Feeling Small and Insignificant

If you ever want to feel like a small, insignificant, temporary blip in time, then a visit to the Baths of Caracalla and the Colosseum ought to do that while simultaneously leaving you in a state of awe.

The Baths of Caracalla are in ruins now (I mean, what else would you expect?), but they’re nonetheless still impressive: the bath complex even takes up more space than the Colosseum does. Wandering through what’s left of the walls and mosaic floors, trying to picture life during CE 212-216, was a pretty sobering experience. I mean, the baths have been on Earth for 2000 years and I’ve been here for twenty. Looking through every hole in the wall was like looking through a window at a different world.

After getting a little trigger-happy with my camera, I hurried over to the Colosseum for my tour. The online ticket mislabeled it as an underground dungeon tour, when in fact the tour led us underground and then up to the third ring. The building’s been pilfered by looters, ravaged by barbarians, and damaged by earthquakes, but it’s still standing today, nearly two millennia later, which is rather remarkable considering it only took eight years to build.

Fun (disturbing) facts:

  1. Did you know that arena, which derives from the Latin word harena, means sand? If you know anything at all about Roman history, I think you can guess why that’s relevant to the Flavian Ampitheater.
  2. Most gladiators died of, surprise surprise, infections! Salt water has its limits.
  3. “Emperor Commodus filled the arena with a large number of ostriches and decapitated them with arrows.”
  4. “Gladiator blood, mopped up with a sponge, fed a profitable business…drinking human blood was considered to be a remedy against epilepsy.”

(I take no responsibility for anything that’s inaccurate. Blame that on the tour guide and the plaques.)

It’s always astonished me how humans managed to build such massive structures thousands of years ago, without the aid of modern technology. Despite all of our flaws, humans can be incredible, resilient creatures.

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