Monday, May 31, 2010

Rome: the ancient forums, the Colosseum, and Palatine Hill

On March 25, we visited the ancient forums, the Colosseum, and Palatine Hill, as well as the Capitoline Museum. We bought our tickets at the forums, so we didn't have to stand in line at the Colosseum. The Colosseum was built by emperor Vespasian, in the grounds of Nero's palace (remember, he was the crazy guy who played the fiddle as Rome burned?), and it was inaugurated in AD 80. I love how with those years that don't quite look real, you have to say "AD" just so people don't think you've made a mistake. Apparently the Colosseum didn't hold as many people as the Circo Massimo, where chariot races were held, but it's way more impressive looking. The funny thing, to me, was that from a distance, it looks really big, but then when you walk up to it, it doesn't really seem that big, but then, when you get inside, under its arches, it looks big again, and when you go outside, into the arena, it sort of looks small again. It held about 50,000 people, so it's about the size of some college football stadiums. Somehow the movie, Gladiator, made it look much bigger. And, the term, Colosseum, is not actually a reference to its size, but to the giant statue of Nero, the Colossus of Nero, that was nearby.

The Lonely Planet that I took out from the library says the 80 entry arches were called vomitoria, however, in Latin class, we were taught that the vomitoria were gutters that lined the isles...the wealthy ancient Romans liked to gorge themselves on delicacies while watching events, and would vomit into the gutters so they'd have room to continue their gluttony. According to Wikipedia, a vomitorium is an area where spectators can "spew out" at the end of the performance, a definition more similar to the Lonely Planet's than to my Latin class.

I really love this sign, which I translate to mean, panic and run down the steep Colosseum stairs!

The Palatine Hill was a lot of ruins, but it was hard to figure out what was going on. This is partially because over the centuries churches and other building were built on top of the ruins. Also, it was hard for me to imagine what was going on because a lot of the ruins were left where they fell, so parts of buildings were just in the middle of the avenues. Additionally, all of the palaces seemed so close together...if I were a wealthy person, I'd want a lot of space around me, but then again, I'm not a wealthy ancient Roman, so what do I know about it?

We tried to use an audio tour for the forums and the Palatine Hill, but at some point, we just became confused. While we were able to figure out some of the stuff the audio guy was talking about, it wasn't so useful when he said things like, behind the pile of stones is where such and such building stood, but it was dismantled in AD 182 to make way for some other building that was destroyed by a fire. Right, so essentially we were supposed to be looking at a pile of rubble behind a pile of stones and envision a palace or temple or whatever. Sure.

The forums are a bit of a mess. Not only have ruins fallen willy-nilly and been left there (I am actually torn: would I prefer if the stones were cleaned up, so as not to be where they don't belong, or would that ruin the historic nature of the site? I can't decide), but successive emperors have added to it and enlarged it over time. Again, we were using the audo guide, but it was still a bit confusing to figure out what was going on. Buildings that had been repurposed over time, such as the temple of Antonius and Faustina, were in relatively good condition.

The Arch of Septimus Severus was pretty cool, and Captain America cracked up when the audio guide told him that at the festival of Saturnalia, people played games with beans to symbolize wealth.

We went to the Capitoline museum,which is the world's oldest national museum. In this museum are the pieces of the giant statue of Constantine that was found at the site of the Basilica de Constantino. I took a picture of it with my Fodor's book.

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