In the Footsteps of Emperors

Coliseum in Rome

Feeling the presence of the hot Roman sun on my shoulders, I thought of the common denominators that linked my teenage self to the events that had taken place within these circular walls over the centuries. I was in the Coliseum in Rome. Essentially, I was standing where famous Roman Emperors had once stood. I was retracing the steps of spectators who had come to enjoy the gladiator battles or the production of ancient Greek dramas. On this arena floor, there had been fights to the death between beasts and prisoners, where the crowds cheered and jeered no matter which side won. My eyes drank in the same sights (although slightly altered by the effects of time and restoration efforts) that Roman citizens, prisoners and nobles alike had seen almost two thousandyears before me. I felt awestruck and humbled and for the first time I felt like I shared a link with the past.

On our way in we had passed throngs of tourists standing in unending lines, probably waiting to gain entrance a much more orderly fashion than the bloodthirsty spectators of ancient times. Fortunately, my family had made a reservation the day before so we walked by the lines and into Coliseum without a problem. We rented audio guides, procured a map of the structure, and set off with my Mom putting her history degree to good use by listing all of the gruesome spectacles that Coliseum had been home to over the years. We traveled from arcade to arcade, climbing stairs and feasting our eyes on the different architectural styles, historical relics, and the partially uncovered hypogeum (an underground maze-like structure used for housing animals and gladiators before battles). We took a look at an exhibit on the Emperor Nero (not a nice guy), before ending our tour in the gift shop.

Once back outside, we admired the circular facade and were amused by the antics of the “gladiators” that wanted to charge us exorbitant amounts to have our picture taken with them. Just as we were turning to leave, I caught sight of a thirty-something Italian businessman settling down on a boulder outside the magnificent amphitheater. He nonchalantly opened up his laptop, as if the Coliseum were just as good a spot as any to accomplish a little more work before calling it quits on a hot Roman afternoon. Probably not what the Roman Emperors expected when they built the place!

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