This summer my husband took me on a magical trip of a lifetime (although hopefully not the only one). He took me to Rome and then on a Mediterranean cruise.
Rome is a heaven for lovers of ancient history and archeology, like me.
Today, in honor of Spartacus returning to Starz in a couple of weeks, I'd like to tell you a little about one of the most famous and amazing places in Rome - the Colosseum (Spartacus, gladiators, Colosseum, get it? :D)
Colosseum is not the original name of this monumental place, a theatre which is an example of ancient Roman thirst for entertainment and blood. The original name for it was Flavian Amphitheatre in honor of the emperors of the Flavian Dynasty, during which rein it was built. Its building started around 70AD during the rule of the Emperor Vespasian. So how did it become known as the Colosseum? It took this name after a "colossal" statue of the mad Emperor Nero, named the Colossus of Rhodes, that stood right near it. *"This statue was later remodeled by Nero's successors into the likeness of Helios (Sol) or Apollo, the sun god, by adding the appropriate solar crown. Nero's head was also replaced several times with the heads of succeeding emperors. Despite its pagan links, the statue remained standing well into the medieval era and was credited with magical powers. It came to be seen as an iconic symbol of the permanence of Rome."
It is known that during the opening games of the Amphitheatre, 9000 wild animals, including tigers and lions, as well as hundreds of gladiators and slaves. It is also interesting to note that originally, in the first three years of its opening, naval games were also held there. The bottom of the amphitheatre would be filled with water and fights between ships would take place. However, the Roman people got easily bored with these games, as they didn't provide much bloodshed. And so it was decided that the bottom would be built about to contain cages for the wild animals, rooms for slaves and trainers and equipment, and above it all a wooden floor was placed, called the arena. That is where the gladiator fights took place. The modern word "arena" comes from this floor.
With the rise of Christianity, all of the statues decorating the walls of the Colosseum were destroyed or melted to create other statues and jewelry. The bricks and marble was also re-used to build around Rome. Thus today Colosseum is only a shadow of what it used to be and it is hard to imagine it in all its splendor.
Despite the splendor and the history surrounding this ancient place, we cannot forget that this was also a place of death and horror. Thousands of gladiators - who were mostly slaves - and thousands of animals were murdered there. Pope Benedict XIV also declared it a sacred space were many early Christians were martyred. This happened in 1749, and in our times Pope John Paul II erected a cross inside the Colosseum. Popes have also being leading the stations of the cross since Benedict XIV's times.
Colosseum is spectacular in person even today. Walking among the ancient stones, touching the marble steps on which ancient Romans have sat and breathing in the air of antiquity is an unbelievable experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.