Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Don't threaten my Colosseum

A great way to get me angry is to threaten ancient archaeological ruins, like, say, Leptis Magna, the Pyramids of Giza or the Bamiyan Buddhas.  A great way to get me really angry is to threaten Rome.

Now, it has happened, to none other than il Colosseo:
A fake bomb caused police to evacuate hundreds of tourists on Sunday from the Colosseum, Rome's most famous monument.

The alarm was raised by a tourist who spotted the wires emerging from a metal can and thought they were part of a detonating device. Police evacuated the first-century amphitheatre after receiving an anonymous threat by phone.

Authorities said as a precaution police destroyed the can, which contained the paint diluent turpentine and a nine volt battery connected to two electrical wires. Police said the device was harmless and could not explode or burst into flames.

The incident caused Rome's mayor, Gianni Alemanno to return to Rome from a mountain break in the central Abruzzi region. He described the fake bomb as a "a joke, in exceedingly bad taste, or the work of a madman".

The package was placed in an area where there is no public access, an arcade of the world-famous monument, in a manner that could give the impression that it was a bomb.
(via RogueClassicism)

I hope the mayor is right, that this was only "a joke, in exceedingly bad taste."  But I have my doubts. 

My own picture of the Colosseum (il Colosseo, aka Flavian Amphitheater), taken from Palatine Hill.  Don't threaten it.  Ever.

For one thing, the report is not consistent. The bomb was discovered by a "tourist," yet the police received an "anonymous threat by phone."  The bomb was discovered by a "tourist" in an area of the Colosseum "where there is no public access."

This seems fishy.  I'm worried this was a dry run.  if so, it was definitely the work of a madman, albeit an extremely dangerous one.

You see, there are people who want to destroy Rome.  Like this guy:

Yes, Islamists do not like Rome because it is the center of the Christian faith, at least symbolically for most Christian denominations, and literally for the appropriately-named ROMAN Catholic Church.  The Eastern Roman Empire fell to the Muslims, but the Western Roman Empire did not, and in many ways the Roman Catholic Church is the continuation of the Roman Empire, with the Pope the continuation of the Emperor.

Many would consider this a bad thing, but I consider it a wonderful thing, one which keeps me a very loyal, very proud ROMAN Catholic, but I digress.

So Rome would be a very inviting target for Islamist scum. 

I must admit the thought really did not strike me until I went wandering down the Via dei Fori Imperali one night.  Not surprisingly, I came across the Arch of Constantine:

The Arch of Constantine (Arco di Constantino), with the Via Triumphalis beyond.  Yes, the Romans light up the ancient ruins at night.  How cool is that?  Not visible is the small police presence just beyond the arch.
Beyond the arch, as you can see, is the Via Triumphalis.  The Via Triumphalis is actually and not surprisingly an ancient Roman road that they used to celebrate, also not surprisingly, triumphs.  Today, the road is used by cars (double cool!) but the portion usable by cars veers off just before it gets to the arch.

The night I went down there, I saw a police car and a police SUV, with a few officers.  You can't see them in the picture, and I did not specifically photograph them for obvious reasons. I wondered why they were there.  When I visited the Palatine Hill a few days later, I got another view of the arch.  And police vehicles were there again, between the arch and the Via Triumphalis.  And it occurred to me they were there when I had visited the Forum and the Colosseum a few days earlier.

They hadn't been around any of the other ruins, at least not in such a large and obvious presence.  Just the Arch of Constantine.  Why?


Constantine was the first Christian emperor.  The arch celebrates the triumph of Christianity.  That makes it a target for Islamists.

And it would be an easy target.  I stand to be corrected on this but I can recall no major physical barriers blocking the arch from the Via Triumphalis.  All it would take is a car bomb driven onto the sidewalk.

My not very good picture of the Arch of Constantine taken from my moving bus.  I had ben sitting on the other side of the bus to catch a view of the Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla), which we did NOT see on the trip.  I hope Caracalla doesn't kill me for this, like he killed his brother Geta and 20,000 Alexandrians.  Note how close the arch is to the road.

Even easier would be the Colosseum itself. 

The Colosseum from my bus.  Remember that the Colosseum is also considered a major Christian monument because of all the Christians martyred there.  Unfortunately, Timothy McVeigh could do catastrophic damage at this intersection.

All it would take is an Oklahoma City-type truck bomb and the Colosseum, another major Christian monument, would be gone.  It's sickening to consider.  Our shared heritage -- remember that without the Romans there would be no United States -- this vulnerable.

That's how you would do it.  A truck bomb, not a dinky pipe bomb.  This whole incident smells.  But I hope it's a wakeup call.

Most of the tour officials and preservationists I talked to in Rome acknowledged the problems with the road around the Colosseum, but only in terms of pollution.  Indeed, that is a major problem.  It's hard to appreciate it from afar, but up close you can see how dirty the Colosseum is and how much has been done to clean it and restore it.  (Pollution has already significantly eaten away at the mysterious Column of Trajan.)  Indeed, though my tour officials would not admit it, I could see considerable amounts of new brickwork on the Colosseum.

I luv ya, babe, but don't tell me Vespasian, Titus and Domitian built that.
Closing the road would be a major, major headache for Romans.  I could see that it is very heavily travelled and is a major thoroughfare for the city.  But it would be ideal for controlling the pollution and preventing a terrorist attack on the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine.

I hope Roman and Italian officials are examining these security issues.  I don't want to lose my beloved symbols of the glory of Rome.

If that happens, I will become very angry.  You wouldn't like me when I'm angry. I get passive-aggressive.

And I'd have to join these guys:

Of course, I may join them anyway.

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