Monday, February 28, 2011

In the footsteps of Caesar

Day 1 in Rome and no better place to start than the Colosseum. There's a train station about 200 metres from the hotel and it just happens to be the same line that stops at the Colosseum. 1 euro and 20 minutes later I was there. As you come out of the station the Colosseum is right there across the road. I mean, right there! It's an amazing sight to be greeted with: quite possibly more impressive than the Pyramids because you can see them coming for miles and have time to get used to the idea that you're really there. The Colosseum just hits you.
12 euros gets you entry to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine. The queue is a mile long so I recommend pre-booking a ticket. I must get myself a Roma Pass as that's better value: free transport, free entry to two attractions and reduced prices thereafter, plus you get to jump the queues. I think it's valid for 3 days.
The Flavian Amphitheatre: aka the Colosseum.
It's in remarkably good nick considering its age, although one side is badly pockmarked. I'm not sure if that's age, pollution or war damage. Possibly all of the above. It was inaugurated in 80 A.D. and is named for the three Flavian emperors; Vespasian (69-79), Titus (79-81) and Domitian (81-96). It's an oval shape, not circular: 188 by 156 metres. The arena inside was, in case you don't know, used to stage games and shows – “bread and circuses” being the Roman way of keeping the masses entertained, especially when they showed signs of rebelliousness. The flooring of the arena, originally wooden, is long gone. Back in the day the arena was covered with sand and 'arena' is the Roman (Latin, I suppose) word for 'sand'. So there you go. Today, of course, the areas under the wooden floor are visible, although not accessible. The Romans were very clever engineers, architects, builders. I doubt if any of our modern arenas will be still standing after 2000 years. Maybe the MCG. :)
Next door to the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine. It's all fenced off but is still very impressive.
Forum Romanum.
Just a short walk from the Colosseum is the Forum: the central communal area/meeting place/whatever of Ancient Rome. The first thing that struck me was the enormous quantity of stone and marble just lying around in piles of what looks like rubble. It's not rubble of course, just the remains of what once was. The Forum must have really been something to see in its day. The buildings (temples, basilica, etc) are mostly gone and all that remains are a few sections of wall and columns. The dominant feature for me are the three columns, with a bit of roof, that remain from the Temple of Castor. They can be seen from everywhere in the Forum and kept drawing my eye. The Arch of Titus is not bad either.
I think some of the flagstones and cobbles might be original – you need to watch your step a lot in order not to break an ankle or two, especially after some rain which can make it all a bit slick underfoot.
Up the Palatine Hill are several goodies to marvel at.
The house of Augustus (the first emperor of Rome), the atrium and house of the Vestal Virgins (where Julius Caesar lived when he was Pontifex Maximus), the Stadia, Romulan huts, etc. These are mostly ruins but there's enough left to give an idea of how it must have been.
I'm not sure if the original Senate building still exists. If it does then I missed it. This time. I'm not sure, now, where it actually was. I should know that. Tsk!

I know I've only seen a tiny bit of what Rome has to offer but, so far, I'm impressed. Of course I've gone straight to old (ie., ancient) Rome. It's always fascinated me and, now..... I've seen it. Bits of it anyway. Plenty more to see over the next few days, though most will not be as old as today's viewings. I have to admit to not knowing much about Medieval and Renaissance Rome. Hopefully I'll learn something over the next few days.

Meanwhile, the hotel appears to have been invaded by a bus load of German (I think) student types. They seem to be congregating in the room two doors down from me. Hope it doesn't get too messy as I've decided to stay in tonight – 'cos I'm old and tired after a day out. Plus it's raining again.



Mary said...

What an exciting time for you! I really look forward to reading your posts and seeing the photographs.

9fragments - CJStrahan said...

"I have to admit to not knowing much about Medieval and Renaissance Rome." Well, you'd better study up because we are all experts out here in follower-land.

Marvellous blogpost - exciting journey, Jules! Wahoo!