The Colosseum: Overlooking 2,000 Years of History

Marshall Hastings
Assistant Sports Editor

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy: Marshall Hastings
Photo Courtesy: Marshall Hastings

Do you ever wonder where you stand? Do you ever wonder what you see, what you touch? Do you ever wonder who stood before you? Do you wonder who looked upon these same sights or touched these same stones? Do you ever take a moment to step back and think about where you are? Do you think about the historical context of every step you take or every view you capture?

In the grand scheme of things, 2,000 years isn’t that long. In a world measured by billions, 2,000 years is just a speck on the timeline. But in human life, 2,000 years might as well be an eternity.

Standing in the hollows of the Roman Colosseum, 2,000 years seems so long ago. Looking upwards to the fifth story from underneath the Colosseum floor, the only things I can muster are soft, shallow breaths. To be standing on the same 2,000 year old stones that some of Ancient Rome’s bravest and poorest men shakes me.

If I shut my eyes and let my mind wander, I can hear the crowd above the floor erupting with glee. The original wooden floor of the Colosseum is long gone, allowing the first and only view from the basement to the sky, but with the right amount of imagination, you can still see the crowd of 50,000-80,000 cramming into the pristine white stadium.

Our tour makes its way to the Colosseum, the wood replaced with a sand-colored cement. The light bursts over the top of the remainder of the fifth story; the southern side of the Colosseum collapsed during an earthquake. As I stare upwards, I can make out where the King would have sat, with his hand stretch outwards, thumbing up or down, determining the fate of the loser of the gladiatorial match.

Our guide begins to give us details, but I’ve long lost interest. I stand in awe, unable to comprehend the historical monument I stand in. Men lost their lives 2,000 years ago in this same location. Poor men desperate for their freedom fought for a contract to keep themselves alive. The strongest men of their generation fought lions, tigers, elephants, and any human challenger on the same part of earth that I have made my way onto now.

What thoughts raged through the minds of these men, staring death in the eye? Who watched them from the stands? Did children watch as their father’s life was pulled from him by a sword, or did they cheer as he sucked the last breath of air from a wild animal?

What little child sat in the fourth deck, the section reserved for the lower class, looking down on his heroes, determined to join them when he got older? Was his fate solidified looking down on the muscular gladiators mutilating each other?

At the conclusion of our tour, we make our way to the Palantine Hill, the location of the ancient palace of Rome. Standing in the ruins of the ancient palace and staring at the Circo Massimo, the ancient chariot racing stadium, I am thrust back again into a historical mindset.

As we wander throughout the Roman Forum and make our way to the Imperial Forums, created by the rulers of Ancient Rome 2,000 years ago, I wonder who walked the same walkways as myself. Who stood in the windows of the palace and stared out on the racetrack or saw the top of the Colosseum glistening in the sun?

It’s hard to escape history when you go to Rome. And with history, comes my father. The history buff of the family, who knows nearly everything there is to know about Bridport, Vermont, would love Rome. So every step I take, every monument I pass, every plaque I glance over, I snap a picture, sharing a private moment with my old man.

I imagine what he would tell me about the location. He would explain everything there is to be told about each spot, how the forums were built, why they were built. We would have looked over the current city of Rome and he would have painted a picture of what it used to look like.

Dad’s only half a world away, and as I sit on top of the Colosseum, looking over 2,000 years of history, half a world doesn’t seem so far.

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