I’m actually talking about a Roman arena, nearly 2000 years old, which gave me a real feeling of deja vu – but not for the reasons you would think.
Today we took a drive to Nimes to look at some of the Roman history. Walking between massive blocks of stone, still standing where they were placed that long ago, leaves you will a little bit of an awed feeling. The Romans certainly knew how to build things to last. What really struck me today though, was not only the sheer scale of their constructions (remembering that back in the day, the people were a lot smaller than we are today), but also the design ideas that are still functional and used today.
For example, the magnificent Arena in Nimes. This dates back to about the end of the 1st century AD. OK it’s not the oldest, it wasn’t the first of its kind and probably not the biggest, but it is one of the best preserved. But… walking in through the arches, following the galleries that run around the entire structure, then entering the ring-side seating through numerous, identical, walkways & up stairs – it struck me as being just like Subiaco oval in Perth, Western Australia, where I have gone to watch my favourite football team so many times. What a wierd feeling, I could just see hords of fans shouting & cheering – but for gladiators or football? Not to mention that the upper rows have a much better view in Nimes than those in Subiaco – and I think they actually have more leg room too! Well it seems good ideas never grow old. Except it would have been a better idea had they also copied the lovely external arches along with the internal structure. The Romans certainly did it all with style.
Now I know all about the animal fights, the sentenced prisoners that were fed to the lions and bears during lunch-break on gladiator-show days, but seeing all the crocodile emblems around the city, I wondered whether they brought crocodiles here to play with too? I wouldn’t put anything past those Romans after hearing all the stories on the audio guide – thank goodness I’d already had lunch when they talked about the fresh sand being turned over regularly through the day to keep down the stench of blood! But alas, nothing so exciting as rampaging crocodiles, it turns out that when the Romans defeated Marc & Cleo over in Egypt, they minted a coin here in Nimes to celebrate – the coin bearing a picture of a crocodile chained to a palm tree to depict the conquered Eqypt. The coins were so popular that it became the official city emblem during the 1500s.
Well anyway, we found it to be a very bright, fresh and modern city with a lovely pedestrianised old-centre. We only visited two of the Roman relics but there is a lot more to this beautiful city that I would love to see another day. For now, it was beautiful on a bright, crisp day!