Published: April 20th 2009April 19th 2009
Day 5 - Rome
After our wonderful walking tour with Angel tours on Tuesday evening we decided to do the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Colosseum tour with them also. Our English guide Tom was equally as good as his Irish colleague and we were enthralled for the whole 4 hours. Jess seemed especially captivated with our young, very good looking guide! So noticeable was Jessie's enchantment that Sarah and Neive started singing (repeatedly, and to Jessie's horror) “she loves him, she wants to kiss him”
The treck to the entrance of the Palatine Hill was long (seems to be a recurring theme) however, well worth it! The views are pretty spectacular and the history fascinating. The Palatine Hill was like the Beverly Hills of Ancient Rome, so is filled with the remains of many palaces of the rich and famous Romans. Heading down the hill we entered the Roman Forum which was truly amazing. I was particularly interested in the Temple of the Vestal Virgins and its associated oratory. Forget the Emperors and Senate dudes, these girls ruled! A vestal virgin was hand picked early and commenced training from the age of ten. They spent 10 years in
training, ten years keeping the eternal flame alight and another 10 training the new recruits. They could not be touched, in fact, you would be sentenced to death for standing in their shadow! They were housed in a palace and given every luxury, and as long as they didn't take a walk on the wild side, they had ultimate power in all decision making! Not a bad career choice really! Grandma, you will also be pleased to know that the average hight of Romans back then was under 5 foot! You would have been considered a freak of nature, haha!
We also got to see the very spot where Ceasar was cremated, after being stabbed to death by the entire Roman Senate. There were fresh flowers on top, apparently people still pay respects to Ceasar on a daily basis.
Last stop, the Flavian Amphitheater aka The Colosseum. Started by Emporer Vespasian in 72 AD and finished by his son Titus 8years later, the Colosseum gained its name from the giant statue of Nero (narcissistic, nut job) it once held. At its hight the massive arena served as a venue for state functions, circus games and its a hallmark,
Quite an understatement.
the gladiatorial battles. It is claimed that on its opening day up to 5,000 wild animals were slaughtered in one on one battles.
Venerated by Hollywood in more movies than any other ancient monument, today we visit the the theatre of death. We learn how its founder Vespasian developed the structure to lift the spirits of the people of Rome after seven years of bad times and as a means of restoring Rome to its rightful pace. In a tragic irony, Vespasian, died of a stroke only six months before the grand opening. He was the first of thousands of victims that the arena at the end of the Appian Way would claim.
Vespasian's was not however the only tragic story to have find a home there. Gladiators typically trained for four years and served in the Colosseum for seven. During that time they could buy their freedom with their wages. For most this was a fools game. There was one however, Helisius who defeated all comers and seemed destine to be free. The problem was that like most great sportsmen, the more he won the higher his value as a asset became.
Unfortunately, like most gladiators
One and all
Feet worn to the stumps but still smiling. Today was a highlight for us all.
Helisius was on a fixed wage so he could never quite afford himself. Well the Gods of fortune smiled on him and on this particular day he was offered 300 dinari for a fight instead of the usual 100. His road to freedom seemed certain. He fought well and with his foe bleeding profusely and flat on his back, Helisius looked to the Emporer for the thumbs up (or down as was often the case). While waiting, his opponent stabbed him in the throat and Helisius bled to death just seconds from freedom.
Of course we couldn't end the story there. The bad guy (if gladiatorial battles have a bad guy) was sentenced to death for un-sportsman like conduct (yes gladiators fought to a very strict code). He was tied between to Chariots, one went east the other went west. You get the picture.
To stand in the Colosseum and see the enormity and grandeur of the place is hard to describe, and then to imagine the horrors that took place there is even harder, but it is something that we will never forget!
Outside the Colosseum there are many (seemingly jovial) gentlemen dressed as gladiators. They
encourage one and all to have a photo taken only to demand a 10euro fee after the click. We later learned that most of these guys are ex criminals who cant get work anywhere else. They have been known to get more than just a little upset if the coin of the realm is not forthcoming after we all say cheese. No grazie perfavore !
Tim and Kerry
There are more photos below