By The Essential Traveler, March 26, 2020
The Roman Empire began construction of the Colosseum circa 72 AD and finished the project in 80 AD. This epochal amphitheater is renowned for being one of the most famous symbols in all of Imperial Rome. While the Colosseum had many purposes towards the end of its time, its main purpose was to provide entertainment to the Roman people. It was, in essence, a gift. The limestone Colosseum could house generally 50,000 to 80,000 people and was the main attraction for many forms of entertainment. The crowds would chant and cheer, while gladiators battled each other; hunts were staged with animals from all over the world; spectacles that involved moveable stages and sets were shown; magicians/acrobats would perform; and executions of every conceivable brutal nature were demonstrated.
The term “bread and circus” arose from these spectacles. The Roman Empire kept the populous happy and distracted by using these spectacles to entertain and distribute free food. Their concern was preventing civil unrest. They believed that their people had two basic needs – food and entertainment. An additional thought was that if people were distracted and “full” they would be less likely to revolt or complain against the Empire.
The year 2020 has brought upon us the novel coronavirus and seen our great nation take a drastic turn from many everyday happenings. Sport events, church services, public meetings, political functions, wedding celebrations, mass transit, and dining out have all been dramatically curtailed or outright canceled. We now hear terms like ‘social distancing,’ ‘shelter in place,’ and ‘essential travel’ regularly. Over half the entire country is under some type of restriction with more to come. The nerve that has been exposed is a painful one. Questions arise, and the future is uncertain. Millions of people are now mandated to remain at home without the benefit of significant distraction. Consider our Colosseum review. We can no longer turn to fitness centers, festive gatherings, and coffee chains at a time when being distracted would be welcome relief. The possibility of unrest is significant.
I would imagine this is exactly what the Roman Empire would not want to happen – an entire citizenry forced to remain at home with little distraction. Our government officials, in an effort to protect us, have created an opportunity for everyone to shift their entire focus on themselves. Every move is questioned and discussed. People are looking to their local/state/federal governments for direction and assistance. At the same time, we cannot waste this moment. Never before have we had an opportunity to put our government under a magnifying glass and examine it, to peel back the layers and expose what is happening and what they have been doing. Consider these key questions . . .
- Why do our hospitals have shortages of needed supplies, medications, equipment, staffing? Does it have anything to do with our leaders outsourcing medical devices and pharmaceutics to China?
- When a virus can be spread via normative travel and transit, what could be brought over via an unguarded border?
- What are local officials doing to support and help the local economy and their constituents? Can they even bypass mandates executed by their state officials?
This virus has also given us all a chance to discover what is “essential” in our lives. What really matters right now? The discussion my family has been having is what is “essential travel”? What was I doing before that wasn’t essential? Am I even prepared to take care of my family and myself? This is a unique opportunity to reassess many aspects of life. What is essential? What is needed? What is important? Examine your own life and discover this, because, for the time being, the Colosseum will be empty.