Thursday's Child: The Colosseum, Rome

Thursday, September 13, 2012


This month I’m writing about impressive architecture we’ve seen on our travels, and one of the most iconic buildings we’ve visited was Rome’s Colosseum.  This amphitheatre was built 2000 years ago, with a capacity of 55,000 spectators.  It was home to an incredible number of spectacles, including several occasions when it was flooded to stage reenactments of naval battles.

I first saw it when I travelled with Contiki Tours in my mid-20s.  Of course I was impressed with the Colosseum: It’s so big!  I’m standing where the emperors used to stand!  Is there a gelato shop around here? 

(Readers who are around my age may be amused at my journal description of going dancing that night: “but I only stayed until midnight because I was pretty tired”.  Sightseeing all day and dancing til midnight.  Ah, the exuberance of youth.)

I visited again a couple of years ago, and I felt a little more conflicted.  I could still admire its architecture, but now thought about the cruelty that the Colosseum had been home to.  Gladiators fought to the death, wild animals were released and battled for the amusement of the audience.  Those emperors in whose spot I stood made life-or-death decisions about the entertainers in the arena before them.


History is complicated.  And as so often happens, there’s no ‘good’ or ‘bad’, just that gray area in between.  I wanted to love this stunning building unreservedly, for its prominence in such a powerful empire and its sheer beauty and longevity.  But its sad history made me reevaluate how I felt about it.  In the end, I tried to accept it as it was, a beautiful monument to an empire that’s known for its brilliant engineering, cruel games, and political domination.


27 comments:

Valerie said...

Despite it's gruesome history, it truly is a spectacular piece of architecture!

bakewithjill.com said...

It's pretty amazing to see it in person!

yummychunklet said...

Wonderful photos.

Bonnie said...

Don't you think the fact it has stood through the centuries say so much about the engineering of such a structure. It was a very cruel time. Beth you take amazing photographs. Thanks for sharing.

Belinda said...

There's really nothing like this - imagine when it was being used!

Kathy said...

Beth, Gorgeous photos! So enjoyed your post!

The Golden Eagle said...

The architecture of the Colosseum is amazing. Great photographs!

Beth said...

Thanks, Bonnie, but I must be honest and say that my husband is the main photographer when we're on holidays. Now if only I could get him to take my food pictures too....

Jemi Fraser said...

So true. Humans are always working in the grey areas - and history reflects that. It's hard to enjoy the beauty when it's built on such horror - but it is an amazing structure!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I would love to go there, but it would be hard to be in the pit and imagine how it felt to be a gladiator. I'm glad that form of entertainment no longer exists.

Pacheco Patty said...

We visited the Colosseum last year at this time and it was also my first time back since I was in my twenties- one difference was we were able to walk around the bottom, under what was the stage-which is closed now. There also wasn't a line to get in and I don't even think we paid anything but I could be wrong about that!
Anyway, it's a place to visit where history really does feel alive and what's not to love about Rome;-)

Lorraine said...

John and I have just watched two different shows about ancient Rome on the Wealth channel. If it is available to you, I think you will enjoy them.

Food Gal said...

Years ago when I visited Rome, I remember just being in awe when I came upon the Colosseum. Just it's sheer size is amazing. And then, it's situated smack dab in one of the most congested cities around. Truly a site (and sight) to see. ;)

Angie's Recipes said...

Stunning architecture!

a. maren said...

this is a really nice post. there is so much that is ugly, tragic, and sad in history. yet it can be so beautiful at the same time. in a way this monument is the perfect legacy of rome, in exactly the way you summed up. very nice.

Kristy said...

Beautiful photos and I just love your descriptions. I would so love to see this someday!

Claire Davis said...

Venice was my favorite city I saw when I lived in France, I so wish I had been able to see Rome, still on my list! I remember those metro rides at 2am back to my apartment, just a normal weekend. My life is so much less exciting now, ha!

Carol said...

Very well said! But on the other hand, the architecture is magnificent.

Guru Uru said...

A dream my friend to visit the Colosseum's magnificence :D

Cheers
Choc Chip Uru

Barbara said...

It's astounding to see in real life, isn't it? So much history, right in the center of the city. Amazing.

Medeia Sharif said...

I love Greek and Roman history. I've always wanted to visit the old sites and ruins. One of these days...

artofnaturalliving.com said...

You have certainly made some great trips!

nancy at good food matters said...

We are hoping to go to Rome next spring, and I look forward to seeing the Coliseum, and other wonders of the city. Human history is complicated, and often violent. Nonetheless, the Coliseum remains an amazing architectural achievement to admire.

Lizzy Do said...

I had the same thoughts...I was there in my 20's, then again a couple years ago. But since I was traveling with my dad on the first trip, I missed out on the dancing :)

grace said...

those are some impressive ruins, but even more impressive is the history surrounding them! i'd love to see rome someday...i'd even try to stay up til midnight if need be. :)

Jess said...

What a poignant post about such a well-known landmark. There's no doubt that this is an incredible structure, but you're right~ the beauty is marred by its bloody history.

Neesie said...

You took me right back in time to my honeymoon Beth...all those years ago when we visited Rome. ;D
I too was torn with my emotions and feelings at the time towards the Colisseum.
There's no getting away from it though it is an amazing piece of architecture.
Thanks for sharing :D

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