The Colosseum – Humanity’s first Reality TV?

Allora… SO here I am in Piazza Novana. One thing I love about Italy is it is clichéd in its charm. I’m sitting alfresco at a table with a red and white checkered tablecloth as eccentric Italian waiters shout at each other and the people pass by in the piazza stopping to photograph the huge fountain that stands in the middle.

It’s this very fountain that I sat at 9 years ago. We sat on the ground with a bottle of Limonciello and drank and laughed. Now here I am… Right back here, but at a restaurant table, drinking a glass of Rose, typing on my iPad. Nevertheless, Italy never fails to disappoint. I look around me now and see colourful terraces whose small windows blink in the afternoon sunlight with their weathered wooded shutters. People cycle by as others walk and eat gelato. Fat Italians in hats and sunglasses sit on stools in the centre of the piazza selling their artwork. It really is the Italian experience.

I’ve walked here from the Colosseum today which was incredible. I sat, staring up at the giant walls imagining the battles and deaths that crumbling stone has seen. Yet around me stand groups of tourists some squatting on the ground holding their arms out making it look like they’re ‘holding’ the Colosseum and some other idiot takes a photo.

Bigger and grander in real life

It makes me wonder now what people’s mind-set is when they visit the great wonders of the world. Is it the history anymore? Whilst I’m guilty of taking a photos where it looks like I’m holding up the leaning tower of Pisa (well it is leaning so kind of invites that)… I wonder are people truly imagining time spinning backward to an ancient Rome and marveling at an incredible society that would kill gladiators as a sense of entertainment? Are they considering that these man-made surroundings are older than the birth of Christ? Or are they simply there because it’s famous? Have these attractions become like seeing a celebrity for some? An icon they’ve seen in many movies, magazines and photographs. Now is their opportunity as they jostle for a spot among the crowds to get their shot, their photo of themselves at the famous icon so they can update their Facebook profile picture? Just like the TMZ bus tour trolls the hollywood streets, looking for celebrities, so to, the buses of tourists roll in.

Get your photo take with a fake ‘gladiator’ at a cost.

Nevertheless, the Colosseum is testament to an incredible society that played a grand role on the stage of human evolution. The closest to colossal entertainment we have now is football and sports, where TV campaigns portray players as gladiators with slow motion footage of rough clashes and tackles. But really I think for the ancient Romans, the attraction of the Colosseum was the reality. Real battle, real triumph… Real death. Perhaps it was human civilizations first ‘reality TV’. I know this sounds ridiculous, but take a moment to consider this… We love watching real drama and suffering unfold. The likes of Big Brother, were it fiction, would have been critiqued and completely unsuccessful; labelled as a poor script, unbelievable characters and poor production. Yet we remained glued… Why? Because it’s real. Real suffering, real people, real drama… This was the appeal of the Colosseum, as well as the spectacle of the whole thing of course. Even in deliberate fiction such as Shakespearian theatre, the crowd would jeer and shout. They would get fully involved in the drama unfolding. Perhaps there was a version of Othello where you could vote characters out… Mine would’ve gone to Iago.

Nevertheless, it’s awe-inspiring to be there out the front, looking up at its giant arches imaging an ancient civilization who would conjugate here for their ‘entertainment’.

I’ve covered a huge part of the city today and now it’s time for a well deserved Vino Rosso.

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