Hallowed Ground at the Colosseum

There are a lot of updates to report regarding the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.  Unsurprisingly, so much is still unknown about why the Pope is choosing to resign, who the next Pope might be, and what will happen to Benedict after he officially steps down as Pope.  This is an unprecedented situation in the Church and Vatican officials for the most part will be handling issues as they go a long.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles today that all have a consensus that the Papal Conclave, which is the gathering of the eligible electors within the College of Cardinals, will begin sometime in mid-March, probably around March 15-18.  This could of course change tomorrow and nothing is definitive, these are just possible dates that several Vatican officials have given as the start of the Conclave, I’ll keep everyone updated on any new developments.

Below is a travel writing piece about my visit to the Colosseum last month that I wrote for my travel writing class this semester:

 

Ostriches and rabbits.  Deer and cheetahs.  Lions and wolves.  Leopards and serpents.  Pairings such as these might sound peculiar to any modern animal lover, but to the Ancient Romans, they were all too common.  The Romans would flock to the Colosseum to see these showdowns between the wild beasts. The creatures would tear each other a part and fight to the death all for the satisfaction of the Roman populace who was eager to see epic battles produce heroes among animals and men alike.

But when I recently visited the Colosseum, I did not find myself in a place that would condone such battles or even consider the possibility of letting different species savagely rip each other apart.  The Ancient Romans saw the Colosseum as a place of entertainment and pageantry.  As I walked through the Colosseum and progressed through the various exhibits that enlightened me to the fact that such unthinkable tortures were carried out on both wild animals and human beings, I could not help but feel as if I was standing on hallowed ground.

I entered the oval-shaped structure and felt like an athlete preparing to enter the playing field for competition. I walked through a dark corridor revealing subdued light at the end of it.  It was a cloudy day with damp air and drizzling rain, almost making tangible the sweat that dripped off the faces of those getting ready for battle.   I could sense the fear coursing through the bodies of Gladiators and common folk alike that were waiting to meet their matches in the arena.

As I finally entered the arena, I tried to picture tens of thousands of people wildly cheering for blood to spill and a victor to be crowned.  From their assigned seats, attendees of these games and battles would witness violence that is unfathomable in many parts of the world today.  The floor of the arena, which is now in ruin, contains several dark passageways below it that snake throughout the arena making the possibilities of what could take place within them nearly infinite.  My friends and I tried to imagine what kinds of battles would occur within these mysterious corridors.

“What kinds of animals do you think battled down there?”  One of my friends asked.

“People, I replied, and any other kind of wild animal that you can conceptualize.”

Leaving the main level, I continued to climb to the upper sections which left my knees tired from the steepness of the stairs.  My eyes soon found displays of the weapons and stories that painted a gruesome picture of what kind of place this used to be.  I had always known what the Colosseum was used for.  However, physically being surrounded by the walls that have seen the history of the battles, I suddenly felt as if I had been misled in elementary and middle school in being taught that this place was a place of jovial happenings and good-hearted fun.

When Henry James visited the Colosseum, he wrote that, “I always feel, as I do so, as if I were seated in the depths of an Alpine Valley.  The upper portions of the side towards the Esquiline look as remote and lonely as an Alpine Ridge…”  The Colosseum was in James’ time what it still is today: a peaceful and calming place.  Despite the robust tourism aspect that meanders throughout the portals and levels of the structure, the Colosseum is in many ways a tranquil memorial to all those who lost their lives entertaining an empire.  There are many quiet parts of the Colosseum that allow you to feel as if the nearest tour group is miles away and glory days of this monument are incredibly close.  Like the majestic peaks of a mountain, the walls of this ancient battlefield rise up and protect the outside world from having to view the interior ruins that are symbolically stained with blood and sacrifice.

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