Saturday, May 15, 2010

Should the Colosseum Even Be Open?

It was reported this week that some "chunks" have fallen off the Colosseum in Rome (link). As ever, the show continues and the Colosseum remains open.

Should it be? I know there is a feeling that classical sites must be opened so that the millions of tourists that visit each year can spend 15 seconds of confused wonder snapping endless photographs for their Facebook pages (do people only go on holiday now so that they can let other people know about it via social networking?), but I'm not sure I hold to it.

Many classical sites desperately need some repairs (the Italians, especially, care more about marketing and flare than genuine care - although I'm generalising, of course) but they remain open, even when "chunks" are falling off of them.

I believe that the physical remains of the classical world that we have left must be preserved not to merely service the tourist industry, but to remind people of the glory of the classical past, its wonders and what it has given to us. At the moment it seems to be a numbers game, and that's rather sad.

My proposal, then, would be to make sites such as the Colosseum (those which can be damaged by constant visitation, or need repairs due to unavoidable decay) harder to visit. People can mill around outside, but make the process of actually visiting more complicated. Not elite, nor difficult, just harder. My hope would be that then only people who truly wanted to visit and are willing to appreciate what they're looking at would bother sorting it all out.

Visiting Rome now seems like an exercise in ticking things off a list for most tourists. In some ways that is similar to the Romans who simply had to see the wonders of Greece, but I hazard a guess that the modern tourist does it with much less reverence than their Roman predecessor. The process has been cheapened, somewhat, and I wish that rot could be reversed.

Again, I don't want to sound elitist at all - the remains of the classical world are our heritage, but given that we're unable to appreciate that (on the whole) something else needs to be done.

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