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  See more from: London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Germany.

Our hotel in Rome was an easy walk from the Colosseum...which was our first place to visit when we arrived.


The center of the Colosseum was built up with rooms and rectangular elevator shafts, with a floor laid over the top of the structure beneath.

Elaborate sets would be built up, with sand and trees, people and animals. Some ancient sources indicate that artificial lakes would be built, and sea battles re-enacted.

One way or another, the entertainment of the Colosseum was death. Convicted prisoners and slaves would be led in to be killed by animals, and by other prisoners and slaves. The elevator shafts, which had trap doors at the top, would use a system of pulleys and ropes to lift animal cages and people up onto the main people who were led in to die could find opponents/animals appearing at any time from behind them.

Christians would have their garments soaked in flamable liquids, and then be set alight to burn to death.


There was seating for 50,000 here.

According to Wikipedia, "Construction was funded by the opulent spoils taken from the Jewish Temple after the Great Jewish Revolt in 70 AD led to the Siege of Jerusalem.... Along with the spoils, estimated 100,000 Jewish prisoners were brought back to Rome after the war, and many contributed to the massive workforce needed for construction. The slaves undertook manual labor such as working in the quarries at Tivoli where the travertine was quarried, along with lifting and transporting the quarried stones 20 miles from Tivoli to Rome.[16] Along with this free source of unskilled labor, teams of professional Roman builders, engineers, artists, painters and decorators undertook the more specialized tasks necessary for building the Colosseum."


I think I would have found my visit to the Colosseum more impressive and enjoyable if the history of the place was not so thoroughly blood-soaked. I kept thinking of - and identifying with - some of the Christians who were led here to be torn apart by animals, killed by gladiators, and burned to death.


We were there in the daytime, among the crowds. No outside picture I took was as impressive as this shot taken at night by somebody I found courtesy of Google.


Just outside the Colosseum is the Arch of Titus (which served as a model for Napoleon's Arc de Triumphe in Paris). On the inside is depicted scenes from the destruction of Jerusalem.


You can see a menorah as well as Jewish slaves being led away.


On the other side of the arch is a picture of Titus in a horse-drawn chariot.


A 5 minute walk from the Colosseum, and you are in the Roman Forum, home to a collection of temples as well as the Roman Senate.

I have always understood part of Rome's legacy to be the rule of law. But after a trip to the Colosseum, I was not much in the mood to see the Forum as the seat of impartial law.


It was in the Senate, visible in the background, just to the right of the arch, that Julius Caesar was killed on the 15th of March, BC 44.

Here is how the Senate likely appeared back at that time.


The Vatican Museum was a delight. Along with all the other European powers, the Vatican too plundered Egypt for archaeological treasures. Actually, it is pretty rare to see not just a sarcophagus, nor even a fully wrapped mummy...but the actual person who was mummified. Not for the first time did I wonder who this person was and what their life was like prior to them ending up in a tomb, and ultimately in a museum.


My hieroglyphics are a bit rusty, but as nearly as I could make out the inscription here it was: "Girls, if you are going to run in the Cario Marathon, be certain to get a decent sports bra. Once your Cooper's ligaments stretch, there is no way back." ...or something to that effect.


An incription made by Sargon II, the Assyrian king who conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and deported the people, which became the basis for the various legends about the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.


This is from Sennacherib's palace.

Sennacherib ruled the Assyrian Empire from his capital of Ninevah, and is remembered primarily for marching on Jerusalem while it was under the reign of Hezekiah. The Bible says that an angle of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian troops, and ended the siege of the city.


This is a cylinder by Nebuchadnezer of Bablyon, the king who had Daniel deported from Jerusalem in Dan. 1, celebrating his various building and restoration projects.


Incredibly, this is a Babylonian legal document dating from 2000-ish BC.

But even more intersting to me, in light of the two-dimensional writings of the Assyrian/Babylonian kings, mixed with the occasional bill of sale incribed in a clay tablet, is how very three dimensional the historical accounts of Moses and the other biblical authors were. They really zoomed in on people and their personalities in ways that no other ancient near-eastern people bothered to do. We get this wonderfully evocative portrate of Hannah in I Samuel 1 that is without equal in any of the other writings that have been preserved from the ancient near-east.


Debbie and I recognized this statue from our travels in Ephesus some years ago. This is a near duplicate of one we saw there of Diana, the patron goddess of the Ephesians (a.k.a. Artemis). In Acts of the Apostles, Ephesian metalsmiths who felt threatened by Saint Paul's preaching of Christianity, jealously rioted in her defense, shouting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

The statue looks as it does because to the men of ancient Ephesus, you know, two breasts were never enough.

Of course, it was the women of Ephesus who first made a "My eyes are up here" t-shirt.


The Roman Emperor Nero ordered a bathtub, 40 feet in diameter, made from a particular sort of volcanic rock called porphyry, reddish-purple, available from Egypt. It was quarried, cut, and enormously heavy though it was, transported to Rome.


There were a number of ENORMOUS tapestries. I have no idea how anybody could keep their wits about them in making something so large. This one was of King Herod killing all the small children in Bethlehem.


The map room of the museum was interesting. The walls were covered with enormous maps of regions in and around Italy. What I enjoyed most about the maps were the odd bits of detail that were included.


The Sistine Chapel was indeed phenomenal. Deb and I were fortunate enough to be able - in a room filled with hundreds of people standing - to get two of the few seats, which let us tilt back and just stare at the various biblical stories portrayed in the various panels.


Backpacking as we were, we didn't purchase hardly any souveniers...but we had to get this coffee cup.


We walked from the Vatican back to our hotel. Rome has a number of pedestrian-only streets, which make crossing the city by foot a real delight. On our way back, we passed the Spanish Steps, so called because the Spanish Embassy was at the top of the steps when they were built in 1723. The English poet John Keats, suffering from tuberculosis, moved to Rome in 1820 and spent the finalmonths of his life in the apartment whose door is in the lower right of this picture.

We also walked past the Trevi Fountain, which is a striking construction.


Rome is a city of fountains...and along our walking path, there were many places to top up our water bottles.


There were people out busking - mostly with music, one or two making art as you watched. This fellow just balanced out from his magic lantern, reminding us of Aladdin.


Italians are very serious about ice cream, and make stuff that is just terrific. As interesting as this window was - and even though I would have gotten a good story out of it regardless - I couldn't bring myself to spend any of my Euros on onion-flavored ice cream.


Our path back to the hotel took us through an intersection called "The Four Fountains". Appropriately enough, there was a marble fountain on each corner of the intersection.


In a land where a Kia Soul looks like a big car, we saw more than one vehicle that was so small, it could be parked at right angles to the curb even in a location reserved for parallel parking.


One of the interesting features of Rome was the number of really tall doors that opened - apparently from apartment or condominium complexes - directly out onto the street. This particular door has the knob at my chin level, and a door knocker that no child could reach.

Actually, it may be less that the doors are large, and more that this description rather fits me:

What is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves.... They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colours (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long, clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can get it). Now you know enough to go on with.


While walking, we passed a number of lovely condominium blocks. The entry way opened directly onto the street...but you walked through a tunnel into a lovely interior courtyard that was cool and (relatively) quiet. The condo windows looked mostly down into this courtyard.

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