With our Roma Pass, we traipsed three days all over ancient Rome. The pass allows speedier access through a separate entrance at the archeological sites, without having to wait in the long line-ups. The pass also grants additional entrance discounts and free public transport. We took the three-day pass, which suited our purpose.
Wandering Back in Time
We started off at the Roman Forum and explored the vast grounds. Well-preserved ruins took us back centuries. With a little imagination, I could hear the cacophony of voices mingling with the clattering hoofs of horses.
At the imperial palace, the Palatino, the imperial family watched the citizenry. In another part of the palace, Emperor Decius was deciding on the fate of Eusebius, a follower of the Way, who was allegedly caught stealing.
Irritating reports about the followers of the Way kept coming to the Emperor’s attention, which didn’t improve his already soured mood. “If only Nero had eradicated those Christians once and for all, I wouldn’t have to deal with them”. His agitation mounted. He would teach these criminals who opposed him. Time to have another show for the people.
His lieutenant summoned the captain of the horde and commanded him to round up as many followers of the Way as he could find. Their unwillingness to give obeisance, respect and adoration to the Emperor, were becoming a threat to his status and authority. He needed to set an example before the Roman poor and foreigners followed suit and caused an uprising.
The Coliseum was filled to capacity. “Hail Caesar!” the crowds chanted. “Mighty Caesar, our worthy god!”
Emperor Decius basked in the adulation. “Let the games begin” the herald shouted, as Decius lowered his sceptre to signal the start of the spectacle. The crowd cheered, wild with anticipation.
Man and wild beast fought to the death. The inexperienced Bestiarii were no match for the starved animals. Eusebius who had been set up and falsely accused, faced his fate with stoic determination rather than renounce his faith in Christ, which emboldened the other Christians to confront death rather than bow to Decius.
As evening dawned, it was the turn of the Gladiators to fight the Retiarii (fishers with nets). They fought for survival and a chance, if victorious, to regain freedom from slavery.
Throughout the day and evening, the crowds voiced their approval with loud cheers. Emperor Decius was pleased. It had been a good day. His standing among the populace restored as, for fleeting moments, they forgot their poverty and hunger in the excitement of the spectacle.
Decius would recompense his people, by choosing citizens at random to attend the glorious chariot races at the Circus Maximus on the coming day of Saturn.
I was jolted back to reality as we stood at a busy intersection outside the Coliseum. Drivers, honking their horns, were pushing each other out, jockeying for space in the maze of traffic.
We made our way to the imposing monument of King Vittorio Emanuele II, another era, another king in the tumultuous history of Rome.
The Coliseum could hold 50,000+ people and the Circus Maximus up to 250,000 (according to Pliny the Elder). There are conflicting historical account whether or not Christians were actually martyred in the Coliseum. Persecutions were generally localised. Emperor Decius seems to have mounted the most extensive, empire wide campaign to eradicate Christians, then seen as a rebellious and harmful sect. Not all, in the ruling classes, supported or enacted the persecution of Christians. The persecution lessened in later years of Decius’s reign.
Roma passes can be purchased online. It is a good idea to order them one month prior to departure. On the request form, one can indicate the arrival airport. This is important as the passes will be ready for pick-up at your destination airport. You will receive a confirmation email with details on the location of the passes. Here is the link with information and rates for the 72 and 48 hours passes: