Did you know that the Colosseum had a capacity of 75,000 people? Back in 80 AD, they made a stadium that could hold more spectators than most Soccer Stadiums today. 75,000 people watching man battle man or beast.
1900yrs later, I stand silently in what is left of the mighty arena. It is in ruins. But unlike most ruins, this retains its grandness, and more importantly, its ability to intimidate. And that’s what Rome and its ruins do; it intimidates. I’ve been fortunate enough to see most of India’s historical sights, and most of the world too, and while they exude unbelievable amounts of skill, none come close to the grandeur and scale that the Roman ruins hold.
Roman history is something most of us are moderately acquainted with. It had a lot of dramas, a lot of wars, and just made for nice movie and game scripts. You know those movies, where they keep showing you flashbacks of the same area? That’s what it felt like when I entered the Roman Forum on Palantine Hill, historically the hill where Rome was born; and later the center of the city and its affairs. You can picture senators marching along in their robes, commoners selling bread in what was the marketplace, and the priests on the stairs of the Temple of Apollo. It got intense when I saw the place where Caesar was murdered. And on to the pulpit where Octavius gave his legendary speech (thank you Shakespeare). Trust me, you will get lost in the history.
Over the course of 3 days, I saw pretty much all there is to do in Rome with a couple of friends. We stayed in a lovely and quaint little hostel and walked everywhere. We didn’t use a single bus/tram at all and walked close to 15km a day, which might seem a lot but there was always something to visit in short enough distances, so it was ok.
I would refrain from calling Rome a tourist destination. Yes, it makes for great pictures, and not a lot of things can get you the response that a Facebook check-in at the Colosseum can get (I got over 100 likes. That’s a lot when you are a male); but for most people, every ruin looks exactly like the previous one, and that gets annoying. What Rome is, though, is a history buff’s paradise. If you like your history, and seeing a broken column where a Temple stood makes you tingle; then you should sell your left kidney to make a trip here. The walls (what’s left of them) are alive with it. Yes, there is skill in their construction, but it is the stories and the legends behind every brick that got me going. Three days later I understood what “The Glory of the Roman Empire” meant. You think you feel small standing in front of a 100 storey building? Wait till you stand in front of that Colosseum. Now imagine that same feeling back in 80 A.D. And they made that for entertainment! Whew.
In conclusion, this place is steeped in legends. It is one of the few places where you can see not just the important structures, but the not so important ones that communicate culture. I’m not going to list out the places I saw individually; you have Google for that. What I can do is tell you this, If you enjoyed Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, you should love this. If you didn’t, you are wasting your time.
Aadil Naik is a PGPB3 student and is currently in Milan, Italy for his 4-month specialization Semester at Universita Bocconi.