THE COLOSSEUM AND THE FORUM
As I have told, the first visit I paid to the antique world in Rome was at the Colosseum the day after our arrival. For some unknown reason I was going to begin with the Baths of Caracalla, but, as it happened, these were the very last ruins we visited in Rome; and I do not know just what accident diverted us to the Colosseum; perhaps we stopped because it was on the way to the Baths and looked an easier conquest. At any rate, I shall never regret that we began with it.
After twoscore years and three it was all strangely familiar. I do not say that in 1864 there was a horde of boys at the entrance wishing to sell me postcards - these are a much later invention of the Enemy - but I am sure of the men with trays full of mosaic pins and brooches, and looking, they and their wares, just as they used to look. The Colosseum itself looked unchanged, though I had read that a minion of the wicked Italian government had once scraped its flowers and weeds away and cleaned it up so that it was perfectly spoiled. But it would take a good deal more than that to spoil the Colosseum, for neither the rapine of the mediaeval nobles, who quarried their palaces from it, nor the industrial enterprise of some of the popes, who wished to turn it into workshops, nor the archeology of United Italy had sufficed to weaken in it that hold upon the interest proper to the scene of the most stupendous variety shows that the world has yet witnessed. The terrible stunts in which men fought one another for the delight of other men in every manner of murder, and wild beasts tore the limbs of those glad to perish for their faith, can be as easily imagined there as ever, and the traveller who visits the place has the assistance of increasing hordes of other tourists in imagining them.
I will not be the one to speak slight of that enterprise which marshals troops of the personally conducted through the place and instructs them in divers languages concerning it. Save your time and money so, if you have not too much of either, and be one of an English, French, or German party, rather than try to puzzle the facts out for yourself, with one contorted eye on your Baedeker and the other on the object in question. In such parties a sort of domestic relation seems to grow up through their associated pleasures in sight-seeing, and they are like family parties, though politer and patienter among themselves than real family parties. They are commonly very serious, though they doubtless all have their moments of gayety; and in the Colosseum I saw a French party grouped for photography by a young woman of their number, who ran up and down before them with a kodak and coquet-tishly hustled them into position with pretty, bird-like chirpings of appeal and reproach, and much graceful self-evidencing. I do not censure her behavior, though doubtless there were ladies among the photographed who thought it overbold; if the reader had been young and blond and svelte, in a Parisian gown and hat, with narrow russet shoes, not too high-heeled for good taste, I do not believe he would have been any better; or, if he would, I should not have liked him so well.