My Pink Sneaker Marathon Around Rome - Reflections on the Colosseum

Guide book in hand, map tucked inside my bag, pink sneakers laced up and ready to go, I was all set to sprint around the “Eternal City” in my quest to leave no stone unturned and discover all of its ancient ruins and temples – the remaining hundred or perhaps thousand monuments that I was determined to digitally document, and, of course, blog about - all within a reasonable 24 hour time frame. Yikes!!

 As plans oftentimes do, mine started out with a detailed itinerary, meticulously listing my estimated arrival and departure time at each monument.  My rudimentary math skills approximated that I could spent about 30 minutes at each tourist site, enabling me to view 20 “not to be missed” locales within a 10 hour time frame, leaving 2 hours for eating, 4 hours for sprinting around town and 8 hours for sleeping.

 Manageable in theory – of course!  Do-able – highly unlikely!  Insane – most definitely!

Why, oh why, had I foolishly followed the advice of a friend who had once travelled to Rome long ago, advising me that two days would suffice in this ancient metropolis, allowing me ample time in which to immerse myself in the archaeological wonders of yesteryear?  Let this be a lesson to all of you would-be travellers out there – take a bit of time to do your own research, listen to the advice of others, but, in the end, make up your own mind about where to go and what to see.  I had now placed myself in the unfortunate predicament of being unable to walk in the footsteps of history and mingle amongst long-dead artistic geniuses, whose creative imprints were stamped on virtually every standing edifice.  The option of telephoning my place of employment to let them know that I will be extending my three week vacation into a month long sojourn might not go over that well, and it would not be one I would be overly eager to embrace.  After all, I needed a job in order to finance my gallivanting around the Italian coast, indulging in mouth-watering pasta dishes and acquiring pricey designer leather goods.

Thus, the Pink-Sneaker 24 hour marathon had officially begun….

First on my list was the Colosseum, an impressive amphitheatre dating back to antiquity, a spectacular entertainment complex specializing in gladiatorial contests and competitions – guts, gore and blood spectator sports involving large scale massacres, where men fought to the death, brutally pitted against the other in blood fueled battles.  Even animals were not exempt from these cruelties, mercilessly hunted and slaughtered all in the name of fun and games. Emperor Titus, upon inaugurating the 100 day sports festivities in 80AD, allegedly wiped out 5,000 animals in a single blood-soaked event, culminating in the extinction of a species of lions and elephants unique to North Africa.

Traipsing along the crumbling facades, I couldn’t help but be somewhat relieved that the once imposing structure, one that had deliberately inflicted such inhumane atrocities upon humans and animals alike, was no longer a functioning entertainment venue –  but merely an ancient concrete stone edifice that had once symbolized the power and glory of former Roman Emperors.  

In 407, Christian Emperor Honorius outlawed gladiatorial combats, and a century later in 523, the sport of wild animal battles was also banned.  Its purpose no longer justified, the arena fell into eventual disarray and decline, felled by a powerful earthquake in 847.

As I wandered along the ruins of the once imposing structure that is the Colosseum, I wondered whether the multitudes of multi generational tourists who were also meandering along its decrepit paths were as poignantly aware as I was of the enormity of the barbarity that had been inflicted upon man and beast alike.  Each step that I placed on the dilapidated stones brought a flood of emotion, as I imagined what it would have been like to have been a slave, prisoner of war or unfortunate caged animal trapped within the confines of the parameters of its closed walls, forced to partake in a blood sport culminating in its own demise.

Now that I had seen the Colosseum up close and personal, appalled at the atrocities that had been committed against man and beast alike, I was eager to sprint ahead and embrace a more tranquil and spiritually uplifting venue.

Eager to traipse along more sacred ground, my pink sneakered feet practically raced towards an oasis of peace and comfort, St. Peter’s Basilica, located on the grounds of Vatican City.

That was the plan – but, as plans oftentimes do, this one got slightly derailed. Yikes!!

Come walk into history with me as I scurry around Roma and discover the past….

Next week – Do my pink-sneakered feet actually manage to find their way to St. Peter’s Square?  Stay tuned!!

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