Ciao tutti, sorry for the delay, we are in Siciily and I have only just been able to get internet so there’s A LOT to catch up on!
Sunday morning as we strolled in, on, around, through and under many of Rome’s most ancient artefacts i couldn’t get Morcheeba’s “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day” song out of my head.
Even though the song doesn’t really have anything to do with Rome, or facts about it’s history, the songs title is a very true assertion – Rome certainly wasn’t built in one day. Rome is the result of almost 3000 years of civilization, with mythical beginnings it became the central power for both the renowned Roman Empire and the Catholic Church. Ancient buildings have eventually crumbled and whilst some are preserved others have been built on until they too were improved or built upon.
This has resulted in the city that is Rome today – a conglomeration of architectural styles and artistic techniques that combines to create a beautiful city, bursting with history and inspiration. The ruins bear as a constant reminder of those who trod along these roads before us as well as the many that will follow our footsteps.
We spent the best part of Sunday exploring these ruins in the area in which most of Rome’s iconic archeological artifacts lie dormant.
The Roman Colosseum
Quandiu stabit coliseus, stabit et Roma; quando cadit coliseus, cadet et Roma; quando cadet Roma, cadet et mundus (“as long as the Colossus stands, so shall Rome; when the Colossus falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, so falls the world”) – Venerable Bede (c. 672–735)
As i mentioned in my post about our first afternoon in Rome, the Colosseum is the iconic symbol of Imperial Rome and its breakthrough achievements. Consequently it is also one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions. We arrived early, just after the gates opened out of fear of swarming crowds and ofcourse there was a considerable amount of people there but nothing compared to what it would be like in peak tourist season. We bought our tickets and also audio guides and then headed into the stadium. Wow. Part of the arena floor has been re-floored but otherwise with a bit of imagination you can imagine exactly what it would have been like. Spectators grouped and seated according to their social class, watching the scenes of triumph, brutality and general entertainment in awe and delight. Gladiators fought to the death, exotic animals were paraded (and then generally hunted) amid elaborate sets with movable trees and buildings. Mock battles were staged and victories were celebrated sometimes on immense scales, Trajan is said to have celebrated his victories in Dacia in 107 AD with contests involving 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators over the course of 123 days. Criminals were killed in the most entertaining ways possible – they would literally participate in dramas, playing the hero of the story before succumbing to death in one of various gruesome but mythologically authentic ways.
The arena itself was 83m x 48m and comprised a wooden floor covered by sand (the Latin word for sand is harena or arena), covering an elaborate underground structure called the hypogeum (literally meaning “underground”). Little now remains of the original arena floor, but the hypogeum is still clearly visible as a labyrinth of tunnels and cages where gladiators and animals were held. An intricate system also existed (particularly considering how long ago it was achieved) of elevators and pulleys raised and lowered scenery and props, as well as lifting caged animals to the surface for release. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era and as the result of major earthquakes, fires and being used as a quarry, it decayed to it’s current state.
Looking around i personally thought there was something quite regal about it’s slow decay and had a wonderful time letting my imagination take over
Once our audio guide had exhausted itself of information we bid adieu to the coloseum and made our way past Constantines Arch and up onto the Palatine Hill – which is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city (Recent excavations show that people have lived there since approximately 1000 BC)
After wandering through the ruins of the imperial palace,
past the emperors personal stadium and through the gardens, we went to the edge of the hill. It stands 40 metres above the Roman Forum and provides a great view of the majority of the ruins – incredible (though Dad abruptly summed it up in a somewhat crude manner as a “giant rubbish tip” referring to all the ancient remnants strewn across the ground)
Having seen our fair share of ruins we went in search of some artifacts that are a bit more intact. We made our way up past the statue of Romulus and Remus
Myth would have it that Rome was founded in 753BC by Romulus and Remus who had been found by the river Tiber and fed by a She-Wolf. The twins were born of the relationship between the god Mars and Rhea Silvia, a Vestal Virgin.
As the two young men went about founding the city they came to argue and luck would have it that one killed the other with a shovel blow. Romulus was thus the sole founder and first king of the new city built across seven hills next to the River Tiber
We entered one of the Capitoline Museums – WOW. The history of the museums can be traced to 1471 (There is good reason to consider them the oldest existing public collection in the world) when Pope Sixtus IV donated a collection of important ancient bronzes to the people of Rome and located them on Capitoline Hill. Since then, the museums’ collection has grown to include a large number of ancient Roman statues, inscriptions, and other artifacts; a collection of medieval and Renaissance art; and collections of jewels, coins, and other items. The statues were admittedly beautiful but i was most moved by the paintings – the gallery includes works of Guercino, Tintoretto, Annibale Carracci, Paolo Veronese, Scarsellino, Palma il Vecchio, Tiziano, Rubens, Calvaert, Antonio van Dyck AND Caravaggio, !!!
Also the terrace gives an impressive view of the city and it was up here that we had a nice panini for lunch
After lunch and taking in more of the museums, we headed up via the elevator to the very top of the Emmanuel Monument – created in celebration of the first king of the united Italy. Pictured below you can see in the top middle of the monument a glass rectangle – thats the elevator and where we were standing
By this stage we were feeling quite visually exhausted from the days explorations so we headed home to relax – whilst mum and dad enjoyed a siesta I practiced my Italian (currently just in the stage of broadening my vocabulary) and read up on some European History to better contextualize how Rome came to be what it is today.
The Rome we see today is a collage of so many facets, each blatantly superimposed on the other: Catacombs, pagan altars, Paleo-Christian churches covered by Basilicas built into ancient Roman walls which make way for modern apartments in Medieval buildings and roads to run through ancient city gates! It can be very overwhelming if you try to take it all in – 5 days late we are currently in Sicily and it’s STILL sinking in!