Standing in awe of the Coliseum - Curt Yeomans

You didn't seriously think this week's column was not going to be another story about my recent trip to Rome, did you? This one, I promise, will be interesting. I mean, it's interesting to me, but then again, ancient Rome is one of my favorite periods of history.

Imagine if you could travel 2,000 years into the future, and you suddenly came across the ruins of the Georgia Dome. If you do not think you would be in awe of seeing the ruins of the Georgia Dome, then just indulge me, and fake the amazement.

That awe is pretty much how I felt as I turned off the Via Nazionale, onto the Via dei Serpenti, and saw IT for the first time. It, of course, being the Coliseum, which might just be the most recognizable site in Rome, aside from Saint Peter's Basilica.

After checking into my hotel in Rome on April 4, I wasn't just going to sit on the bed and watch foreign language television (there were channels for seemingly every language in Europe!) just because it was raining in the city that day. Aside from having to go to church (it WAS Easter Sunday), I had the whole afternoon to get out and explore the city.

So, I left my hotel and walked the very short distance to the Piazza della Repubblica, and then I began casually walking down the Via Nazionale. I was taking in all the shops, and the architectural style of the buildings, but I knew what I wanted to see, and I had to go all the way down to the Via dei Serpenti to get there.

Once I got to the Via dei Serpenti, I turned left, went around a corner, and was facing down a hill, with the street going all the way to the Coliseum. I could see just a sliver of it between the buildings on either side of the street.

That, alone, made me giddy with excitement. I don't care what anyone says. When you lay your eyes upon something that you've previously seen in pictures, it is a surreal moment. I was hit with this realization that I was standing there, looking at a building that has been around for nearly two millennia. My immediate thought was that I was standing where ancient Romans once stood, as they too gazed at the Coliseum.

That is when it hit me that I was truly in Rome. It was not just a dream. I had to see more, though. A sliver of this ancient stadium was not enough to satisfy me. As I got closer and closer, more and more of the Coliseum became visible, and I got giddier and giddier. Eventually, you are standing at the base of it, with your head arched back to take in its enormous size, and all of its slendid marble arches.

You just don't see something like this in Atlanta. You actually don't see something like this anywhere in the U.S. And if you think it is impressive from the outside, you haven't seen anything until you've seen it from the inside (yes, they do have elevators for people who have trouble walking up tall steps). I was back at the Coliseum the next day, as part of my "Ancient Rome Tour." The only difference was that this time, I went inside it.

Now, if you insist on climbing the steps inside the Coliseum, be prepared for your legs to hurt by the time you get to the top. I looked at it as an opportunity to build up the calves in my legs.

Once you're at the top, you can look out from any point in the upper walkway and get a great panoramic view of the interior of the Coliseum. I have to say, there probably wasn't a bad seat in the house in its heyday. You can look down into the passageways underneath what had been the arena floor, and it becomes very easy to imagine all of the gladiator fights that went on in this place.

Sure, it is just ruins now, but the fact is there is nothing more awe-inspiring -- except maybe the Pyramids of Giza.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.