vestiges of Roman Power earlier on during my stay in Rome, but those days were fraught with cloudy skies and doubtful rain. The scenery and the nobility of these shrewdly crafted sprawling complexes is best observed by admiring their height against the deep, blue sky, and pondering the shadows they leave behind. Still standing 2 Millenia later, the longevity of these structures are a testament to the Roman Empire‘s influence and power.

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The word awe-inspiring has certainly been used by me more times on this trip than I can count. In this case, I feel that it is well deserved, although my tender feet may not acknowledge this compliment since the square area that was traipsed across tested their limits.

As you can imagine, the lines to get into these archaeological ruins tend to be lengthy, I ventured there with a girl who was staying at the same hostel as me, unfortunately, it is at the lines that we split up. I had invested in the Roma Card, a visitor pass that allowed me to bypass the lines, and I was simply not eager to bide my time with her.

My first stop was the Roman Forum.

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This complex was located in the center of the city and houses the important government buildings of this ancient civilization. It was the main social environment for its citizens, a square for public speeches, criminal trials, triumphal processions and elections. The venue was used for gladiatorial matches and was the nucleus for the commercial affairs of the city.

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I literally lost more than half my day here! There are so many towering structures and secret little niches that are delicately foiled in bright green moss. It’s definitely not an area that you can rush through, because smelling the air, and envisioning the daily lives of Roman Citizens is a must.  Believe me, my feet were absolutely KILLING me by the end of it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to rush through the subtle nuances of heritage that are exuded with each step. (I think that is a grammatically correct sentence…)