Rome's Coliseum lures 22d MEU (SOC) warriors
Submitted by: 22nd MEU
Story Identification Number: 200111252720
Story by Cpl. Matthew Kell, Combat Correspondent

ROME, Italy(January 6, 2001) -- The euphoria known as the fog of war is common on the traditional battlefield, however the Marines of the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), visited the an ancient arena where the fog of war was induced by a bloody spectacle for the entertainment of the Roman masses.

While the USS Nassau was docked for the holidays in Brisdini, Italy, the warriors turned tourists for a day, set out on an adventure to see Rome's Coliseum where hundreds of thousands of gladiators, Christians, slaves or prisoners fought to the death.

"I couldn't believe I was standing there," Sgt. Jason Barreto, from Milwaukee, Wis. said. "I was in awe thinking of all the battles that had been fought and the blood that had been shed."

The tour included several sites and ruins but Sgt. Ray Miller, a Marine Air Ground Task Force planner, said he would have made the eight-hour trip just to see the "Colosseo."

"I've always wanted to see it," the Houston, Texas Marine said. "It's every six-year-old's dream. At that age, your fascinated with gladiators and the military."

The Coliseum, originally named "Amphitheatrum Flavium" was built during the reign of Emperor Vespasiano and dedicated in 80 AD by his son Titus. The popular name of "Coliseum" came about because the immense oval stadium was situated next to a colossal statue of Nero.

When Miller first saw the ancient ruin standing over 160 feet high with 80 entrances he was amazed at its height and size. "I couldn't believe how advanced the architecture of the Coliseum was. When you walk around it, you realize it isn't much different than today's sports stadiums."

Holding upwards of 50,000 spectators, the Coliseum hosted gladiator fights and wild animal hunts. Later in the Roman Empire some battles were fought on chariots and occasionally the arena floor was flooded for mock naval battles.

Miller pointed out the gladiators where similar to today's sports-icons. "I don't think there is any comparison between Marines and gladiators. They were superstars in their day."

A successful gladiator was as famous as sports heroes are today. Poets praised them, their portrait appeared on vases, and patrician ladies pampered the victorious warriors. A gladiator who survived several battles could win his freedom.

The majority of the gladiators were condemned criminals, prisoners of war or slaves. Some free men and discharged soldiers joined the bloody spectacle sport for the chance to win the popularity of wealthy Romans. They volunteered to be gladiators and by the end of the Republic made up half the combatants.

Cpl. Harvey Joiner, from Austin, Texas, researched the weapons used by the gladiators before visiting the Coliseum. Gladiators were armed with a wide range of deadly weapons, from nets and tridents to swords and spears.

"They spilled blood and guts all over that place," Joiner said in a pointed tone. "The weapons they used in those days were no joke."

In peacetime, Marines don't face death every day they go to work but Miller revealed, "One common thread between Marines and gladiators is the desire to be in the fight, that adventure seeking warrior spirit."

The Houston Marine also noted that the motives behind the Marine Corps warrior spirit are very different. "The Marine who joins today doesn't do it for public recognition, they join to make a difference," he said. "They want to be the one on patrol or standing a post."

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