That was one of the kids, commenting on their first sighting of the Roman Colosseum, which is an architectural wonder that, just for the record, none of us has seen before (he eventually confessed, after holding to his story for a few minutes, that the “memories” were of a Google Image search).
Empire is certainly the right word. Rome was a monster with blatant disregard for human life and for the natural world. Hundreds of thousands of lives were taken in this spot, through slave labor, bloody gladiatorial combat, and who knows what else–all in the name of Empire. I was just a little bit heartened to know that the gladiatorial events died out as Christianity spread. At the same time, it is beyond sobering to remember that so much of western civilization is patterned after this. The legacy of empire still taints our culture, politics, art, architecture, language, literature, law, and even our religion.
The teenager who “remembers” the Colosseum might be joking, but there’s a reason we feel a sense of connection to places like Rome and Pompeii. Whether we like it or not, they’re part of our story.