Monday, March 31, 2014

Rome’s Evolving Reflection Pool

We enthusiastically arrived at the cafe to start our Context Travel tour of the Colosseum because we could finally see the place that we had studied so much about in the months leading up to our trip.  I was excited for us to explore the Colosseum on a Context tour, but it turned out to surpass even what I was expecting.  I thought that we were going to focus on the long history of bloodshed of both the gladiators and animals that were harmed in this location. Our enthusiastic docent, Dony, showed us the main tourist attraction of Rome in a whole new light. Dony was small in stature, but he had a loud voice, which kept us interested in the wild history of the Colosseum.

              Did you know that the Colosseum was never originally called the Colosseum? Initially, it was called the Flavian Amphitheater because it was built during the Flavian dynasty. The mind boggling part was that it was not always an amphitheater! When Dony asked this question of us, I wracked my brain, trying to remember the answer. I thought our docent was asking us a trick question. But no, to my surprise, it was Nero’s reflection pool! Nero was the emperor of Rome from 54-68 A.D., and he was quite the egotistical emperor. His “reflection pool” was bigger than the Colosseum!

While on the Colosseum walk, the one thing that really piqued my interest was how many times the Colosseum changed throughout history. Each emperor used it for a different purpose. First, it was Nero’s reflecting pool. Many years later, the new emperor, Titus, had it used to entertain the masses of the Roman people so that he could gain favor after Nero’s evil reign. It was turned into a Naval fighting space, so boats could battle for entertainment - and up to 300 people would die during each show. He would fill up the bottom of the Colosseum with water, and put in not just boats, but huge military naval ships to battle each other! I could see the water splashing the audience, like the whale shows at Six Flags. I imagined the slaves hauling in huge ships, just to keep the Romans happy at their expense.

The next emperor, Domitian, totally revamped the place into an amphitheater. Elevators were put in, to bring deathly surprises to the gladiators, and white sand was put onto the floor, so spectators could see the bloodshed more clearly. It was almost as if I could smell the scent of death and loss.

Another shocking thing was its use in Renaissance times, where it was used as home for many families who had nowhere to go. These families lived in a giant theater where so many people had previously died; talk about home sweet home!

Once again, like in every story of Rome, the Pope had to butt his head in and turn the Colosseum into something that he owned. Pope Benedict XIV, in the 1600s, “Christianized” the place by putting up a huge cross where emperors once sat to watch a show of a complete slaughter. As our docent Dony explained this timeline, the Colosseum evolved right before my eyes. How could one building withstand all the changes of time and the whims of emperors, and still serve as a place for entertainment? I think the answer is because people still get enjoyment out of something so old. For example, today people from around the world come to see the Colosseum in its extraordinary glory. Very few visitors, however, come to the Colosseum know that this building  has progressed right along with mankind.

              Today, I saw the Colosseum in a whole new light.  It is more than just an amphitheater of blood, but a building that still stands because it evolved. This walk taught me through example that even though someone may have a bad reputation, you won’t know who they are until you talk to them. The Colosseum is known for violence and bloodshed, but I never appreciated the history of one of the world’s greatest monuments until I got to know it.

Myriah Catalano


Jessie V said...

Love this -I had no idea about the varied history! That's quite a reflecting pool...

Anonymous said...

I really love the title, it captures the history of the structure so well! Great storytelling!

Post a Comment