The Colosseum and Roman Forum: In Pictures
It's bizarre, the first time you walk out of a metro station to find the Colosseum towering over you. Truth be told, every time we did it, I got the same dizzying feeling. Stepping out from the crowds and gloom of a metro tube into the shadow of this ancient behemoth feels like a great anachronism.
There are so many stories here. Stories, of course, about gladiator battles and staged sea battles. But, those are a tiny sliver of its history. It began with an emperor trying to curry favor with his people, in the wake of a terribly unpopular leader. But its tale is long and varied, from use as a cemetery and fortress, to a thriving medieval community of houses and workshops.
Standing in it's shell today, you can read centruries of repurposing and neglect in its remains. Denuded of its marble facade, its walls are pitted with the pockmarks of scavengers harvesting bronze from within the stonework.
The Colosseum is, at its core, a celebration of arches. It is arches piled on arches:
A labaryth of arches below ground that led gladiators and animals up onto the stage.
Arches that opened to senator's viewing seats.
Arches that formed the vomitorium, that could empty the Colosseum of 65,000 people in less than 10 minutes.
I found myself drawn, again and again to those arches, thousands of years of history framing the Rome of today.
The Roman Forum
If the Colosseum is a testament to arches, the Forum is a cemetery of columns. Some still stretch skyward in lonely, long forgotten vigil. Others lay, toppled to the ground. Stone sentinels, silent witnesses.
There is a hazy sense, here, of what was. The Roman Forum is a million stories in jumbled bits. Home fires attended by vestal virgins. Romulus's burial ground. Cicero's speeches and Ceasar's cremation. It all echoes in broken strains through these
Walking along the Via Sacra, is equal measures grounding and surreal. Here, in this place, it is easy to believe that all roads really do lead to Rome.