Rome. The ancient ruler of the world. The most formidable and memorable empire in history. Great in battle, wise in archeteture, and ingenious in engineering, masters of economy and government, firm and forever established in history as “The Great Roman Empire”. How then, came about its destruction? How came this empire to its demise?
Rome was first in military power, first in government, first in economy, first in religion, and first in knowledge. No other nation could touch them, no single power had the strength to destroy the Roman Empire. How then, did she fall? Of a truth, it all began with one man.
For centuries, since the completion of the Flavion Aphitheater, also known as the Colosseum, in the reign of Titus; a project begun by his father Vespasion, and improved during the day of his brother Demition’s rule: Rome had been morally decreesing, sliding back from honor and prominence to disregard and moral poverty. The many Emporer’s lavish fancies and expensive projects deprived the people of money and indulgence. So, after the death of Nero, Vespasion destroyed a large protion of his golden palace and built upon the grounds an Amphitheater for the socially absorbed Roman populous. This Amphitheater, the largest and most spectacular structer of its day, has since become the sybol of the ancient Roman Empire: The Colosseum.
The Colosseum well earned its name, for it is a name given to it by the people; it truly was a collosus of a structure. Having a footprint of 7.5 acres and measuring 15 stories high, it was shaped as an ellipse and could seat up to 40,000 spectators. To put that into perspective, Maddison Square Gardens, (the stadium home of the New York Knicks), would fit comfortably inside of the Colluseum with room to spare.
The era of the Colosseum was the beginning of a vice that plagued and eventually brought about the downfall of this mighty civilization. The Colosseum was a place where grand spectacles were held, gladiators became the celebrities of the day, and because the animal fights were so popular, the games at the Colosseum led to the extinction of lions in Mesopotamia along with the endangering of many other species of beast.
Many people have a knowledge of what went on in the Colosseum, but most do not realize the sheer scale of the building’s capability. The original Colosseum included a retractible dome on top that made it the first indoor amphitheater of its day. For the first ten years of its existance, the retractible floor would have the capability of being removed and filled with water overnight to host mock sea battles. Later the floor was remodeled to include a series of ramps, trap doors, and elevators that would make men and beasts randomly appear in the arena, seemingly out of nowhere.
The Romans, at this time were infatuated with bloodshed, and an insatiable bloodlust dwelt in the minds of the people. Now, before you judge the Romans, observe this account from a historian whose friend went to the Colosseum with the intention of not looking upon the games at all. He tells of how his friend kept to his word and did not look upon the games, until a sudden cheer from the crowd quote: “forced him to look up.”Once his eyes beheld the horrors… He could not look away. Without realizing what he was doing, the man found himself cheering with the others, enthralled at the death and gore, exited at the bloodshed. The historian records that his friend was at unrest until he could return again.
The Colosseum was not just a vice, it was a lifestyle, an addiction, these people of Rome had become addicted to violence, to gore, to death, and it tore the country apart from within.
Finally, mercifully, it all came to a screeching halt. A story is told about a monk called Telemachus who lived outside of Rome in 404 A.D. For whatever reason, a call from God or personal business, Telemachus travelled to Rome and found himself pushed by a crowd into the Colosseum. When he saw what was going on, he rose up and spoke out against it, but his voice was lost in the crowd’s cheering. He tried to yell above them, but it was no use. So, he leapt down into the arena and stood between two gladiators proclaiming, “In the name of Christ forbear!” The eyes of the crowd were now fixed on him, they grew silent and watched as the monk was shoved away. Again he came between the two combatants and repeated his words but was pushed away. On a third time of this, a commander signaled the men and they struck him down. The spectators were baffled, some applauded, others grew violently sick or simply hung their heads in shame and tears; perhaps only now did they realize the generation of evil they had created.
Word reached the Emporer Honorius, who happened to be a Christian himself. At least in name he was, though by the practices of the people, you could tell what kind of Christianity the Romans had. Honorius was so appalled at the news that he banned gladiatorial fights that same day. From Februray 1, 404 A.D. onward they were proclaimed illegal. That is the last recorded event of a gladiator fight in Rome. Telemachus, even unto death, stood up for what was right. His sacrifice ended many centuries of bloody combat in the Colosseum.
Without their games, the people of Rome now began their dystfunctionality, they were too far gone to restore their nation, and slowly, Rome was lost in the whirlwind of time. The greatest civilization on earth was given no grand exodus, no blaze of glory. Simply a few dying embers of a once great empire until they were erased from the pages of history.
Rome doomed themselves, they brought about their own destruction through vice, and allowing themselves to fall into moral disrepair. They were no longer a civilized nation, it was only a matter of time before they dissapeared completely.
One man, the one whom I refferenced at the beginning of this post, had a dramatic effect on the Roman way of living. His life and death changed the course of history, and Rome, the world, would never be the same again.
Would you have done what Telemachus did? When you’re fighting for the right cause, it is your honor, your duty to stand up for what you believe in, throw yourself into the fray and proclaim, “Today is a good day to die!”
As always, thanks for reading.
–the anonymous novelist