Monday, April 1, 2013

All Roads Lead to Rome


Colosseum with view of passageways below the arena floor where there were
80 different lifts to transport props, animals and Gladiators to the main stage.

What better place to begin our few days in Rome than with a visit to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.  We opted for a guided tour and we were very glad that we did.  Not only were we able to bypass the long lines waiting to purchase tickets, but we were treated to a crash course in Roman history that brought these piles of rock and ruin to life in our imaginations.  


We began at the Flavian Amphitheater, a.k.a. the Colosseum, and learned about the daily spectacles of death that 50,000 Romans watched for entertainment.  It's a spectacular structure, a marvel of engineering, but with a sad history of overwhelming violence. The auditorium opened with a 100 day festival (A.D. 80) in which 2,000 men and 9,000 animals were slaughtered and the "games" continued for another 500 years.








Via Sacra
Next we toured the Roman Forum and walked along the Via Sacra, once Rome's main street.  It was here that Mark Antony's processions paraded triumphantly returning from conquering far away lands and Julius Caesar walked to the Curia to meet with the 300 elected senators representing the people of Rome.  We strolled by what remains of temples once as large as football fields and learned about the the plethora of gods and goddesses the Romans worshiped before the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion.  We stood at the foot of the Rostrum where for centuries orators spoke to the citizens of Rome and we saw the site upon which Julius Caesar's body burned after he was stabbed to death by his fellow senators. 

A walk down the Via Sacra is akin to walking through 1000 years of history - Rome once ruled the entire Western world and it all began and ended right here.  


Arch of Constantine


The Forum's main square where the Rostrum was located.  The Arch of Septimius Severus is center
and the Curia (senate building) is the structure on the far right.

 
The Temple of
Emperor Antoninus Pius and Faustina
      

Interior details from the Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina


Temple of Vesta


Caligula's palace remains - each emperor tried to out palace the prior and Caligula was no exception.


The Column of Phocas, a gift from the conquering Byzantine Empire, was the Forum's last monument.

"In 476, the last emperor checked out, switched off the lights, and plunged Europe into centuries of poverty, ignorance, superstition, and hand-me-down leotards - the Dark Ages..."
                                                                Rick Steves