In preparation for coming to Italy, Mike and I read Brunelleschi’s Dome and A Traveller’s History of Italy. We watched Classical Archaeology of Ancient Greece and Rome and Rome and the Barbarians from The Teaching Company. We watched a number of Italian movies including Pane e Tulipane and Divorce, Italian Style.
Oh, and we watched Gladiator. It was my idea, much to Mike’s surprise, since Action/Adventure is not a Netflix category I browse often. Or ever.
I had some idea of what went on in the Roman Colosseum, and I wanted to know more. I think maybe I was a bit disbelieving; gladiatorial combat and people pitted against lions is such a strange and gruesome idea it’s hard to grasp. Or maybe I just didn’t want to grasp it. The professors of both of our Great Courses praised the opening battle scene in the movie: they thought the Hollywood movie makers got a few things right.
It turns out I’m glad we watched it. I admit there were parts I didn’t actually watch, but I paid attention, focused on what might or might not be true to history, and it gave me some ideas and raised a bunch of questions that led to discussion—there is only one Colosseum, and it is in Rome; other amphitheaters throughout the Roman Empire hosted gladiatorial games and combat, too, though. I looked forward to seeing the amphitheater in Pompeii—watching the movie made the experience more interesting—and thus it served a fine purpose.
I tried really hard to imagine what went on here 2,000 years ago.
This is what went on the day we were there.