Thursday, February 28, 2013

Some things never change

'Let's go and visit the catacombs,' says I. 'The ancient underground burial site for Christians.'

You see, I knew what it was so why the fact that we had to go underground to see the tombs should surprise me is anybody's guess. I don't like heights and I don't like depths. We'd gone about 5 minutes with our guided tour group into this underground warren when the reality hit me and I whispered to Husband, 'I don't think I can do this.'

As I couldn't have found my way out on my own I didn't have a lot of choice but I was starting to get panicky - bit like when I went to the opticians' but that's another story - but Husband said, 'Yes, you can. Just concentrate on what he's saying.'

The guide must have thought I was a hugely interested and attentive listener as I focused all my thoughts on him and tried to ignore the sweating and slightly sick feeling.

Anyway it worked although if he'd said, 'Now we're going down to the third level,' I'd definitely have thrown a wobbly. A fascinating place, these particular catacombs are said to have contained the body of Peter, the apostle, before Christianity was legalised and his bones moved to what is now under St. Peter's Basilica.

And the things that never change? When the catacombs were excavated they found graffiti on the walls. Not your usual Sally loves Johnny type stuff, but prayers to Peter and, I think, Paul. Photos weren't allowed to be taken in the tombs so I've had to rely on postcards.
Back then there was nothing the typical Roman family liked more than a day out at the Colosseum to watch a  few men killing each other. It was a long day so the families would take picnics or barbecues as well as craft work, music or writing. 

But then as now, put a group of men together supposedly in the name of sport and they'll drink so, as Martial recorded, wine was rationed to avoid trouble on the terraces. 'Twas ever thus.

(The arena sat over 40,000. Below the 'main stage' you can see where the animals or prisoners were kept before being brought out to face the braying crowd. Below, an artist's impression of how it might have looked.)


Furtheron said...

The Coliseum is an amazing place. I made the family all walk to an amphitheatre outside Cirencester... it is like a big grass bank - they weren't impressed they had expected the Coliseum!

Leslie: said...

I went to the Colisseum, but not the Catacombs. But at the Vatican, we did go down into where the popes are buried. A bit creepy, but I did get a good shot of Pope Paul's spot as I was hustled past.

Liz said...

The way the ruins have survived so well for so long is incredible, furtheron.

We missed that bit, leslie.

nick said...

I wonder if the Colosseum is better left as a semi-ruin or whether it should be completely restored. I think on balance the semi-ruin is more atmospheric and should be left as it is.

Liz said...

I think so, nick. There is another old arena place that is half in ruins but has apartments built on top!