Roman culture 2,000 years ago was schizophrenic. Huge enthusiastic crowds of men, women and children, would pack the Colosseum to watch wild animals tear gladiators to shreds:
The floor is missing now, and what you see underneath where it once stood is the elaborate system of tunnels and walkways that were used to bring the combatants into the arena.
So violent "sport" was what passed for public entertainment. The Roman people couldn't get enough of it. And let's not forget the bit of history that was hammered into my head throughout my childhood: that when the Romans conquered the Jewish people, they punished them in 70 A.D. for refusing to adopt the Roman religion by destroying their sacred Temple. And from what I hear, they were no great friends to Jesus, either.
And yet at roughly the same time all of this was occurring, as part of the same Roman culture, the Pantheon was built:
You know, there aren't many perfect things in this world, but the Pantheon is one of them. The height at the center of the dome is the exact diameter of the interior, meaning that a perfect sphere would precisely fill the space.
And then there's the sculpture:
Bloodthirsty, cruel monsters, these ancient Romans, who also sponsored, created and revered exquisite art. Is it any wonder we're so fascinated by them?
More to come.