In Tuscany for a wedding next week and the lovely Niki, cousin of my best friend in Melbourne, caught the train down from Venice to join me for a weekend in Rome! Today we decided to explore, on foot (already aching) in the hot Roman sun, Imperial Rome. The Colosseum, the Palatino and the Forum ruins of fallen empires.
Was incredible entering the Colosseum built in 72-80 AD, can hold up to 55000 people for one event, and has many entrances as many as 80 around the perimeter. The arches on all the levels are decorated uniquely with the top layer having once had blinds that could be pulled down with strings to protect from the sun by military men.
Emperor Titus was responsible for building the Colosseum after victory from war against the Jews, he wanted to give his people a place to congregate for entertainment and as a way to favor his government, keeping them happy and controlled through live theatre entertainment.
We peered down into the chambers where gladiators would prepare, lions kept, and prisoners of war would await an unknown fate while the roar of crowds above anxiously awaiting the drama to unfold! The construction was a mix of stone, cement, wooden frame and marble, now the ruins show mostly stone remains.
Opposite we visited the palace remains of the Emperor Augustus and Domiziano (son of Titus) who had a giant stadium in his garden within the palace walls. Nero’s palace crypt which was in great condition, we walked through and still fresh!
The Forum was a bevy of activity, fallen pillars, giant arches and temples built for Julius Cesar and other gods and goddesses that were worshipped during Imperial Rome.
The house of the Vestales virgins where the young girls who kept the flame burning for the power and strength of the Roman State.
Arches standing as tall as city buildings built to celebrate victory including Constantine who claimed to have a revelation from Christ that he would win his battle and when he did he converted to Christianity and made Christianity a state religion. He had many wealthy Christian friends and this put him in a powerful position and supported the rise of Christianity in Rome.
Before Christianity Rome worshipped many pagan gods and Goddess, there was a god for everything and much of the religion was earthy and holistic. During the birth and rise of Christianity the Pagan gods and goddesses temples were replaced with churches that symbolized the different areas that people recognized as being holy. The Virgin Mary replaced and embodied all goddesses and Christ was symbolic of the pagan gods. A school of thought also says that the Resurrection of Christ was symbolic of the winter solstice because after the shortest day of the year the following days became brighter representing the birth of light, winning over from the dark.
Many of the churches we visited in Rome (every second building) represented culturally what was significant at the time, many of the builders came from different parts of the world and contributed their style and building materials often trading and exchanging materials back home for Roman materials. We saw Arabic designs in Christian churches, African marble pillars and Egyptian obelisks outside the churches representing the time when Julius Caesar married Cleopatra and made Egypt a Roman Province.
Imperial Rome was a time of great wealth, palaces fit for kings and nothing was small, each new Emperor tried to outdo the next by building something bigger and grander, the wall protecting the Roman Empire still stands within sections of modern Rome and still today it is by much a place of worship, grandiosity and wonder. Truly awe inspiring was the architecture to imagine the Pathenon built in 15-16 AD still standing in perfect condition as it did so many moons ago. We can certainly say humanity has lost some of the incredible art of craftsmanship, examples in the structures still standing strong.
It’s amusing how in Rome there is not really any large signs directing you to the monuments but take a walk down the street and every block or narrow cobblestone street you peer down no doubt you will see a fountain, a ruin and more often than not a church!
Maz and guest writer Nikiby