Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mysteries of the Underground

The temperature cooled rapidly as we descended the narrow stairway beneath the town hall. A musty odor grew stronger with each new chamber we entered. Finally, we ducked through a improvised hole in the ancient masonry ceiling and emerged into a large underground liar. By the echoing of our voices, we could sense that the room was massive. Once our eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, we realized that we were standing among the porticos of the ancient Roman forum of Arles.


Arles offers visitors a rare chance to fully experience engineering marvels of a Roman city. The big three attractions include the amphitheater, theater and baths. However, hidden two stories beneath the modern-day streets, visitors can still walk the streets of the ancient Roman city in the crypts of Arles.

Walking through the dark passages, it's easy to let your imagination run wild. I felt a little like Indiana Jones. Of course, the crypts are now a big tourist draw, so it's adequately lit and fire evacuation routes are listed. Still, I wanted to speculate how the underground passages might have been used in medieval times. Were they inhabited by gangs of thieves and gypsies, or was it more like a garbage heap? Do you think people would have fled into the tunnels if Arles had been the target of Allied bombing in World War 2. The potential for that kind of speculation really made this tour special.
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This work by Ken Maschke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.