Day 4 - Gladiators, dead Emperor contests, and it's not Disneyland

We're halfway through our trip and if I could just get some sleep I'd be fine.  I don't feel jet lagged (i.e. I feel awake during the day and tired at night}, but my brain just won't shut off at night. I can't stop thinking about everything.  By the end of the day all of us felt like our feet were about to fall off and our lower backs were about to rupture (the back thing may only be a parent issue), but we all get up the next morning and trek around this place like we know exactly what we're doing (which we kinda do...we've gone from newbies looking-around-at-all-of-the-shiny-things to strutting around like we own the place. We all have our favorite gelato and coffee shops and have ceased to overpay for things (at least I think so). 

Today was my day to freak out about the tickets and tour. Nothing is terribly organized around least not to my genetically northern European satisfaction. I got whisked away by officials and told to go several different places (everyone said the opposite thing very confidently), before a nice security guard had pity on me and helped me navigate everything,  The thing that struck me most about the Colloseum was how nothing has really changed. People love drama and entertainment. The Colloseum is just the ancient world version of social media and Youtube. When we think of the Colloseum, we think of slaves, gladiators and Christians who died there, but in real life it saw more use as a political theater and propoganda/entertainment machine. There are little colloseums/arenas all over Rome which I think of as the smaller twitter accounts, while the Colloseum is like Donald Trump's twitter account.  The other thing I didn't realize about the Colloseum was that after Rome fell it was like the home depot. I thought it was half falling apart because of the Visgoths or something. But after it got damaged by an earthquake and Christian Rome saw less and less need for pagan rituals and accoutrements, the Colloseum turned into a giant hardware store. A few people lived there and organized a sort of market for mining rebar out of the concrete and stone.  You could buy bricks, iron, marble...anything you needed for all your contractor needs.  

From there, we went to the Roman forum (the name doesn't do it justice).  I didn't fully comprehend that the Roman forum is actually downtown Ancient Rome.... like you can literally walk down the road Caesar strolled down every morning... where all of the senators and the senate was.  It's insane, we took a sandal picture to prove that we were truly standing on ancient Rome's main street just like Julius Ceasar.  I can't even begin to do the history justice. I felt like I'd hopped through a Mary Poppins chalk drawing. The students were surprised to find Ceasars grave was just a pile of dirt with a bunch of old flowers and coins on it.  We were picturing some grand full scale burial temple (which used to exist but is now gone). The Italian government has put a little tin shack over it (out of respect, or to keep out the sun, I'm not sure), but it only serves to make it look more sad and pathetic. I'm sure there's some sort of lesson in there.  

If Caesar's grave left much to be desired, Emperor Hadrian's grave was the opposite. I wanted the kids to see some medieval history in Rome so we booked tickets to a castle.  Of course nothing is as it seems in Rome. The "castle" turned out to actually be Hadrian's mausoleum...which a pope later turned into his personal fortress... which they later turned into a prison. Today it looks a bit like a crumbling sand castle surrounded by a wall of legos. The kids seemed pretty over the whole museum thing, and I wasn't sure how it was going to go. We were learning things though and making deeply educational connections like how we would run a paintpall war, or pretending to be Legolas and Aragon. The deeper and higher we got in the castle though, the more awesome it became. The views on top were spectactular, and in the end it ended up being the "favorite thing" for the day. (sacrilege... how could they say that after the Roman Forum). 

Every day we get together for "class time". Also called the "journaling hour", or the "campfire kumbaya moment".  I give the kids journal prompts and we talk about the day (which is probably one of my favorite parts of the day).  CC class days might go better with gelato and pizza every week (and wine for the teacher). 

We took a picture at the Forum laying across the stone blocks, and a guy in a cowboy hat told us this wasn't Disneyland. Point taken. Everything here is the real thing, although the lines are like Disneyland and they do have characters walking around posing with people.