Last weekend, I got to check a point off my bucket list: a trip to Rome.
was everything my brother - not a big fan of large cities, but a huge
fan of Rome - and my imagination promised, and more. Overflowing with
life, so very Italian and something amazing to see around every corner,
be it fountains, ancient buildings, paintings, sculptures, cafes,
picturesque side streets. And everything is old. Many things are
ancient. Some are immemorial.
The amount of history contained in
this one city is incredible and at times overwhelming. Ruins up to
3.000 years old still stand, many of them intact enough that you can
imagine what they once must have looked like, what it might have felt
like to be there all those years ago.
One of the things that
stuck with me most was the tour of the Colosseum, the arena where
gladiators fought for the entertainment of the people. Our guide told us
that the movie The Gladiator does not give an accurate account of a
gladiator's life. Yes, they were slaves, indebted to their owners and
able to buy their freedom with their winnings. But far less of them died
during these fights than I always believed, because nobody actually
wanted them to. For their owners, they were an investment, because the
best of them were the city's superstars. They were famous, they had the
most sex appeal, and they even had groupies; women who gave up their
lives and wealth to be with their favorite gladiator.
appeal thing is especially funny today, because, as our guide pointed
out, if you're picturing Russell Crowe, you're getting it all wrong. The
handsome, tall, muscled physique did not a good gladiator make, and the
reason is pretty simple. The audience may not have wanted the
combatants to die, but they did want to see spectacular fights and
bloodshed. So the gladiator games were all about special effects.
Without the possibility of CGI, the blood had to be real and come from
the gladiators themselves. So they would cut and stab each other in the
non-vital body parts, like arms and legs. Layers of fat served to
protect the muscle. Ergo, our guide told us to forget hunky Russell, and
instead picture a bunch of Danny DeVitos and Jack Blacks with
punch-flattened noses battling it out in the white-hot arena. They,
apparently, were the ancient Roman's idea of sexy.
There's a story in there somewhere; maybe I'll tackle it for NaNoWriMo.