“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Chance to Follow In the Steps of a Gladiator


Colosseum to open gladiator tunnels to public

The dark stone tunnels in which gladiators prepared to do battle in the Colosseum are being opened to the public for the first time.

From next week, visitors will be able to venture into the bowels of the amphitheatre
From next week, visitors will be able to venture into the bowels of the amphitheatrePhoto: EPA

But archeologists are concerned about the impact that millions of tourists will have on the subterranean maze of tunnels and galleries as they seek to experience their very own Gladiator moment, re-enacting scenes from the Ridley Scott blockbuster starring Russell Crowe.

From next week, visitors will be able to venture into the bowels of the amphitheatre, the largest ever built by the Romans, exploring the cells and passageways in which wild animals such as lions, tigers, bears and hyenas were corralled.

They were forced into cages and raised with a system of winches and pulleys to just beneath the floor of the sand-covered arena, emerging from rope-operated trap doors to do battle with other animals or with gladiators.

The largest animals – elephants, rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses – were too big for the hoists and would have entered through a gate directly into the arena.

Tourists will be able to see the remains of a sophisticated sewerage system which provided the Colosseum's enormous crowds with dozens of drinking fountains and lavatories and even enabled the arena to be flooded for mock naval battles involving hundreds of gladiators on ships.

Roman bricks still line the floors of the dungeons and tunnels and stone stairways connect the two underground levels.

An underground passageway, which still exists, linked the Colosseum with a nearby gladiator barracks, the "ludus magnus", the remains of which are also still visible.

Gladiators – who were mostly common criminals, slaves and prisoners of war – would emerge into the arena to the applause of 50,000 spectators.

Those that were killed in combat were carried out of the amphitheatre through the Porta Libitina – the Gate of Death.

"You can imagine being a gladiator and listening to the roar of those 50,000 people coming through the floorboards – that is what is magnificent about being down here," said Darius Arya, the director of archaeology of the American Institute for Roman Culture.

"The animals would have been prepared for slaughter, or slaughtering: there were bears, boars, lions, tigers, even crocodiles. People would have been working on hoisting 20ft tall stage sets into the arena – there was more backstage pressure than for a Broadway show. The smell and the heat would have been incredible, especially in summer, and it would all have been done by candlelight."

Opening up the underground area is intended to relieve crowding at one of Italy's most popular ancient monuments – an average of 20,000 people converge on the Colosseum each day. Until now, only about 35 per cent of the vast stone-built stadium has been accessible.

The newly opened areas will be open to guided tours of a maximum of 25 people at a time.

"It is the first time people will have the chance to go down into the places where games and shows were organised," said Rossella Rea, the director of the Colosseum.

However, Dr Arya said: "It's great that these new areas are open but I'm concerned because there's going to be a lot more traffic and a lot more wear and tear.

"They need to make sure that it is not trampled on. The conservator in me asks what guarantees are there that the place will still be in good shape in five or 10 years' time."

Visitors will also be able to access, for the first time in about 40 years, the third highest of four tiers of seating, which in Roman times was reserved for poor citizens, freed slaves and foreigners.

The Colosseum was started by the emperor Vespasian in AD70 and completed 10 years later by his son, Titus, who held a 100 day inauguration festival in which 9,000 animals were killed


  1. Tertullian's Letter on Spectacles

    I think they developed a system of elevators in there to kinda ease things along.

    These are the Romans rat says were looking out for the Jews best interests.

  2. They were forced into cages and raised with a system of winches and pulleys to just beneath the floor of the sand-covered arena, emerging from rope-operated trap doors to do battle with other animals or with gladiators.

    Missed that on a first quick reading.

    Dad went there. His comment was in Rome there were a hell of a lot of cats around everywhere.

    He couldn't stand the place.

  3. The enthusiasm for the fun and games spread about the Med.

    Martyrdom of Felicitas and Perpetua

  4. I'm leaving on a trip north.

    Any posting in the next five days by me, aren't by me.

  5. Nobody bit on The Motley Fool's "brand within a brand' next Intel stock pick. The answer is Dolby (DLB) which can be discovered through a google search. What I found intriguing was the write-up - a very clever integration of Main St concerns about the Wall St roulette wheel and some creative analytics that did seem to move outside the Morningstar asset allocation block. I have no money lying around to put on Dolby, but the case was interesting. To me.

    The southern fence mentioned by Rat a couple posts back that is nonfunctional, under built, and over budget. (What else? desert tortoise issues?) As a long time supporter of a two-step process to control southern border problem - first step: construct a physical barrier to immediately stop illegal entry and second step: deal with the on-site immigrants in some compromise fashion - I am disappointed to hear that technicians can't even build a wall anymore. I am also skeptical. Nobody wanted that wall built. And it sits in ruins like some modern coliseum. So much for Yankee can-do.

    I looked at the Colorado governor's race. I am guessing that Tancredo has been bestowed with full crackpot status at this point, but it is hard to not sympathize with the man's focus on immigration. I lived in Denver - quite a long time many years ago. The bedroom suburbs - predominately Aurora - are overrun by gangs, on a par with SE LA. It's serious and criminal. And the Dem candidate is obsessing about the bike thing. I have been an office worker my entire life. For me to ride a bike to work is comical. Pebbles in my panty hose are unpleasant. Not nearly as unpleasant as the gunfire that now rules the streets outside Denver proper.

  6. Building the Colosseum - How much did the Roman Colosseum cost?

    No one knows exactly how much the building of the Colosseum cost. But in A.D. 70 Titus had sacked the city of Jerusalem. The fabulous treasures of Jerusalem paid for the building of the Colosseum, and no expense was spared in the project.

    So those NICE Romans, STOLE the WEALTH of the JEWS from Jerusalem and brought Jews to Rome as SLAVES and used their blood and treasure to BUILD the fucker...

  7. Building the Colosseum - Who built the Roman Colosseum?
    An estimated 100,000 prisoners were bought back to Rome as slaves after the Jewish War. Vespasian had a limitless work force. In the building of the Colosseum the slaves undertook the manual labor such as working in the quarries at Tivoli where the travertine was quarried. Slaves would also have been used to lift and transport the heavy stones 20 miles from Tivoli to Rome. Teams of professional Roman builders, engineers, artists, painters and decorators undertook the skilled tasks necessary for building the Colosseum.

  8. Arch of Titus

    In AD 66 Jewish Zealots started a revolt against the Roman occupation of Judea. Vespasian was sent from Rome to crush the revolt. After Vespasian became emperor, his son Titus took over.
    Titus captured Jerusalem in AD 70 with four legions and the revolt was completely crushed after the fall of the Masada fortress in AD 72.

    Emperor Titus
    In AD 79 Titus became emperor of the Roman empire. He died just two years later, in September AD 81. The popular emperor was soon deified by the Roman Senate. Emperor Domitian, Titus's brother and successor, built the Arch of Titus that same year both to honor his brother and to commemorate the victory in the Jewish War. The arch was dedicated in AD 85 with large festivities.