Gladiators Taking a Cigarette Break

Roman legionaryThe Colosseum was within walking distance of our hotel so we hoofed it in spite of the pouring rain. As it did the day before, that big round decaying thing took my breath away. I could not wait to get inside and see where the legendary carnage happened.

It seemed odd to find an arena that wasn’t surrounded by a parking area. It just sat there in the middle of town. Before going in, we watched scores of unique characters – part panhandler and part car salesmen – buzz around selling anything from knock off sunglasses to plastic statues of the Pope. At the entrance, near a couple of gladiators taking a cigarette break, we found our tour guide, a 30-something that looked fit enough to slay a lion himself. With a thick Italian accent he declared: “I am Roberto.” He eyed Lee who wore an Indiana Jones hat and bright red jacket with an American Flag pin on his lapel. “You,” he said to him, “Can call me Bob.”

Roberto led us through a giant arch and into the imposing interior of the coliseum. There it was, as impressive as the outside. The original floor had decayed to reveal a labyrinth of passage ways which once served as “back stage” to the exotic entertainment. Roberto grabbed Chris by the shoulder and brought him up to the front of the group.” “How old are you boy?” he asked with the enthusiasm of a game show host.

“Eleven”

“Boys his age had an important job!” Roberto declared, directing the attention toward my son. “Imagine him straddling a lion cage awaiting instruction to release its doors.”

At that, somebody asked: “Did they really feed the Christians to the lions?”

Roberto shook his head. “Lions fought lions here.” He pointed at the vast arena. “Gladiators fought lions here.” He continued. “Sorry – no Christians fed to lions here.”

A silence fell over the group as we pondered the notion of being duped by historical rumors. Then Roberto’s eyes enlarged, as if a ringleader. “Human sacrifice – that is a big show!” He pointed outside. “For the Circus Maximus – it seats 150,000!”

The tour ended at the urinals. Roberto led us to a simple alcove with a slanting floor. “The men stood here to relieve themselves.” Roberto explained. “Then everything flowed outward.” He pointed to some rainwater that was flowing away from us. “See?”

“What about number two?” Somebody asked.

“Over the side” Roberto made a related arm gesture.

“What about the people standing below?”

“Nobody standing below, all inside!”

Jill asked: “Where did the women go?”

“They didn’t.”

NEXT: A Quick Get Away!

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