Why I Didn’t Visit the Coliseum
A trip to Italy in 2005 was a dream-come-true, and I loved the countryside and historic cities (in particular I fell in love with Venice–but then again, who doesn’t?).
But when I found myself in Rome, walking outside the Coliseum (I would not enter it), I knew I wanted nothing to do with a place of suffering and death for countless humans and animals, and the vibe of the morbid and dark “entertainment” that it represented cast a shadow on an otherwise lovely trip abroad.
I was reminded of this encounter when I read these words by a Facebook friend:
“When a culture tries to evolve away from cruelty to animals what is to become of their cruelty reminders from their past?
Over one million animals died in the course of the Roman Coliseum games yet 3.9 million people continue to visit it annually.
What does a visitor to this enshrinement of death expect to discover? Enlightenment? Does a visit show reverence to the brutally tortured and slaughtered animals of the past? Does a visit to the Coliseum remind them of the same inhumane cruelty, abuse and slaughter that happens today in slaughterhouses? Do they see their participation in the same cycle of death when they eat meat? Can a culture that still profits from this barbaric site centuries later through tourism let go of its savage and violent past?
Interestingly, the Coliseum, a house of death for so many animals, was used as a stone quarry for building the cathedrals for St. Peter and St. John Lateran. It’s a rather peculiar paradox that some of the same stones used in the house of death were used in a house of worship. Then again, knowing the pagan origins of the catholic religion it’s not that strange.
During the gladiatorial combat games the stench of death in the heat was so bad some of the seats had perfume sprayed into the air.
Although life was difficult for those in the early centuries the patrons loved the games because they comforted themselves by saying ‘we have it bad but we’re better off than those in the arena.’
Gladiators were generally slaves, condemned criminals or prisoners of war.”
I think the Coliseum is a stark reminder of mankind’s dark side–that which drives us to relish suffering and death, or to at least justify it, whether it’s to those we consider lesser humans (slaves, criminals or POW’s) or a lesser species (cows, pigs, chickens, etc.).
It’s high time we looked at what the coliseum represents and have the courage to see that the same dark spirit that infested this ancient arena is still alive and well in our factory farms, slaughterhouses, and all the other myriad ways we gain entertainment or satisfaction from the brutal exploitation of other living beings.
It’s time for us to let the drive to inflict suffering and death become nothing more than a crumbling piece of our dark history.