Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Fallen Empire – Erich

Rome is a dichotomy, or maybe a trichotomy, if such a word existed. But it probably doesn't, so let's stick to dichotomy. Rome has two faces: the modern city entrenched in Catholic iconography, and the ancient city that has fallen into ruin, but lies beneath the surface in so many places. And then, at other points, that ancient city breaks through to the surface.
Half a building still left standing
We enjoyed a day of visiting ancient Rome. No, we didn't time travel. We visited it as it is today, which is to say, fallen.
My family in modern day ancient Rome
No one building stands out more as a symbol of ancient Rome than the Colosseum. There are many amazing things about that place, but perhaps most of all is that it is almost exactly like any modern stadium, but this one was built in 80 CE.
The seating and floor of the Colosseum
The Colosseum could seat over 50,000 people. It was free for Romans to come and watch the games. They lasted all day. There were hunts in the morning, where sets were built to look like the native terrain of game animals. Then those animals were placed in the sets and hunters came and stalked them and killed them.

At lunch time, one got to enjoy executions, especially the damnation by beast. Here, the condemned were sent to the Colosseum floor naked and unarmed. Wild animals were brought up by a lift, which I will mention more later, and then the crowd would watch the condemned get torn apart and eaten.
Two arches of the Colosseum, one rough and ruined, the other still smoothly veneered
The gladiatorial combat took place in the afternoon. Most gladiators were slaves that were trained to fight. A few, but very few, were free men who came to gain glory or money. The fights were to the almost death, and then the Emperor got to decide, by means of thumbs up or thumbs down, if the loser of the battle lived or died.

The crowds brought food along to eat, but there were vendors selling edibles as well. Some people even brought portable ceramic ovens. Sounds a lot like today. I wonder if they tailgated.
View of the underground section of the Colosseum
The floor on which the battles took place was made of wood, so it naturally did not survive until today. But under it you can see the remains of the underground section, the basement. Here the slaves, the condemned, and the animals were brought into the Colosseum. They could be lifted to the surface in lifts that were pulled by pulleys. There were eight lifts that could be used, some for people, some for animals. It required about 28 men to raise a full lift, just one of them. There were 224 slaves engaged in moving the lifts under the Colosseum. (That's 25 × 7 as a prime factorization, but more to the issue at hand, it is 28 × 8).
Arch of Constantine
Of course, the Colosseum is only one relic of ancient Rome that remains on the left bank of the Tiber River. Another feature is the Roman Forum.
Wall in the Forum
This area has the ruins of many buildings, triumphal arches, governmental buildings, places where business was conducted.
The forum
More of the Forum
Here in the Area sacra dell'Argentina, there are the remains of four temples. You can still see the steps that led up to each. These temples were built between the 4th Century and 1st Century BCE.
Area sacra dell'Argentina
One temple that has survived, at least structurally, is the Pantheon. To the ancient Romans this was a temple to all of the gods.
The Pantheon
I say it has survived structurally, but not entirely, because when you step inside you will see that any of the Roman iconography has been removed. Not a trace of it. It has all been replaced with Catholic statuary, paintings, carvings, and other art. Inside, this is clearly a Catholic church, though its architecture makes another claim.
A street side ruin
In Rome, you can be walking down the road, and there are ruins just up against a modern building. It's like, hey honey, I found a Roman ruin in the yard. Call the archaeologists!
The ruins next door
And that's part of the dichotomy. The people of this modern city have an ancient one all around, possibly even under their own feet. And yet, they go about their daily lives like people in any city. They ignore the fact that where they live was once the capital of a sprawling empire, because, well, it doesn't much matter in day to day life.

And I imagine, if I lived everyday in Rome, that eventually I would have to forget about the ancient city while I was at work or at home. But still, when I was walking down the street and saw a column or arch, it would all come back to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment