A Glimpse Of The Interior.
Waiting For The Conflict.
Since this building was, for nearly four hundred years, the scene not only of gladiatorial combats, but, frequently, of Christian martyrdom, the Church has long regarded it as consecrated ground. Accordingly thirty years ago there stood around the outer edge of the arena, which was carpeted with turf, a line of chapels dedicated to the memory of Christians who had here found death; while in the centre rose - like an inverted sword, no longer used for bloodshed - the Cross of Christ, emblem of peace and love. I sometimes wish those objects had not been removed, for what could better emphasize the facts of history than the impressive symbol of Christianity, rising above the very place where had so often flowed the blood of its heroic martyrs? Here, too, on every Friday afternoon a sermon would be preached, teaching how much the Christian faith once cost, yet how that faith had triumphed over imperial Rome. Does it seem possible that eighty thousand people could be found so bloodthirsty and cruel as to look calmly down upon their fellow-men burning in agony as torches, or torn in pieces by wild beasts ?
The Preserved Wall.
Can we believe, however, that among those multitudes not one felt pity for the fearless victim who, without weapons, knelt to offer up a prayer, the words of which were lost amid the roar of famished monsters? Were not some responsive hearts impressed and even thrilled by the heroic faith of St. Ignatius who, as the wild beasts leaped into this arena to devour him, exclaimed in a loud voice, "I am as the grain of the field, and must be ground by the teeth of lions, that I may become bread fit for my Master's table"? It was through the influence of Christianity that the gladiatorial combats, finally, came to an end. Four hundred years had rolled away since Christ first taught the brotherhood of man; when, one day, an Oriental monk, Telemachus by name, shocked at these scenes of cruelty and carnage, rushed into the arena, restrained the conqueror's uplifted arm, and begged not only him, but the spectators also, to renounce such deeds forever. Instead of listening, they stoned him to death. Yet he did not die in vain. Christianity had then become the State religion, and so deep and lasting was the influence caused by his protest, that presently the decree went forth that these huge walls should no more echo to the yells of triumph, or to the groans of dying men.
The Monk's Appeal.
On The Palatine.
Gigantic as the Colosseum is, two-thirds of it has now disappeared. In the fourteenth century it was looked upon as a legitimate quarry from which to extract building materials. Four thousand workmen labored at one time in tearing down its walls. In the year 1452 two thousand five hundred cartloads of it were removed, and furnished material for some of the largest palaces of Rome. "There is no longer any doubt," says the great archaeologist, Lanciani, "that the Romans have done more harm to their own city than all invading hosts put together. The action of centuries of natural phenomena, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and in-undations, could not have accomplished what men have willingly and deliberately done".
Almost in the shadow of the Colosseum stands the Arch of Constantine. It is of unusual interest, not only as the last of the great Roman gates of triumph, but from having been erected only fifteen years before the sovereign whose name it bears transferred the seat of the world's empire from the Tiber to the Bosphorus. One cannot stand before it, therefore, without reflecting sadly that beneath this arch, in the year 330, the Emperor Constantine and his imperial court went forth from Rome forever, and in precisely the opposite direction from that in which the splendid Triumphs of his predecessors had passed along this same route of the Via Trium-phalis and the Via Sacra to the Capitol. It was the expectation of the Emperor, who thus abandoned the Eternal City, that the "New Rome" which he was soon to found beside the Golden Horn, and which now bears his name, would far outshine if not eclipse the City of the Caesars. But, although Constantinople did become the capital of the Roman Empire, its history was largely one of Oriental intrigue and corruption, till, finally, it passed into the hands of the Sultans. Rome, on the contrary, although deserted by her Emperors, pillaged by barbarians, and left desolate for ages, has never lost her birthright of dominion, and still controls the imagination of more men than when she held the sovereignty of the ancient world; for, by a single coincidence, the very Emperor who left her for another had, by acknowledging the faith of Jesus as the State religion, given her the greatest compensation for her loss. In place of the departing Court arrived the Church, to the authority of Caesar succeeded the supremacy of Christ, and Rome thenceforth was not alone the sovereign, but the priestess of humanity.