Our adventure continues!

Day 2 of our trip began with a full schedule, beginning with a tour through the Roman Colosseum. See previous post. Still trying to wrap our heads around the enormity of what we saw, we took off down the Via Sacra and into what was once the busiest official district of Ancient Rome, the Forum. It is nestled between the Palatine Hill, where the palaces of the rich and famous were located, and the Capitoline Hills, or city center. To enter this section of town, one would walk pass the half dome of what’s left of the Temple of Venus.

Oleander bushes are prominent around the temple, a common tool in the old days for poisoning someone’s tea with the leaves or poisoning a barbecue with a stick. These are interesting tidbits that get the story teller’s imagination rolling…

Next you would proceed through the Arch of Titus, currently under restoration, so we got to walk on the hill above and to the side of it. My pictures aren’t so good with all the scaffolding, so thanks to Pixabay, here are a few good shots.

The arch of Titus was constructed by the Emperor Domitian to celebrate his older brother’s victory in conquering Jerusalem in 70 AD. The reliefs on either side depict the triumphal procession of Titus’ army bringing back Jewish slaves and items from the Jewish temple. Carved above the arch it reads: Senatus Populusque Romanus divo Tito divi Vespasianifilio Vespasiano Augosto, for those of you not up on your latin (like my husband, who seems to know a bit of everything) that means: “The Senate and the Roman people dedicate this to the deified Titus Vespasian Augustus, son of the deified Vespasian.” Now, there’s a mouthful.

On our right we view the Roman Basilica, three apses used for their Supreme Court. The term basilica was used for a place that seated the highest authority of the city. This term is later used in certain Christian churches.

Notice the remains of a column made of purple marble. Purple marble was associated with Mt. Olympus, and thus used by emperors to demonstrate their connections with deity.

Growing wild and clinging to the rock walls are capers! I don’t know about you, but I love cooking with these and now I want to plant hanging baskets of them as well.

Here’s an interesting building–a temple, constructed in the round mausoleum shape, made with purple columns and dedicated to an emperor’s son who drowned in the family pool. Notice the doors. They’re original and the lock still works. We will find similar doors that were “repurposed” from the forum and used in other buildings around Rome.

The view to the left, what remains of a villa and gardens on the hill.

The structures that stick out in my memory are the ones with odd stories attached to them. This is the temple of Antoninus and Faustina. Apparently it was built for Antoninus’ wife, Faustina, and when he died some twenty years later he was buried here. It is well preserved because much of this building was underground for centuries. It seems the ground level got higher and higher as people tossed their trash and waste into the street. At one point the stairs and lower entrance were completely buried underground. A church was built on the top level with it’s own entrance–at ground level for the time!

Zoom in on the picture above and look at the stripes carved into the pillars about 3/4 of the way to the top. The story goes that these were left after an attempt was made to pull down the pillars–only a small portion of which were visible due to the huge amount of landfill. Inability to pull the pillars down led to the discovery of how deep they went and to the excavation of what we now see.

This gives you a visual of how the ground level changed over the years, and how structures built at different times would be on various levels of soil.

In the distance you can see the square building, the Curia, where the senate met. It was closed for repairs at the time of Ceasar’s assassination. Beside it is the Arch of Septimius Severus. In the square (see the palm tucked in the corner?) between the two was a stage where speeches were given. It was here that Mark Anthony gave his speech, living forever in Shakespeare’s writings, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him:…” (If you want to read the rest of it, you can find it here.)

And here is where they put the urn with Caesar’s ashes. Who knows where they are today. I suspect the urn was repurposed as so many ancient things were. Apparently the Roman tradition is/was to put coins in the mouth of the dead and place red carnations on the graves of political martyrs. Hence, the coins and flowers.

On leaving the forum, our guide pointed to a rock ledge down the road. This was where unwanted infants were left to die. How my heart tightens to think a civilization so advanced could be this cold and brutal to their offspring.

From here, we got in our van and drove past the Circus Maximus where games like those in the movie Ben Hur were played. The palace was built on the hillside to the right and the royal family could watch the games from their balconies.

Next we went to see the Ponte Fabricio, after the man who built it, also known as Ponte dei Quattro Capi (bridge of four heads.) This is the oldest bridge in Italy still existing in its original, completely intact state. Built in 62 BC, it crosses the Tiber River, connecting the Ancient Roman region to the Tiber Island.

The island itself has had many uses, mostly centered around medicine. A temple to the Greek god of healing was built there and later a hospital. The story goes that during the Nazi occupation when they were rounding up Jews, the head of the hospital invented a deadly and highly contagious disease, “Il Morbo di K.” Afraid of catching the disease, the soldiers did not enter the quarantine zone. Many Jews were kept hidden and safe inside. Currently the hospital, seen here to the right of the bridge, is a huge birthing center.

The island also happens to be the location where our family came on a previous trip and took an absolutely amazing cooking class. If you are interested in taking an authentic Italian cooking class with a world class chef, I recommend Federico Alessandri with Chef in a Day. Our then 11 year old son did the class with us and also enjoyed it! My mouth is watering just thinking about the food we made.

Thank you for joining me as we travel through some of Ancient Rome. Next time, we’ll experience some of the highlights of Christian Rome. Until then, keep smiling!

Brenda Gates

To get a copy of my Civil War era historical romance/suspense novel, look here.

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