Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Restoring the Colosseum: A colossal undertaking

Italy’s most popular monument, with up to six million visitors a year, is feeling its age. Its massive size and long life grants it some dignity, but recent news reports place it on the level of a bedraggled theme park.

In August a hoax bomb, consisting of a tin can with suspicious-looking wires, closed down the monument for two hours and resulted in the forced evacuation of angry tourists. The mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, visited the site and found to his dismay that no bomb detection scanners were in place, nor was there any continuous link up with local police. A few days later 20 fake ‘centurions’ were arrested in an attempt to end their gang wars as well as their hassling of tourists regarding payment for posing with their cardboard weapons.

Is this the monument which so struck the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1818 that he proclaimed: ‘The Coliseum is unlike the work of human hands I ever saw before. It is of enormous height and circuit, and the arches built of massy stones are piled on one another and jut into the blue air, shattered into the forms of overhanging rocks’?

More at History Today

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