A JOURNEY TO A MODERN DAY MUNERA18 November 2022
Reporting from the terraces of Rome's infamous derby game between A.S. Roma and S.S. Lazio, END. find themselves in the audience of a contemporary munera.
It’s a battle of the conscience to get past the storied history of the city. A contrasting mix of mythology and modern filmmaking aiding the arrestingly vivid depictions of ancient times. Two millennia on, I had a preconceived notion that the hyperbole would surely be just that; but as we marched toward the Stadio Olimpico, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Munera, provided for by the wealthy and those of high status, were acts of celebration and appreciation for the community as a feeling of obligation that formed a distinct and ever-lasting definition of the culture from early Anno Domini. These acts ran a broad gamut: providing basics like oil and flour for citizens, erecting grandiose buildings, and producing garments.
All very palatable. The term, however, is more synonymous with the Colosseum, than anything else. The emphatic linchpin of Roman culture, the mesmerising amphitheatre was home to a very specific kind of munera – gladiatorial combat. Often a gift for the public as part of an inheritance or a demonstration of power, the savage exchanges drew enormous crowds that thrived on effort, skill, and, quite ultimately, death.
As I made the walk along Via Capoprati and Lungotevere Federico Fellini surrounded by sea of rich red and gold scarfs, a shoal of beeping scooters weaving across the tarmac, and the quite frequent, unexpected explosion, my mind instantly turned to the baying crowds of the Colosseum with the most immediate tribal sensations. It’s a rare feeling. Something that possibly only a derby game with your closest, most-fierce rivals really brings about. Sunderland vs Newcastle at the Stadium of Light is something to behold, let me tell you.
However, as I enter through the Monte Mario Nord, the magnitude of the gladiatorial battle before me really takes a grip. 70,000 entranced Romans with the volume dialled to eleven with the requisite amount of passion you’d fully expect and intuitively understand. The air is thick with tension; lit Camel Blues and flares combining to add a sulphurous continental tinge.
There’s an interesting dynamic to the Stadio Olimpico. Since 1953, both AS Roma and SS Lazio have been calling this plot of north-west Rome home. Appropriately they have both marked their territory; Lazio the “nord,” Roma the “sud.” So, as I look to my left to the Curva Nord, awash with Grecian blue. Lazio. They’re wild. Ahead of the match is a rendition from each set of fans. Lazio with ‘Avanti ragazzi’, Roma with the brilliantly on-the-nose ‘Roma, Roma’. There’s politics threaded through, of course. Forgive me for not prodding a pen in that direction.
Now, for the game itself. Rui Patricio had an eventful evening in many respects, but really it was a match for the purists. And while 22 men gave their all on the pitch, the crowd played their part with a seemingly orchestrated battle of their own – a back-and-forth of giant banners. From the infamous ultras to the gruppi di giovani tifosi, seemingly most in the nord and sud had their own specific messages to players and opposing fans. However, these were cast in the shadow of two giant pieces of work; Roma’s ode to the club’s birth, 1927: nio decidemmo di esserf roma, while Lazio’s retort of l'amor mio non muore under a massive homage to the late Vincenzo Paparelli, Antonio De Falchi and Gabriele Sandri.
Ending 1-0 Lazio, we made our way back from the 179th Rome derby in quite subdued surroundings, and as we crossed the Ponte della Musica I was left thinking that this was a munera where, despite their respective efforts, the baying crowds of ancient Rome possibly would have cast a decisive thumbs down to both teams.
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David Dover is Senior Brand Marketing Manager at END.