Romans built amphitheaters for entertainment. Gladiator battles, and animal fights were among the events held there. The normal Roman citicen had one day of work and one day of leisure. Many did not work at all, but were beggars. So in order to avoid rebellion the Emperor had to entertain the masses. The Emperor Vespasian commissioned the amphitheater in AD72, in an area that was once a marsh. The draining systems from that time are still in use to day! The land was cleared and the Colosseum was erected, and when completed, it could hold up to 75,000 spectators. The design was so practical, with eighty numbered entrances with stairways leading to specific platforms, patrons would enter their specific marked entrance, and would be in their seat in ten minutes. Seating was pre determined depending on your social status at the time, the wealthier you were, the closer you could sit to the Emperor, or on the same level. Different social classes were completely segregated. The slaves were sometimes allowed to stand way at the top level to watch the events.
Not only was the seating well organized, so was the arena itself and the network of underground locker rooms, and animal cages that were below. The Colosseum was in the shape of an ellipse. The floor was made of wood, and had various trap doors, that led directly to the underground rooms and cages. The floor was covered with sand (arena in Greek means sand), to hide the trap doors, and to make the arena look like a field. It also was there to absorb any blood that was sure to be shed from the brutal battles that went on there. The underground rooms were networked with corridors. and certain sections had metal fencing around them where the animals were kept. Some room sections also had moving cages, connected to winches that hoisted the animals up to the area where they "Sprang up" from the sand, adding to the excitement of the show. In case of rain or even extreme sun, a giant canvas was placed in the arena and then hoisted up over the top.
A typical event began with animals performing for the crowds. These animals were brought in from North Africa and the Middle East. The gladiators (at first soldiers, later on slaves, prisoners of war, or condemned criminals) would come out and fight each other to the death. To remove the dead body, there were people dressed as mythological Charons (remember the ferry man, who takes the dead across River Styx. You must have a coin for him, when you get there) that came out and carried the body out on a stretcher. They then raked up the sand to hide the blood, and the next battle could begin. This is also where if a soldier was badly wounded, he would stand before the Emperor, and depending on his performance (the soldier's - not the Emperor's), would get the "Thumbs Up" so he could live, or the "Thumbs Down" and he would be killed.
The Roman Forum was "The Place" for early Romans. It was the center for commercial, political and civil activities. The forum contained markets, prisons, entertainment areas, temples, and monuments, built by various emperors.
There are so many important monuments to see. You could start with the Temple of Saturn. Saturn was the mythical god-king of Italy. In his honour the celebration of Saturnalia was celebrated each year from December 17 to 23. During this time the Romans and the Slaves socialized together, schools and offices were closed, no wars could be declared, and people used to exchange gifts. Many of these rituals were continued by the Christians, and this evolved into Christmas. There are also a number of Basilicas. These buildings were not religious centers in ancient Rome, but meeting halls. Later on many of them have been put into use as churches. The Basilica Julia housed important law courts, and the Temple of Julius Caesar was built after his death, on the spot where we was cremated.
The Temple of Vesta, dedicated to the goddess of the heart (sorry, Lady Di - you were not the first), was one of Rome's most sacred shrines. This is where the Vestal Virgins - who kept the sacred flame - lived.
One of Rome's oldest basilicas, Santa Maria Maggiore was built according to the "legend of snow". In AD 352 Pope Liberius dreamt, that the Virgin Mary told him to build a church, where he found snow. On the morning of August 5th of that year (August is usually the hottest month in Rome) Pope Liberius found snow, and started building the basilica (hopefully he had some helpers). Each year the "Miracle of the Snow" is recreated during a special mass, and thousands of flower petals are dropped from the ceiling recreating the event. The church has twin domes and a front and rear fašade. Both equally beautiful.
At the back (front?) entrance of the church stands an obelisk. It was erected by Pope Sixtus V in 1587 as a landmark to the pilgrims. It is the only church in Rome, where a mass has been celebrated every day since the 5thcentury.
In the church is a painting of Virgin Mary, made by Luke. On Malta we have seen another picture of The Holy Virgin also claimed to be made by Luke, who besides being a painter also was a medical doctor. Of course first of all he was a disciple and an evangelist.
In the basement are the remains of Jesus' craddle (at least they say so). Unfortunately the craddle was damaged, when a bishop ordered it to be moved from a small chapel outside and into the church. We were not allowed to see - nor rock - the craddle.
A long - but rewarding day - had come to an end. We didn't even have the energy to get something to eat. But we decided, that tomorrow we would visit the Pope in the Vatican. Click here if you want to come along.