My second trip to Rome started just about as well as I could have planned it. We took a train to Rome using a BIRG and got down to business. We had an agenda and we knew what we wanted to see. My roommate Mike and I, we have become great friends and we travel quite a bit together these days.
When we got to Rome, we took the Metro to the Circo Massimo stop to see Circus Maximus, an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue located. Situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, it was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later empire. The stadium measured 2,037 ft in length and 387 ft in width, and could accommodate about 150,000 spectators. In its fully developed form, it became the model for circuses throughout the Roman Empire. The site is now a public park, though.
After looking at this briefly, we took to the Palatine Hill. This hill is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands 40 meters above the Forum Romanum (Roman Forum). On one side is the Forum, while the other is the aforementioned Circus Maximus. The hills contain a historical context that isn’t quite as clear on a self-tour of the place. At the Acropolis in Athens, there are signs that give us all the information we need to know about the temples and ancient ruins. Since its not quite as clear here, we took a free tour of the Palatine Hill. This free tour in English was made possible by our amazing tour guide, Brent who knew so much about the Hill.
What I learned about Rome on this tour is far greater than I would have on my own. Rome has its origins on the Palatine. Recent excavations show that people have lived there since approximately 1000 B.C. After the immigration of the Sabines and the Albans to Rome, the original Romans lived on the Palatine. Many affluent Romans of the Republican period (circa 509 B.C. – 44 B.C.) had their residences there. During the Empire (27 B.C. – 476 A.D.), several emperors resided on the Hill. In fact, the ruins of the palaces of Augustus (27 B.C. – 14 A.D.), Tiberius (14 – 37) and Domitian (81 – 96) can still be seen. Augustus also built a temple to the Greek God, Apollo beside his own palace.
Though we don’t thank Benito Mussolini for much, he – who also had a palace on the hill – ordered the excavations that discovered the ruins here. He did this to restore faith in the Italian republic and to show them how great the history of the Romans really was. Even though excavations revealed so much, it was still a propaganda movement.
Brent, our tour guide was very knowledgeable though. He was also funny. You don’t see that from tour guides much these days. He told us where all the emperors lived on the hill. He showed us where Augustus’ paranoia got the best of him and eventually led to his assassination, he showed us Mussolini’s palace, the location where the emperor would erect his shrine to his preferred god, and much more.
The tour led us to the Roman Forum, which was centuries, the center of Roman public life. It was the site of triumphal processions and elections; the venue for public speeches,
criminal trials, and gladiatorial matches; and the nucleus of commercial affairs. Here statues and monuments commemorated the city’s great men.
The teeming heart of ancient Rome, it has been called the most celebrated meeting place in the world, and in all history. Located in the small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Forum today is a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments and intermittent archeological excavations attracting numerous sightseers.
Many of the oldest and most important structures of the ancient city were located on or near the Forum. The Roman kingdom’s earliest shrines and temples were located on the southeastern edge. These included the ancient former royal residence, the Regia (8th century B.C.), and the Temple of Vesta (7th century B.C.), as well as the surrounding complex of the Vestal Virgins, all of which were rebuilt after the rise of imperial Rome. We also saw the resting place of the great Julius Caesar in the Forum; he was assassinated in 44 B.C.
We saw the temple of Jupiter and the Arch of Titus, which was an early model to many arches of the same structure. Titus was the son of the Emperor, Vespasian. The Arch of Titus is a 1st-century honorific arch located on the Via Sacra, Rome, just to the southeast of the Roman Forum. It was constructed in c. 82 AD by the Roman Emperor Domitian, shortly after the death of his older brother, Titus to commemorate Titus’ victories, including the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
The Arch of Titus has provided the general model for many of the triumphal arches erected since the 16th century—perhaps most famously it is the inspiration for the 1806 Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, completed in 1836 at the order of Napoleon III.
Check back tomorrow for my post on the Colosseum and the Vatican Museum. Also, check out my pictures here.