|Taking a trip to Rome? Still deciding
whether or not to go? Hopefully these landmarks will have you at the edge of your
seat, anxious to get a glimpse of the real thing.
In Ancient Rome, entertainment was
considered vital to the happiness of citizens. In Ancient Rome, there were many things a
people could do to keep entertained. One of which would be to visit the Colosseum. The
Colosseum was a prime spot for entertainment, holding as many as 50,000 spectators at one
The Colosseum took ten years to
construct. It stands 160 feet high, containing windows, arches, and columns. Each layer
contains 80 main arches. Before each show, spectators would fill in through 76 arches. The
Emperor used two of the remaining arches, and the other two were used for the gladiators.
Each visitor was seated according
to his or her gender and social status. The men would be seated normally, as the women and
the poor would be forced to sit or stand on the fourth level. Depending on the weather, an
enormous colored awning, the velarium, could be stretched overhead to prevent the hot sun
from coming in on the spectators.
Wooden flooring was utilized to hide the underground chambers in which the props, people,
and animals were kept prior to their performance. Most shows in the Colosseum lasted all
day beginning with comedic contests and exotic animal shows in the morning and moving on
to professional gladiator events in the evening.
In most tournaments and games,
death played a prominent role. Professional gladiators, primarily condemned criminals,
prisoners of war, and slaves fought either animals or eachother, often to the death. Their
weapons might include nets, swords, tridents, spears, or firebrands.
This form of entertainment in
Ancient Rome was fundamentally political. The shows were to teach the local Romans how to
fight in preparation for visits outside their Empire and to display the strength and
courage of the Roman citizen to visitors to the city of Rome.
After a morning's work at the office or shop, most Romans enjoyed spending the afternoon
at the thermae or public bath. Men and women enjoyed coming to the baths not only to
get clean but also to meet with friends, exercise, or read at the library.
Generally, Romans would first go to the unctuarium where they had oil rubbed onto their
skin and would then exercise in one of the exercise yards. From here they would move
to the tepidarium or warm room where they would lie around chatting with their friends.
Next, it was on to the caldarium, similar to a Turkish bath, hot and steamy.
Here they sat and perspired, scraping their skin with a strigil, a curved metal
tool. Attendants would serve them snacks and drinks. Finally came a dip in the
calidarium (hot bath) and a quick dip in the frigidarium (cold bath). After
swimming, the bather might enjoy a massage where he might have oils and perfumes
rubbed into his or her skin.
Feeling clean and relaxed, the Roman might drift through the beautiful gardens decorated
with mosaics and colossal sculptures or enjoy athletic events in a theater-like rotunda.
The largest of all Roman baths was
the Diocletian, completed in AD 305, which covered an area of 130,000 square yards.
The Circus Maximus
The Circus Maximus was the large,
oval track where the chariot races took place. The chariots were two or four-wheeled open
vehicles pulled by horses and used for hunting, battles, racing, and processions. The
two-wheeled chariot was very light. In racing, one of the main jobs of the
charioteer was to stand and balance the chariot, especially when rounding a corner.
The chariots usually had two, three, or four horses, but on special occasions they might
be seen with up to ten horses. Sometimes dogs, ostriches, or camels might be used in
Rome to pull the chariots around the Circus Maximus. The Romans loved the races they were
very exciting with many spills and crashes. Often charioteers were killed. However,
if they were good, they might become popular heroes.
The catacombs were a subterranean
burial place for the Christians. All catacombs were outside the walls of the city,
as there was a law forbidding the burial of bodies within the precincts of Rome.
Prior to the Empire's acceptance of Christianity, Romans practiced cremation.
The sixty known principle catacombs can be found mainly along the Appian Way.
These early burial sites were either a simple grave marked to preserve the memory of a
Christian martyr or vaults marked to display the names of noble families sympathetic to
the Christian religion.
Construction of the early catacombs began in the second century. The catacombs were used
for both memorial services and internment of the dead. Some of the catacombs were
built on four levels connecting an enormous system of galleries and linking passages
with steep, narrow steps. Bodies of the deceased were placed in niches, 16 to 24
inches high by 47 to 59 inches long cut from the wall of soft tufa rock.
The bodies were fully clothed,
wrapped in linen and sprinkled with ointments to offset the decaying odor and sealed with
a slab inscribed with the name of the deceased, date of death, and a religious symbol.
The Catacombs of St. Callistus served as the official burial grounds for the first bishops
of Rome. The Crypt of the Popes contains the tombs of several pontiffs.
After AD 313, Christianity was established as the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Consequently, the subterranean burial practice gradually declined, as above ground
cemeteries became the custom.