Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Italy: Ancient Rome

Looking toward the Palatine Hill from the Forum. The Forum was the center of life
in Rome during the republican period as well as during the empire. Its basilicas
were the shopping malls of their day, and its temples sometimes did double duty
housing government administrators.
The Temple of Saturn
in the Forum also served
as the treasury for the
Roman Empire.
Rome isn't the oldest city in the world, but it may exceed all other cities in promoting its past and in making ancient ruins accessible. Where was Julius Caesar killed? Somewhere near Largo de Torre Argentina, where you can now see the ruins of three temples and Pompey's Theater. Where did Caesar Augustus live? You can see the ruins of his villa atop the Palatine Hill (the hill supposedly chosen by Romulus for founding the city; his brother, Remus, supposedly preferred the nearby Aventine Hill, now a residential neighborhood across the Circus Maximus from the Palatine). The Pantheon, the Colosseum and countless other sites let you touch ancient Rome.

During our six weeks in Rome during spring 2018, Jane and I never lost our fascination with the many reminders of a long-lost world. Our apartment, in a tiny neighborhood tucked between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills and the Forum, was a short walk from the Circus Maximus and only a slightly longer walk from the Colosseum. We could not have been more embedded in ancient Rome.

For the itinerary of our three-month visit to Italy, click HERE.

The Forum's Temple of Atonini and Faustina was saved when
it was converted for use as a Christian Church. 

The very old and the relatively new coexist in Rome.
Here the Colosseum is seen from a "modern" city
 street. You should know that the only new construction
allowed in central Rome since Mussolini 's time is the
 building protecting the Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar
of Augustan Peace).
The Ara Pacis, buried and forgotten for centuries, now is enshrined and protected
in its own small museum designed by the American architect Richard Meier. 
Faces of Roman Emperors stare back at museum visitors at Palazzo Massimo, which houses
Rome's greatest collection of classical period art.
"Boxer at Rest" is a bronze from the
second or first century B.C.E. He is still
wearing his boxing gloves (more like
brass knuckles) as he sits after
a fight. At Palazzo Massimo. 
The fourth-century C.E. Giana Quadrifronte Arch is surrounded by buildings centuries newer than it. Sit outside
at Anima Mundi, our favorite bar, and this is what you look at. It was built to provide shade for tradesmen and later
was used as a fish market. Its marble cladding has long been removed, along with the marble
busts that once filled its many niches. This was a block from our Airbnb apartment.
History in Rome is often found in layers. This is a second-century C.E. temple to Mithras,
a Persian god at the center of a male-only cult that was a rival to early Christianity. In the
center is an altar and on the sides are stone "couches" where worshipers would
recline. This temple, one of hundreds that once existed in the city, was in a private
home. Around the fourth century, as Christianity was on the rise, a church, the
Basilica of St.Clement, was built above the house. In the 12th century, the basilica was
in bad repair and unstable; it was filled in with rubble and a new Basilica of St. Clement
was built above it. Today, you can go into the 12th-century church (modified and redecorated
over the centuries), and descend into the excavated 4th-century church, where frescos and an altar
still exist. Descend further, and you're in the similarly excavated private home, again with some
decorative elements remaining, and on your way to the Mithraeum.


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