“Let’s go to Italy,” said my friend,
an architecture student–
she would study and photograph the buildings.
I brought along my sketchbook.

Maybe Nero didn’t fiddle
while Rome burned, but he used the land
cleared by the massive fire to build
his Golden Palace and his Pleasure Gardens.

I did not sketch many buildings–
only one drawing of the Colosseum–
I did not know it had been constructed
on the ruins of Nero’s cruel rule.

From the evidence of my sketchbook,
I seem to have preferred the Borghese Gardens–
sculptural forms for me to sketch,
plenty of columns for my friend’s camera.

I did not go inside the Colosseum–
perhaps I sensed the bloodthirst still hanging
in the air, reflecting a world that continues
to devour itself with public spectacles of death.

Nine thousand wild animals, mostly African, were killed in the Inaugural Games at the Colosseum, which was largely financed by spoils taken from the Jewish Temple by Titus after the Roman defeat of Jerusalem in 70CE. The public spectacles of human and animal slaughter continued for nearly 400 years. It is estimated that 400,000 people, and millions of animals, died in the staged hunts, wars, and executions.

For dverse, where Merril asked us to write about a historical artifact. Since I’m late with it, I’m linking to OLN.

And also inspired by this post about the Colosseum from Manja. I knew I had drawn it when I visited Italy in 1976, and I found the sketchbook right away (falling apart, taped together, obviously seen better days…)

44 thoughts on “Colosseum

  1. Incredible piece of sharing, and your sketches add a lot. I, too, had no idea that those spectacles went on for centuries. Now we call it football.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ahh! I love it how you went to Italy. And preferred the gardens. Beautiful columns and flowers. The Colosseum is there too but only just. Thank you for the numbers too, I intended to have a look but knew they would just confirm what I knew already: that I wouldn’t like it inside. And especially thank you for linking to me. I’m curious about other Italian sketches now… Did you travel from Rome to Florence? By train? Or to Pisa? In the second case you passed me by. (That is, my present home. I was not there yet, I suppose. I only arrived in 2013.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We did take the train to Florence, and then to Milan for a day, only because my boss wanted me to pick up some textiles from someone she knew there (but that meant they paid for part of the trip, so I didn’t mind that much…) Then we went back to Florence and then back to Rome.

      I was looking at the tourist blurbs for going inside the Colosseum and they say nothing about the horrible things that went on. But you can feel it I think, if you have any feelings at all.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. A different sort of poem from you, Kerfe. I really enjoyed your words and sketches. I’m glad you still have that notebook. I don’t think I realized how long the brutality lasted there either. I’ve been in the Coliseum–I was there with both my children at different times. I went to Italy with each of them with a group of students and their Latin teacher in high school. I think being there with a group of teens offset the bad vibes of the place a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Merril. One of the great things about WordPress is how Manja’s post made me go looking for the sketchbook. I hadn’t thought about that trip in a long time.

      How wonderful that your children’s school had those trips available, and that you could go along.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow! What a journey of generations. And here we are today. With still so much repair to be done to our souls

    My favourite lines

    “reflecting a world that continues
    to devour itself with public spectacles of death.”


    Liked by 1 person

  5. we are full of folly, aren’t we? not learning, pretending that riches go on forever. or that there are even such a thing as riches, beyond what the world already provides.

    lovely sketches – I’m glad you found and shared them ~

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beauty often comes on the wreckage of cruelty. I guess that is the only saving grace for us in these lessons. I love your sketches, especially the flowers. So alive. Apologies for getting here so late.

    Liked by 1 person

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