“Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.” – Barack Obama
It could be convincingly argued that everyone should, at least once in their lives, pay a visit to the eternal city of Rome, as I had the good fortune to do in 2001. It’s a long flight from Sydney and half way there one starts to wonder if it’s going to be worth it. Ere long, such thoughts utterly evaporate upon first glimpses of basaltic Roman roads, ancient walls, myriad fountains and iconic ruins bejeweling the various quarters of the town.
Perhaps the most compelling of these is the Flavian Amphitheatre which we know as the Colosseum. Initiated 3 years into emperor Vespasian’s rule in 72 AD, the works took 8 years to complete using travertine limestone, volcanic rock, bricks, concrete, and a whole lot of elbow grease. Despite two millennia of erosion and denuding by vandals, it remains a proud and unassailably magnificent monument to its builders and their classical civilisation.
From above, the walls describe a graceful oval wrapping around steep seating for 50,000. At the bottom of this well is a tricky floor housing all manner of beasts, men, weapons, tools and sundry mechanisms purposed to manifest the frequently appalling entertainment of the rabid and sanguine masses above.
Stop for a moment and try to imagine the disturbing roar of the crowd, the clash of metal, blood and bone mixing into uncaring sawdust blanketing the ground. Howls of delight and disgust. There was simply nothing like it in the world then or now and has no problem capturing our imagination thousands of years after its inception.
Memories of that place stayed with me over the years and when I recently had the chance to actually recreate the structure, albeit in miniature, I had no hope of resisting the urge.