Saturday, May 14, 2022

Dolphins in the Colosseum?

Yes! This is one of the many facts I learned today on my tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Forum. Get ready!

Built from 72-80 AD to distract everyday Romans from problems in the city, the Flavian Amphitheater did just that. The what now? That's it's actual name (having been constructed under the rule of 3 Flavian emperors). It became known as the Colosseum because people would meet at the giant statue of Nero out front aka The Colossus.

Our guide claims that back in the day there were so many entrances that citizens with tickets for free, assigned seating could fill it up in 10 minutes - admittedly much less time than it took us today. But the ancient Romans didn't have to go through a metal detector.

The building is made from travertine (aka "the skin of Rome" because it's used in many other buildings like the Trevi Fountain) and was then covered in marble. After the Colosseum stopped being used, much of the marble was "recycled" and used in the Vatican museum. That's a nice way to say it. Only 33% of the actual building remains.

The floor was made of wood and covered in sand, or "arena" in latin - insert exploding head emoji here. Why sand? To soak up the blood. Our guide said the Romans were very practical people.

As you likely know, gladiators were slaves who were fighting to win their freedom. While some of them did, many more died when their injuries got infected. The emperor's didn't especially want the gladiators to die because it was a two-year training program to get them ready. Keep that in mind if you ever sign up for gladiator boot camp.

Yes, okay but what about the dolphins? Animals fighting gladiators, fighting each other or being an attraction because no one had seen lions or dolphins before, was part of the events. A nearby aqueduct (good job Romans) was used to flood a portion of the lower sections and people could see the dolphins swimming around. I'm not sure whether I'm happy or sad there were no dolphin/gladiator fights, 

Last thing. Our guide Paola was great, as was her English. She was able to explain so much and answer questions - only asked by me and a 70 year old British man celebrating his birthday with a tour. However, there were a few words that were not quite right - my favorite being when she explained why Christians were not killed in the Colosseum. They were not allowed in as spectators so no reason to kill them if they didn't see it since the whole point was "to scary the other Christians".

What else? Palatine Hill is where the emperors lived. Away from the noise of the city, easy to defend and with a view of St. Peter's. The forum was where Romans went to stroll, shop and socialize. It's also were Caesar was cremated, though he was not killed there in the senate but at a place about 20 min away. Whew!

After that I went to the Castro of Rome and ate lunch at a restaurant called Coming Out. When I asked if they would be showing the Eurovision Song Contest tonight they said yes, but they are already full. The hotel owner told me there is an Irish pub down the street that should be showing it too so I'll check there.

While I do enjoy being able to come back to my hotel to cool down and take a siesta, seeing people walking around in the plaza outside my window has activated my FOMO again so I'll post some pictures and be back with updates tomorrow.

And warning... when my friend John joins me in Florence, these posts may get a whole lot shorter. Unless we take a tour.

Glad I'm a tourist and not a gladiator

A section of the original seats, some with the marble still on them

To the right is a replica of what the floor of the arena would have looked like, minus the sand and blood

Arch of Constantine outside the Colosseum

This is where the gladiators would enter the arena

The "San Pietrini" cobblestones that cover Rome

More Arch of Constantine

The living area on Palatine Hill

Squint for a view of St. Peter's Basilica

This column was looking at me

View of the forum and Victor Emmanuel monument from Palatine Hill


Arch of Tiberius marking the entrance to the forum

Forum flowers

Rome being ancient

Caesar's cremation spot

More ancient Rome

Rainbow truck marks the entrance to "gay street"

My first Aperol spritz in Rome

This tiny car is a YoYo and I want one!


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