Saturday, June 30, 2012

Irony and 2,000 Year Old Baseball Stadiums

2012 06 30
Begun on the Train (confort class) from El Djem to Bir Bouregba
where we grab a cab to Hammamet Yassmine  My wife just corrected me on the word "confort" but this is French and that is how they spell it on the ticket

The Coliseum at El Djem is in unbelievable condition
A Skydome by any other name is just as pointless
In the ceaselessly growing list of things about which I could care less two items have always figured high: sports and "historic" buildings.  I want to play sports not watch them but I am not very coordinated so I don't.  "Historic" is just a phrase describing something that once was useful but is no longer.

So how did I find myself standing amidst a 2,000 Roman Coliseum preserved in many parts in near perfection?  Well, start with the Budget Committee.

This is one impressive coliseum.  Standing in the rooms where the gladiators would wait for their entrance queue there comes upon you an eerie feeling.  You share the tension of the men standing in mute alarum waiting to enter the killing grounds.   It is just like watching the scenes from the movie Gladiator.  You remember the first fight where the slave was so frightened he lost control of his bladder?  It felt like I was in that room, looking out at the field of battle.

Remember this Room from Gladiator
it or one of several others was in the movie
Wait a minute.  I was reliving the emotions generated by the movie Gladiator.  Being in the coliseum at El Djem was triggering moviemotions in my psyche.  Nothing was real.  There was no psychic communication with the spirits of men sacrificed to public spectacle.  Hah!!

As I learned on our return to internet most of the coliseum scenes from Gladiator were filmed at the coliseum in El Djem so in fact I was actually standing in the cell shown in that terrifying first scene.  Pretty darned cool.

They are Setting the floor up for a concert later this month
Life of Bryan was shot here too but not everyone is a Monty Python fan.

Remember This From Life of Bryan
I liked the marble barrier separationg
the reds from the golds.  

Now this coliseum is the third largest in the Roman Empire seating 35,000.  It was built in a town of 15,000 people  30 miles from the next nearest settlement in the days when you could only get around by horse.  Why?

Connie Readies Herself For Battle
Like modern day sports facilities Rome built coliseums to demonstrate to the barbarians the extent of its technical prowess, its determination and its wealth.  What use is the skydome, the silverdome, the georgia dome or the superdome.

Sports fans will love to hear that the Atlas mountain lion was made extinct by trappers/traders from Visibulis (near Fes in Morocco) who trapped and sold these great animals for the games in Rome and Thysdrus which is what El Djem was called in the "old days".

Still, admission was 8 Dinars and we had to pay 1 Dinar to take pictures.  No guards, no barriers, no crowds.  We were free to walk around anything that was not unsafe.  Try doing that in Rome.

For lovers of useless artifacts this was a major find.

What about the Irony?  That came with the line "Constance this was a super experience.  I am so glad I came".  And I meant it.

Or is that more irony?

But the day was not over.  We ended up with a big win.  The ticket to the coliseum, costing all of 8 Dinars also bought us into a Tesserae Museum, one truly unexpected treasure.  Here are displayed a few hundred Antonin mosaics saved from the ruins of Roman homes.  These mosaics are unbelievable in their degree of preservation.

Romans Liked Their Art Graphic
and all done in tiny coloured stones
There is a museum in Tunis called the Porto which has infinitely more mosaics but the display in El Djem is perfect.  Most of them still in place built into floors and onto walls. We found ourselves walking on mosaics created by skilled craftsmen two thousand years ago.  The museum had been expected to be a total dud but it turned out to be unbelievably rich in detail and high in quality.

Kudos to the curator here boy.

African Influences Rome

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