Journal entry from Rome Trip – Nov. 6, 2017
Today was “Ancient Rome” day.
It was also “lots of walking day”…
Today we visited the Roman Forum, and the ever-famous Colosseum! We also ventured up to Palatine Hill, which was very cool.
The Roman Forum was incredibly rich and amazing. We had a small guidebook that led us through, and explained some of what we were seeing. It was very informative, and helped bring the experience to life.
We saw so many things. I’ll tell you about the highlights.
First of all, what is the Roman Forum? Glad you asked 😉
Basically, this was Rome’s “Centre Square”. It was a place where there were temples, churches, government buildings, and places for people to hang out. It was basically the city center, and the “birthplace of Rome”. It had many additions through the years, and when the Roman Empire fell, it was gradually ruined and buried by centuries of silt and sand. It was eventually excavated and partially restored, but not until the late 1800’s.
When you come through the side entrance and down the ramp, you are immediately struck by some amazing ruins. In particular, the three remaining columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux rise high into the air in front of you. This very old temple was built in 495 BC. The view of the great pillars is magnificent, and is one of the most famous features of the forum.
Coming down into the forum and turning to the left, you then see the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, a somewhat newer temple for a deified emperor and his wife in AD 141. This temple eventually became a Christian church. It has magnificent columns, and you can still clearly read the original latin inscription carved into the remaining piece of the stone roof, dedicating the building to Antoninus and Faustina. It’s a magnificent building, and the view from up close is breathtaking.
As we walked by the temple, we were walking on an ancient roman road, Via Sacra. This road is original, dating back to the pre-400’s BC. It is made of great big stones. It was amazing to think of the well known ancients, Emperors, church leaders, maybe even some of the apostles, such as Paul, in their later days who walked this very road!
Before long, we got to the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine, and my jaw literally dropped. This was the largest building in the forum, and still a large amount of it remains. We walked up to the walls and read the section in our guide book describing how it was constructed and how the rest of the building would have looked. It would have been massive. And it’s a testament to Roman architecture that so much of it still stands today, over 1700 years later (it was completed in AD 312). In its time, it was one of the largest structures ever built. At one end, it originally had a Colossus (large statue) of Emperor Constantine, although it is no longer there.
There were two great Arches in the forum, and one right next to the Colosseum. The one I found the most interesting was the Arch of Titus, near an entrance to the forum. The reason it was interesting to me is because it’s from a specific period in history that I’m pretty interested in: the first century, and the first Judeo-Roman war. It’s fascinating, but the short story is that the Jews rebelled against the Romans, did actually quite well, but eventually lost. Many Jews were taken from Jerusalem, and became slaves. Emperor Titus, the emperor at the time, had a few structures built to commemorate the victory, and these were built by the Jewish slaves. One was the Arch, and one was the Colosseum. There is surviving artwork within the Arch to this day showing the Jews being taken out of their land, carrying a menorah.
There were so many more amazing things in the forum. It would be impossible to describe all of it in a single post. It was a really amazing experience.
We went from there up Palatine Hill. We were starting to crash at that point, but wanted to take it in before leaving the forum area. The ticket only allows a single entrance, so once you leave, you can’t get back in. Palatine Hill was really cool. It has the ruins of some great palaces on top.
Then we went out for some lunch. We had some great pizza. The pizza here is generally pretty small (maybe 12 or 14 inches) so we got two (we were hungry)! One was called “Prosciutto” (Italian for “ham”) and had very thin slices of ham on top. Looked like bacon, actually. Also had the typical cheese and tomato sauce, but really amazing flavor. The other kind was “Quattro Formaggi”, which, as you may have guessed, means “four cheese”. I don’t know what the different types of cheese were, but they were amazing! I would never have guessed that a pizza with only cheese (no meat, no sauce) could taste so good. They were both amazing, but Quattro Formaggi was my favorite.
Then we finally went to the Colosseum! It was breathtaking. Such an enormous structure, well preserved. We could see ancient staircases that the people would have used to climb to the various levels. We saw the underground hallways where gladiators would prepare. We had amazing views from the second level of both inside and outside of the Colosseum. We saw the Emperor’s box, where he would have sat to watch. It was such an amazing experience. It didn’t have as much variety and richness of history as the forum, but the sheer vastness of it, along with its own history, was still a lot to take in!
After that, we headed back to the BnB, and I had a nap! It was after 5:00 by this point, and we had left at 8:30 in the morning, and walked around all day, really only getting off our feet at lunchtime. It was such a great day. After recovering a little bit, we went over to the Basilica across the street, Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. Typical of Roman churches, the inside was covered in artwork. There were paintings on the ceilings, busts and sculptures on the walls, and beautiful grand mosaics on the front wall behind the altar. There was a statue of the Pope on a lower level, kneeling in front of the altar. The ceiling was plated in gold, which, as it turns out, was brought to Rome from the “New World” – North America!
Finally, we got home and stayed there. We had some more food (we had a sort-of supper after getting back from the Colosseum), and wound down for bed.
It was an amazing day, exploring ancient Roma. Tomorrow, we will explore and discover the Christian era of Rome, in Vatican City! More amazing classical artwork to come!