Greek and Roman-Chapter IV: The Colosseum
SUNSHINE filled Titus’s room. He awoke and he thought for a moment that he was back in Greece. But he wasn’t. He was still in Rome and lying on a very soft and comfortable bed. He looked across the room and saw that a toga was hanging on a wall. Titus leaped out of his bed. He strode over to it and felt the fabric touch his fingertips. He stared in awe at the ancient yet beautiful design of the toga. And it actually belonged to Father. And then, the images of last night came back to him. His father, acting as if he were a drunken king, instead of a humble schoolteacher; enjoying the riches and pleasure of wealth. But it doesn’t last, Titus thought to himself. What can last an eternity and be enclosed with happiness, joy and peace
Titus sighed out loud. “Nothing, that’s what,” he said to himself.
“Who are you talking to?” came a voice.
Titus spun around. Standing in his doorway was Flora, already dressed and hair done. Her hair was still hanging down, but this time, it was covered with a scarf that was dyed purple.
“What are you doing here?” Titus demanded. He tried to cover up his nightgown, but it was no use. Flora had seen it all.
“Waiting for you to get up,” said Flora with a smirk. As I said, she has a lot of spunk, Titus remembered with a smile. “Now, I’ve been waiting for about ten minutes, so hurry up and get changed.” Flora left the doorway, leaving Titus to change into his toga. He was out in four minutes. When he and Flora were outside, he noticed a small sack in Flora’s hand.
“What’s in it?” Titus asked.
Flora smiled. “Our breakfast, of course.”
The two walked until they came to a bench in the Forum. It was about ten o’clock in the morning, and Marcus had been in school for over five hours already.
“Can you answer a question?” Titus asked after he had eaten an apple, honey cakes and several raisins.
“How did you get into Uncle Flavius’s house today?”
Flora almost laughed with her mouth filled with raisins, but stopped herself. “Prff! That was easy. All I did was get my father to write a letter saying ‘This is an official message, saying that my daughter, Flora Claudia Tarqunius, is supposed to escort the son of Antonius Julius Andronicus around the city. Signed, Manilus Livius Tarqunius.’ Pretty easy huh?”
Titus shrugged. “I guess.” He paused, then asked, “So, where are we going?”
“I don’t know. You want to walk around and see the carnival?”
“Yes! It has a many different things! Jugglers, sword-eaters, bear tamers, magicians, and many other things. We could probably leave now and get their about—”
“Titus! Flora!” the two children heard a distant voice. The busy Forum was blocking the view host of the voice. In a few minutes, Titus could see Antonius, Uncle Flavius, Senator Manilus and another boy. Titus took him to be Lucius, because not only did he look close to himself but he had an angry look on his face. Sorry to say, Cousin Lucius, you even look like brat and who haven’t done anything!
Antonius said, “Oh, Son, I have to tell you something very exciting!”
“What, what is it?” Titus asked, his voice showing a hint of excitement.
Antonius paused and gave a cheerful smile. “Uncle Flavius and Senator Manilus has arranged for us to attend—”
“A carnival?” Titus asked excitedly.
“No,” Antonius continued. “We are going to attend—”
“The Circus Maximus?”
“No,” Antonius said once more, a hint of annoyance in his voice.
“Hmm… Then I don’t know.” Titus said. “I guess I can stop guessing.
“Good,” Antonius said with a sigh of relief. “As I was trying to say, we are going to the Colosseum!”
Titus looked dumbfounded. It was as if Aphrodite, the goddess of Love and her nymphs had hypnotized him with their loveliness. “Seriously? We’re going to the Colosseum.”
Antonius looked concern. “Is that good? Are you disappointed?”
“No, no, Father, not at all! I’m anything but disappointed!” Titus sprang off his seat and smiled radiantly. “I’m going to the Colosseum!” he cried.
* * *
THE Colosseum seemed bigger to Titus than it had been described. The scores of doorways that lead into the seated arena were enormous. Titus and his party entered close to the bottom, because their seating a great view of the fight. Titus was placed in-between Flora and Lucius. Lucius had sandy-brown hair, dark mysterious eyes—unlike Titus’s own bright green—and his skin was darker too.
“So… Cousin Lucius.”
“Just ‘Lucius’, okay,” Lucius interrupted rudely. “We don’t need to confirm our kinship like our fathers. I don’t know how my friends would act if they knew I was cousin to… a Greek!”
Titus clenched his teeth.
“What’s wrong with being a Greek?”
Titus was surprised that it wasn't his voice, but Flora’s who has spoken the words.
“Well,” Lucius began, “for one thing, they are so sexist—” Yeah, like your slave girls in your father’s mansion, Titus smirked “—and they don’t have decent education as we Romans.”
At least I know what time to get to school. “But I still don’t understand.” Titus said out loud.
Lucius smirked and looked at Titus. “Well, duh. I didn’t think a Greek would understand what a Roman would. Anyway, another reason is—"
“Shh! The Games are about to start,” Uncle Flavius exclaimed. He was right. The Games were about to begin. A man stood in the middle of the Colosseum and cried:
“Romans, citizens and guests. Greetings and welcome to the Grand and Noble Roman Colosseum!” A roar from the crowd erupted, creating a smile on the announcer’s face. “Now, make your bets for the famous gladiator, Marcellus of Rome, versus Mensah of Egypt!”
From different sides of the Arena came two men. One was light skinned, muscled everywhere and carried a brilliant sword. The other was dark skinned, his muscled arms bulging. He also carried a sword, but he seemed unsure of what to do with it. They were both stripped to the waist, were a clothed tied with a rope around their middle was held in place. Their chests were bare and fully exposed to the crowd. The gladiator’s revealed legs were toned and muscular and their calves were held together with leather sandals. The two gladiators both lifted their swords in the air and proclaimed:
“Hail Cæsar! We, about to die, salute you!”
The audience once again roared with excitement. Lucius yawned and blinked his eyes slowly. Unlike Lucius, Titus and Flora seemed to be at the edge of their seats even before the action began.
The two gladiators circled one another, baring each other’s teeth, and glaring at one another with hate and contempt. “Today, you die, Roman,” the Egyptian scowled.
“Not if I slice off your head!” exclaimed the Roman. He swung from the right, guiding the sword to the left. Mensah gave a lucky block, but also making him fall off his feet. You could hear the groan of the Egyptian fans in the seats.
“Who are you cheering for?” Titus whispered to Flora. She shrugged.
“Well I know who I’m cheering for,” Lucius proclaimed boldly. “At least I’m loyal to my country. Marcellus is probably the best gladiator in the modern world. I bet if he weren’t a criminal he could probably lead a Roman army!”
“Wait, Marcellus is a criminal?” Titus inquired.
Lucius rolled his eyes. “Well, duh! Wait! Did you see that? Marcellus just did a roll and nicked the Egyptian’s arm. Look, he’s bleeding!”
Lucius was right, the Egyptian was bleeding. Mensah was biting his lip in pain, but switched from fight with his right hand to his left hand. The Egyptian charged at the Roman in blind fury, giving Marcellus a perfect opening for death. Titus couldn’t believe when he saw the sword of the Roman being driven into the Egyptian’s torso. Crimson colored fluid streamed out of the stomach of the Egyptian, keeping the crowd silenced.
Suddenly, the Egyptian’s body slightly moved. Marcellus smiled and looked up towards the crowd.
“What shall I do?” he questioned. “Thumbs up or thumbs down?”
And then, Antonius gave a thumb up. So did Uncle Flavius. Soon, the whole row was giving a thumbs up, until finally almost the whole stadium where showing mercy on the Egyptian. Finally, the announced stated:
“It seems as if it is thumbs up. Now, can someone please take the Egyptian out of the arena? The Games must continue!”
The crowd boomed with glee as Mensah was taken away on a stretcher.
“Hmph. It would have been better for him to die in the arena,” Lucius said. He crossed his arms again and looked stuck up.
“Why?” Titus asked.
“Because,” Lucius explained, “he will have to live with not only humiliation, but with a huge hole in his torso, basically killing his intestines.
Titus pondered upon this. To die in two different ways… gruesome!
The crowd was silent until Marcellus raised both arms in the air, stained with blood and declared:
“The gods are with me!”
Thundering feet was heard all over the stands.
“Bring it on,” Marcellus taunted. “Mars, the god of War, is on my side! Ha ha!”
Gaged doors across from Marcellus opened, letting out two ferocious beasts: a lion and a tigress.
“Pah, child’s play,” Marcellus licked his lips. He tapped his sword on the ground as if a-waiting for the animals.
“Here we go,” Titus whispered.
* * *
FOR the next hour, Titus watched as Marcellus slayed the lion and tigress. It was the most exciting and terrifying moments in Titus’s life so far. Marcellus suddenly became Titus’s hero in a matter of seconds. He acted as Hercales, defeating every mission Zeus had for him. He’s splendid! Titus thought. He once glanced at Lucius and saw the same expression on his face also. But when Lucius realized that Titus was looking at him, he quickly became stern and grumpy again. Childish, Titus concluded.
About an hour after, the announcer realized the crowd was getting restless. He stood in the middle of the arena, pointing towards Marcellus, saying:
“And now, for what you all have been waiting for; the outlaws and rebels; the criminals of criminals have been brought to our door. Here are, the Outlawed Christians!”
Another caged door opened from the side of the arena, exposing a group of innocent looking people. There was an elderly man, four young women, two young men and an adolescent boy. He looks almost my age, Titus wondered.
Marcellus passed by the Christians on his way out, and spat in the face of the man that looked like their leader. He had a quiet and calm face and did not curse or ridicule the gladiator.
“They look like ordinary people,” Titus said quietly.
“But they are not,” Lucius declared. “They’re outlaws, rebels, everything the announcer said and more.”
“Really?” Titus said to himself. “Hmm… what do you think, Flora?”
Flora had been quiet ever since Marcellus had spared the Egyptians. She bit her lip and shrugged.
“They… They look so peaceful… I... I don’t understand.” She covered her face. Titus easily placed her head on his shoulder and whispered:
“It’s okay… And besides, they do deserve their death.”
“No, they don’t!” Flora silently stated. “I’ve seen them before. They give to the poor and heal the sick. They open the doors to those who are homeless and help them who are have troubles. They are good and decent people. But… But I don’t understand why they have to die. Why?"
Titus could feel wet tears on his toga. It doesn’t matter, he decided. It’s for her own good.
Several guards escorted the Christians into the middle of the arena. The leader lifted his head into the stands after the guards had left and declared:
“Romans, slaves, foreigners. I shall tell you this once and once only. I am a Christian. I am a servant and ambassador of the LORD Jesus Christ, who is and was and is coming once again.”
“Shut up!” yelled the announcer.
“He died on cross during the year 33 A.D. on a cross and rose again on the third day,” the Christian continued, “and now resides with God the Father. Please, turn your hearts away from your foreign idols and place your hopes, fears and hearts into the hands of Jesus. Repent! Repent! Repen—”
The man never got to finish because a sword was thrust through his back, sending him sprawled to the ground. Several women in the group gasped, but the men stood straight and acted as if nothing happened. Except for one. A young man ran to the body of the man and cried, “No! No… Aquila, please don’t die.” He raised the leader’s head and wept over the blank face. “We need you to speak to these heathens about Jesus.”
It seemed that the man named Aquila said something important, because the young man slowly rested Aquila’s head until the rested on the ground. The young man stood tall and said loudly:
“I too, am a Christian! And I also have encountered the LORD Jesus through the Holy Spirit, which enters into every disciple of Christ after they’ve accepted him into their hearts—”
“Come,” screamed a man from the audience. “Bring in the lions!”“Agreed,” said the announcer. “Bring in the beasts!”
* * *
TITUS still couldn’t believe everything he saw. It seemed like the most gruesome and horrid event that had ever happened to him. The terrible beasts had circled around the Christians and in about half an hour, everything was over. Lucius had been describing everything to Titus, but Flora had blocked her ears after Lucius told her about the death of the young boy.
As the group exited the Colosseum, Titus and Flora barely spoke. But Lucius and the adults were talking a great deal.
“Did you see that Father? When the lion tore at the two women. And did you remember when the tigress broke the dead leader’s skull? That was incredible!”
What is wrong with this boy! Titus thought horridly. That boy is sick!
“You okay, Flora?” he asked. He and her had drifted a little ways from the group, silent in his own thoughts. “Listen, Flora, why don’t we walk around the Forum for a while. It’ll get your mind off of things,” said Titus.
“No, no it’s okay,” Flora quickly denied. She sighed. “I’m sorry. It’s just… I knew that boy. His name was Justin. He was such a fine and pleasant boy… I just can’t believe he’s… he’s dead.” Flora suddenly fell unto the street’s floor, balling. Titus swiftly came to aid.
“Flora? Flora, are you alright?” he asked, extremely concerned. She had gone into unconsciousness. Titus pressed his head to her chest, hoping for a beat of her soft heart.
“Prff, I knew a girl couldn’t handle the awesomeness of the Colosseum,” Lucius taunted. He stood with his arms crossed, a smirk shadowing his face.
“Shut up, Lucius,” Titus barked harshly.
“Step back, Titus,” said Manilus gently but also firmly. “I need to take her back home. Good evening, gentlemen.” And with that, Manilus picked up his unconscious daughter and walked off towards their home, leaving poor Titus in the streets. The concerned boy prayed earnestly to the gods for Flora’s condition. But why does she care so much about these Christian? Titus wondered.