16 September 2011

Liberty of the Seas : Rome Part 4 - Colosseum

Exiting from Roman Forum, we came to another of Rome's world-famous architectural icon, the Colosseum. Originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre (Flavian is a Roman dynasty that reigned from 69 - 96 AD... love the numbers!), construction of the colossal monument started in 72AD and was completed in 80AD. It took only 8 years to finish. Wow!

Capable of holding an audience capacity of 50,000, the Colosseum was home to bloodsports such as gladiatorial fights, venatio (men fighting against animals), gruesome mythological enactments and other grand triumphal celebrations hosted by powerful families.

While the Colosseum is of Roman origin (the distinctive arches are characteristic of Roman architecture), it retained elements of Greek influences evident in the columns of the outer wall. On the first level is the Doric-styled columns, which are the simplest, followed by the Ionic style in the middle section. On the third level are the highly friezed Corinthian-styled columns.

The atmospheric elliptical hallways within the Colosseum are scarred with pockmarks, which were cavaities left by iron clamps holding the stonework together. Earthquakes collapsed part of the Colosseum and the iron clamps, marble and stones were pillaged to build other structures. Parts of St Peter's Basilica have the Colosseum in it.

There is quite a bit of climbing to get to the upper levels but there are lifts available for the less mobile.

Never seen an idiot before? Here's one.

A painting showing the inside of the arena during the Colosseum's heyday. The underground labyrinth consisted of chambers, stalls, cages, and primitive pulley lifts that housed the gladiators and beasts and depicted how the animals were released via trapdoors. One of the bloodsports involved the release of hungry tigers or lions to defenseless human game.

Animal remains and artefacts excavated from the site are on display. No one who entered the sporting arena can dream to live it alive except for highly prized champion gladiators. These gladiators were often slaves or criminals sentenced to death. They had to fight each other or the animals till death and hot rods are seared into corpses to ensure that a person or animal was indeed dead.

Information panels are installed around the Colosseum to help visitors understand more about the area or a feature. Looking at just this one info panel, you know how much history this place has. Really a test of patience and memory skills to read and remember all of them. I've seen many flat marble floor tiles but this was the first time I saw a huge pillar of white marble.

Seating in the Colosseum was planned in such a way that men and women were separated. The rich were also segregated from the commoners.

The Colosseum had as many as 80 entrances (known as vomitoria in Latin) to allow for quick evacuation during emergencies. This practice of building numerous entrances is replicated in our modern stadiums. Vomitoria means 'rapid discharge'. Now I know the origin of the word 'vomit'!

Measuring 189m long and 156m wide and standing at a height of more than 48m, it is estimated that about 500,000 people and over 1 million wild beasts were killed in the 500 years it was in use. I wonder if the bodies piled up, would it fill the arena? What a sad place this is.

Walking through the now silent walls of the Colosseum, an echo of its former glory days, I can imagine how grand it must have been even by today's standards. But because of the sinister purpose it was used for, I can't help feeling the name Mausoleum would be more befitting.

Today, more than it being one of the top tourist attractions in Italy, the Colosseum has become an icon for the banishment of capital punishment, that is, the death sentence. Each time a country banishes the death sentence from their law, the Colosseum lights up.

Once it was a symbol of death, now it's a beacon of hope.

A Wonderful Romemance

Departing the Colosseum from yet another unknown gate, we left behind the city that time never forgot and brought with us beautiful memories my parents and I will remember for a long time.

From Vatican City to Trevi Fountain to Roman Forum to Colosseum, we were very privileged to have come so far and seen so much.

We are very grateful to have this opportunity to admire the masterpieces, stand in awe of human will and architectural cleverness, commune with time by walking the grounds the ancient walked on, but above all, for having made the trip as a family.

More than we learnt about the history and buildings, we learnt things about each other during the journey that 'romanced' our familial relationship.

With the end of the Rome shore excursion, we also ended 3 intensive days of shore excursions taken with Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas. It has been an exhilarating experience encountering so many things before our time. So much so that the sight of modernity was a refreshing sight.

This is also the last of the series of post about Rome on this trip and the last post derived from the amazing Liberty of the Seas cruise experience. Writing all these blog entries had been a great way to relive this truly awesome Western Mediterranean fly-cruise vacation!

I've truly found what I was looking for in a fantastic holiday.

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