Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Day in Ancient Rome

As we mentioned before, one of the things that makes Rome so amazing to visit is that it is literally layer upon layer of history - and nowhere is this more evident than in the ancient centre of Rome. Comprised mainly of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum (as well as some surrounding structures like Trajan's markets and the Circus Maximus) this region of the city just oozes with history.
 
A map of Ancient Rome (via)


The Colosseum

There is a reason that some structures are considered Wonders of the World, and the Colosseum is no exception. Even with no context the structure is amazing. Standing 157 feet tall and capable of accommodating 50,000 screaming Romans in it heyday, it was constructed between 72 and 80 A.D. using over 100,000 cubic metres of Travertine without mortar. It had extensive tunnels running to and from nearby buildings and barracks, elaborate pulley and elevator systems to raise and lower pieces of the show, and even a retractable roof to protect the viewing public from the rain and sun. 

Exterior of the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine
 
Interior remains and the hypogeum
 
 
While best known for the gladiatorial battles made famous by Ridley Scott in Gladiator, the Colosseum also hosted large Naval battles (in which the bottom was flooded and ships could sail around), elaborate hunting shows involving everything from rhinos to elephants to lions to crocodiles (often with moving trees and buildings), and even recreations of natural scenes (like the hunts but with less animal and human killing).

The Roman Forum

Just across the street from the Colosseum is the Roman Forum - the political, legal, and spiritual centre of the entire Roman Empire. Although less touristy than the Colosseum, it offers the opportunity to walk among some of the most important structures during ancient times. The site includes important temples, basilicas, triumphal arches, government buildings, and the palace that the many of the Kings of Rome resided in (including Julius Caesar - making it the original "Caesar's Palace" I guess).     

A view of the Roman Forum
The view towards the Colosseum
The ruins of the Roman Forum


Palatine Hill

The final of the 3 major Roman archaeological ruins in the area is Palatine Hill. Located right beside the Roman Forum, it is the probably the longest inhabited area of Rome and is home to a number of magnificent former Palaces and Villas. The most famous of these is the Flavian Palace - the residence of Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian (the Flavian Dynasty) and expanded upon by Septimus Severus. It also contains the Hippodrome of Domitian, a wonderfully preserved stadium and some beautiful gardens. 

The Flavian Palace and Circus Maximus
The Hippodrome of Domitian

Flowers among the remains


Surrounding Sites

Some of the interesting sites surrounding these three include the Circus Maximus (a more than 2000-year old chariot racing stadium), Trajan's Markets (a market area that also functioned in keeping the Quirinal Hill from collapsing), the Arch of Constantine (a wonderfully preserved triumphal arch beside the Colosseum), and the Mamertine Prison (where St. Peter was kept according to legend).
 
A group dancing Gangnam Style in the Circus Maximus


The Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill were by far our favorite attractions in Rome, and, if you can spare it, really require an entire day to appreciate fully. Fortunately, one ticket (12 Euro) allows access to all three sites, eliminating any reason to skip a section and easing the strain on your budget. 

By Travis Huyghebaert with 1 comment

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Hey there!

Calli and Travis returned from a four month trip through Europe more excited than ever to hit the open road. Who knows where they'll end up next...

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