From Rhome86 to Colosseum and Terms of Caracalla

Colosseum, Domus Aurea, Villa Celimontana, Circo Massimo, Terme di Caracalla

Once you are in the Capital (Rome) you ought to visit the landlord, The Colosseum. After a satisfying breakfast, leave with the city map in your pocket and only after 15 minutes (walking distance) you will be in front of the enormous structure that has become the symbol of Rome. This building is so solid and indestructible that Romans believe that Rome will die when the Colosseum falls. An interesting fact: in the past few years, the lights illuminate the Colosseum every time a death penalty is suspended anywhere in the world.

The Colosseum was built under the order of the emperor Vespasiano starting in 72 d.c. and was finished in 80 d.c. It is located in what used to be the gardens of Nerone’s Domus Aurea, in place of what was once a pond. The center of the Colosseum was originally covered in sand (the Latin word for arena) to absorb the sweat or the blood of those who fought inside its walls. This construction was built to host 50,000 people who excitedly and impatiently watched the events while seated in a pre-established order based on their social status. For some events, men were dressed like gladiators and were forced to fight in the arena against animals of all sorts, including bears, lions, and leopards. Other events featured fights between animals that were tied. Servants would poke these animals to make them angry and afraid.  The arena saw fights between rhinoceroses and elephants but also between a strong animal like a lion against weak ones like ostriches.

For those who were condemned to enter the arena, the event could either lead to a painful death or, if skilled and able to win the favors of the public, they could earn freedom and enter the gladiator school. Some freemen spontaneously choose to enter the arena to dare life. It was perhaps their desire for a life full of adventures or to escape poverty that pushed them to select such a dangerous path.
Once men entered the gladiator school, they had to sustain hard trainings and were put on a diet rich in proteins to increase their muscle mass. Routinely, two gladiators would fight each other in the arena. Once one of the two, wounded and breathless, realized he had no way out, he would point the index of the left hand towards the sky: the sign of defeat. At this point it was up to the public to call the sentence: death of forgiveness. 
Another type of evens held in the arena was the public executions. Two people condemned to death were put in the arena and expected to fight each other. Only one was harmed. Independently from who would win, death was inevitably expecting both fighters. Roman citizens were executed with a sword, while non-citizens or slaves were either crucified or burned alive.

At the end of the “games” a man dressed like Caronte, a mythological figure responsible to carry people who just died across the river Ade to the world of the dead. The job of the “Caronte” in the arena was to check that all men were dead using a red hot sword. With theatrical acts he would hit the bodies with the sword or with a hammer.
These types of events stopped around the VI century and after that time the construction became obsolete. The raw materials that could be used for other purposes slowly started to be taken out from the Amphitheatre, first among those the  travertino, marble blocks that became the walls of new buildings in Rome.

It is now time to leave the Colosseum behind us and continue our long journey through the other marvels of the Capital. Our journey around the archeological site of Roma brings us to the Domus Aurea, the large palace build under directions Nerone, after the fires that burned down Rome in 64d.c. This is one of the monuments best preserved from the Roman Empire, probably because protected by the geological formation surrounding it (colle Oppio). However, it is this same natural protection that requires complex restorations and for this reason is closed to the tourists today.

Let’s take a break in the green garden on Villa Celimonata, the renaissance building inside the Parco Celio. The park is also a dear place for jazz aficionados since it hosts international jazz summer festivals. The calendar organized by the organization “All’Ombra del Colosseo” (“In the shade of the Collosseum”) includes a variety of events that are well attended by Romans and tourists alike. 

After a brief stop at the Circo Massimo, a monument that today leaves only a shadow of its original beauty, our walk around the “Etheranal City,” a town suspended between history and legend, ends, for today, at the Terme di Caracalla. This is perhaps the most extraordinary example of what the emperors used to expect to satisfy their godly needs. These baths opened in 217 A.C. by Antonio Caracalla could host up to 1,600 people in their hot and cold baths. They were equipped of all comforts and could compete with the most modern day spas available today. Although people believe that the Terme di Caracalla are the largest in the Roman Empire, this is not true. This common belief is the product of the fact that they are the only ones that today can be admired in all their glory.  If you are impressed with the size of these Terme, just think of the grandiosity of the Terme di Diocleziano, which where almost double in size compared to Caracalla’s!

(Something you can visit near by: Catacombe di S. Sebastiano, di S. Callisto; Basilica di San Giovanni; or Basilica di San Paolo).

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