Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Flavia Amphitheater--The Roman Colosseum and My Dangerous Obsession with Archaeology

Traveling to Rome, Ancient Rome, Gladiator, Karfelt, Kahtar
S.R. Karfelt/The Glitter Globe

In fifth grade someone gave me a large book about archaeological sites.

Thus began my lifelong obsession with archaeology. It was what I was going to do, I decided. This was years before Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The ancient ruins called to me and I imagined myself digging in the dirt in Egypt, Rome, or shivers-of-delight Pompeii. It took me awhile to understand what lay at the root of the attraction. Story.

Not once was I drawn to dinosaur bones. My insatiable curiosity was for the stories attached to these sites and artifacts.

Growing up largely in a small mid-western town I found ways to satiate the need. In the woods behind my house there was the old foundation from a small log cabin, and a well, AND an old wagon wheel.

Farther up the river, where I doubt I was allowed to go, beneath layers of dirt and ash I discovered the remains of a building destroyed in a fire. Not far beneath the surface were pieces of dishes, pottery, metal containers of powdery toothpaste with the label still attached, tiny cobalt and emerald perfume bottles, and the piece de resistance--a china doll head. I still have that head.

Often I've said that the only thing I collect are stories. But bits and pieces I've dug up are among my favorite things. Even as an adult I've continued exploring what lies beneath. Occasionally the results aren't the stories I was hoping for. A creepy little hut deep in the woods filled with hundreds of tiny glass bottles inspired me to keep right on walking. And once I unearthed an assortment of random pharmaceutical bottles, and showed them to a chemist who cautioned me about the dangers of nineteenth century poisons with a long shelf life.

The poison bottles took the wind out of the sails of my amateur digging, and writing stories for publication took my time. But when Dear Hubby said, "Happy Anniversary, would you like to go to Rome?" I spent weeks barely able to sleep from excitement. FINALLY. Just FINALLY I was going to see Ancient Rome.

As fate and non-stop research and reading would have it, my little hotel was located within walking distance of the Colosseum. My first photos were shot out the taxi window. My driver gave his time to give a tour of Rome and point out the major attractions. At one point he even stopped the vehicle so I could take a peek through the Knights of Malta peephole, telling me, "No pictures. Take this one in your heart and keep it there." 

Rome, Travel, Sights, Knights of Malta Peephole
S.R. Karfelt/The Glitter Globe

The Knights of Malta are the last Knights from the Crusades, and people stand in a long line in a less traveled part of Rome, just to peek through that tiny hole. What I saw in there actually did stay burned into my mind, and I will tell you that it's a breathtaking view of Rome framed by an arbor of grapes. Buildings in Rome aren't allowed to be taller than the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica. It gives the city its unique and unforgettable skyline.

The Colosseum, like so many historical sites, is surrounded by busy streets and pizza shops. Locals dressed in sometimes shabby, sometimes impressive Gladiator or Caesar costumes will pose for pictures with you for a fee. Pickpockets are everywhere. Crowds of people congregate, and figuring out what line to stand in, or how to purchase tickets is confusing. It helped that I did my research ahead of time, and bought my tickets online.

From the outside, the Colosseum is covered in scaffolding and fencing. Weeds and construction supplies surround it. It takes concerted effort to get a picturesque photograph of it from the outside. On the inside is where the Flavia Amphitheater will knock your socks off. What have we built in the 20th or 21st Century that will still be standing in two thousand years? My engineer Dear Hubby says nothing. Steel rusts. The costs of building something out of stone and concrete, using so much manpower, would be out of any budget in this day and age. 

Panoramic View of the Roman Colosseum, Inside the Colosseum
S.R. Karfelt/The Glitter Globe

The fact that the Colosseum not only still stands, but stands to support the thousands of daily visitors climbing over it, is a feat of engineering that stuns many of the builders, architects, and engineers in the crowd. Dear Hubby, who isn't wild about Ancient History, old stories, or artifacts, had his socks knocked off by the sheer enormity and skill of the structure.

Kahtar, Karfelt, Rome, Colosseum
S.R. Karfelt/The Glitter Globe

This story-hunter, Archaeologist-wanna-be, enjoyed one of the most exciting days of her life. Although I bought my tickets ahead of time I couldn't score a ticket to explore the deeper recesses or the higher ones. At the time of this writing, I'd say you probably need to book guided tours that go to those places about six weeks ahead. However, I was already at maximum thrill level and wasn't disappointed. The inside of the Colosseum is spectacular in scope and historical value.

There is a cross inside the structure, and another on the outside. From my reading it seems that scholars now say that Christians weren't fed to the lions at this site. The consensus seems to be that most of the horrible treatment of Christians happened in the Circus Maximus at nearby Palatine Hill. Something I hadn't realized before my trip to Rome was that there were many amphitheaters. Gladiators and chariot racing were the entertainment of the time. It's interesting when you look outside these sites to discover the gymnasiums and training grounds of the gladiators nearby. 

Kahtar, Fiction, Warrior of the Ages, Longinus
S.R. Karfelt/The Glitter Globe

If you visit, I'd recommend bringing a bottle of water, wearing comfortable shoes, being on the defense against pickpockets, and be aware there is little shade. Pack your patience, travel is uncomfortable and wonderful. Every inch of this site interested me, and I pushed Dear Hubby's patience to the limits, like when he drags me to a big fishing show to investigate the newest lures. After an entire day combing the details, he decided I'd taken enough pictures when I started to really get into the old graffiti.

The Roman Colosseum, Ancient Walls, Kahtar
S.R. Karfelt/The Glitter Globe

But come on, this is where the stories are, inside the walls. From the ancient engineers and the builders to the people who've visited this site over the past two thousand years, many carved their names into the bricks. The people who were there are what caught my imagination. There were gladiators, who trained to fight, many were simply men captured in battle. There's a place where the Vestal Virgins sat. Some of the seats had canvas covering at the time, to provide much needed shade. The cheap seats were at the top, like they are now in our arenas. The politicians surely had the best seats, although speculation says they had no shade.

Karfelt, Author, Kahtar, Gladiator,
S.R. Karfelt/The Glitter Globe

If walls could talk, right? Sometimes I think they do. You just have to listen. The stories I write are fiction, but it is interesting how much truth you can find in fiction, and how much research goes into making it as realistic as possible. The ancient immortal warrior, Kahtar, that I write about surely battled here. I can feel it.

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