Thursday, October 17, 2013


We're nearing the end of our trip, but I saved what I consider to be the best for last!

 The Arch of Constantine was built to celebrate the victory of Emperor Constantine over his rival, Maxentius,in the year 312.  Again I say - let me look this good even at my puny age!!

 There is a legend that before the battle, a cross appeared to Constantine and the voice of God told him, "With this sign you will win."  So Constantine had all the shields and beams of his army decorated with crosses.  He then attacked Maxentius, and won.

 So....why aren't there any crosses on the arch itself?  Well.....I hate to burst anyone's bubble, because it did sound fabulous when I first heard it, but the legend was started much later, when Rome became a Christian city.

 So....what is Emperor Constantine best known for?  He legalized Christianity in 313, and from that time on, the persecutions of Christians stopped. 
 Most people think Constantine was a Christian when he passed this law.  He wasn't though; he didn't become a Christian until later.  But he believed that everyone had a right to practice their own religion, including Christianity, and that's why he legalized it! 

And now............(drum roll please)

T H E     C O L O S S E U M

First, let me start by saying that nothing, and I mean N.O.T.H.I.N.G, will prepare you for your first sight of the Colosseum.  I've read about it for a great part of my life and I knew it was big.  Okay fine, huge then.    But it's grandeur, even in its condition now, is enough to literally boggle the mind!!

We arrived at the sight by underground train, so our first glimpse was as we were coming up to street level.  My first thought was, "What's that shadow?"  Because the sun was high and hot when we got on the train.  

And there it was......At first, I literally could not see either end of it, nor could I see the top of it.  It was just this giant, MEGA-HUGE monument and it literally stopped me dead in my tracks.  I only wish I could convey to you just how amazing it is, but my poor camera (and its operator) simply don't stand a chance!

When it was first built, it stood at the very edge of the city. Now it is literally surrounded by Rome.

Standing at the base and looking straight up, you can get a small idea of the size of it and its grand proportions.

Some reports I read said it took only 8 years to build, and others said it took 10 years.  Regardless, it was an amazing feat to accomplish!!  As a matter of fact, in my school days, the Colosseum was considered one of the 7 wonders of the world!   

The Colosseum was used for gladiator fights, the hunting of wild animals, and .........was sometimes flooded by underground pipes in order to reenact sea battles!!  Remember - there was no television, no sports events, no public entertainment to speak of back then.
Construction began by Emperor Vespasian, to offer "panem et circenses" (free bread and games) to the citizens of Rome. This photo is what you see upon entering the base of the building.

The gladiator fights continued until the year 405, and hunting until the 6th century.  During the Middle Ages, the stone was removed and used to build churches and palaces.

300 tons of iron was used for clamping the stone to the Colosseum.  When the iron was removed, it created all the holes you see in the outside walls. The large part of the building on the right is actually an inside wall; the part on the left of the photo is what's left of the outside wall. Initially, this outside wall went around the entire circumference of the building.
 Stunning, isn't it?  There is a photograph in one of the books I bought, dated1865, that shows this entire lower level completely covered in silt from the flooding Tiber river.  In the photo, it actually looks like a dirt floor and none of this lower level was visible.  Excavation began at the end of the 20th century.
The area to the left, where the people are standing, shows the excavation of the lower level.  It was in the lower level that slaves were kept, gladiators trained, and animals were caged.

Close-up of previous photo

This gives you a good idea how wide it is;
 we walked all the way around it. 

A good view of the underground area.  When this was excavated, trap doors and elevators were discovered and it was this area that was actually flooded for mock sea battles!!

There is a legend that as long as the Colosseum stands, Rome will stand.  If the Colosseum falls, then Rome will fall.

These structures reminded me of some gladiator helmets we saw.

The Colosseum could house up to 70,000 people at one time. 

Today, it is visited by three million people each year!

This reminded me of thatched roofs, but its volcanic rock.

In 1744, Pope Benedict XIV consecrated the structure in memory of the Christians who were supposedly martyred in the arena.  However, later research "suggests" that they weren't.  Regardless, it allowed the Colosseum to be preserved.

This is the only marble left at the site, on these few steps.  However, in its prime, it was covered in marble! 

Armed combat went on at the Colosseum for about 500 years.  Criminals, slaves and gladiators fought each other, or wild animals, often to the death.

The spectators literally exercised the power of life and death over defeated combatants by waving handkerchiefs to show mercy, or showing a down-turned thumb, which meant death.

Even so, survivors' throats were often cut anyway, and the dead were poked with red-hot irons to make sure they were dead!

The Colosseum gets its name from the Colossus of Nero, which was a huge bronze statue of Nero, located nearby (now gone).

Seating was divided into four levels, and although entry was free, the areas for seating were regulated and strictly enforced by a special "official" who was employed to make sure people kept in their assigned areas.

As big as all this seems, it's literally only half of what is left of the original structure!!

At the opening of the Colosseum, there was a celebration that included the slaughter of 5,000 animals.  This was followed by 100 continuous days of games!

Gladitorial contests first took place in the 4th century. They started as a means to prepare soldiers for battle, to raise morale, and to harden them to the sight of death.

However, we all know that, in time, the games became nothing more than sport.

 The first and lowest level of seating was for the emperor and his imperial court, and high ranking officials.

The second level of seating was for Rome's aristocratic families.

The third level of seating was for the lower classes, and women were sent up to the very top.

Fire was a frequent hazard down through the years because of all the wood that was used - for planking of the arena floor, in the scenery built for special games and events, and platforms that were used in the upper areas.

The worst fire was in 217 AD.  Damage was so extensive that the building was closed for 5 years, and it took another 22 years to complete the repairs!

The Archeological Service of Rome still works to preserve and restore the monument and hopefully recover additional information about its history.  Unfortunately, when the first excavations of the underground level took place, a lot of information was destroyed.

Construction of the building allowed crowds to enter and leave quickly.  And our modern day stadiums are designed after the shape of the Colosseum!

A good view of the various levels of seating.

A beautiful view of the Colosseum as you approach from the Roman Forum. 

One last view from the Forum.

Other than the scrapbook I made, which I'll post about later, this concludes our trip to Rome.  Hope you enjoyed it!