Our vacation continued on in Rome for another 2 days. In this time, we had an archeology tour where we saw the Forum, Palatine Hill and the Colosseum. We also toured the Vatican and capped it off with a twilight tour of the city. All of our tours were from Through Eternity and I was so impressed. All of our guides knew everything. We Baiers tend to ask a lot of questions, some of which may be considered “random” or “off-topic” but these guys didn’t even flinch. We had the delight of being escorted around by Francesca, Adriana and Thomas.
We started the day at the Roman Forum, an archeological site that houses the most ancient ruins in the whole city.
Below are the remains of an old bank. Fun Facts!
- Basilica used to just mean public building so it could refer to a court house, bank or church. The name was typically given for whatever politician commissioned it.
- This building in particular caught on fire. They could tell because coins were melted and when the molten metal fell onto the stone, it left an impression that we were still able to see.
A current dig. Francesca works for the university so she participates on the digs during the summers. As they dig, they have to destroy the layers. One of her professors likened it to reading a book and tearing out each page as you finish it.
- Top Left: where Caesar Augustus was originally laid to rest. It is now a shrine
- A common theme through the tour was that when romans fell on tough times, they did a lot of recycling. It started with the precious materials like marble and gold but then as times got a little more desperate during the dark ages, they even stole the bricks! (apparently they forgot how to make them) In the top right is a medieval building made with recycled bricks.
- This area was originally a swamp and through the power of a drainage system, was converted to useable land. Unfortunately after Rome fell, no one maintained the pipes so it slowly converted back to a swamp. This buried the buildings in many meters of muck. We can thank that muck for preserving the buildings we have left because it saved them from looters, I mean recyclers.
- On the main steps, the unemployed citizens (about half of the population) would gather to play dice-like games. In the bottom right you can see indents in the marble where they carved it out for their games!
- And of course, there is my lovely family
- One emperor had two sons and his wish was that after he passed away, both of his sons would rule as co-emperors. He had both of their names carved into a victory arch to declare it. Upon his death, the elder promptly killed his younger brother and removed his name from the arch. Rome was no Philadelphia, if you catch my drift.
- One of the highest honors a woman could receive was being chosen to be a Vestal Virgin, priestesses for Vesta, Goddess of the hearth. They were chosen at age 6 and had a 30 year term where upon completion, they could retire and receive a pension. If they broke any of the rules, they had to be punished. But they were considered to be property of the gods, so their bodies could not be damaged. Solution? Buried alive. Yikes!
- Some of the buildings were still used, despite being partially covered in mud. In the dome in the upper right, there were multiple doors made, each a couple of feet above the others.
Next we saw the Palatine, the old Emperor’s palace. Rumor has it that Nero set a village on fire so he could then build this palace on the hill. He was not well liked. In his palace he had a full stadium that he could view from his ROTATATING DINING ROOM! Below in the top right is a new dig started in 2008 where they believe he had a contraption set up so slaves below could rotate his dining room while he ate. The original space needle.
Our last stop was the Colosseum! History time. When Nero demolished that village and built his palace, he didn’t stop there. He commissioned a massive manmade lake that he could look over. Then, in case that wasn’t indulgent enough, he erected a 35 meter high bronze statue of himself (more like his head on Hercules’s body, if you know what I’m saying). This statue was dubbed, the Colossus because of its shear grandeur. After his death, the next rule, Emperor Flavius, decided to give something to the people, so he tore down the lake and in its place built the Flavian Amphitheatre. It quickly was dubbed the Colosseum, meaning next to the colossus.
Some ancient graffiti. These images were carved into the seats. The one on the left depicts 2 gladiators fighting, one with a shield, the other with a sword and a net. They also have remains of the different animals involved in the shows including horses and more exotic animals like lions and tigers.With the other artifacts, they had a map that showed the expanse of the entire roman empire during its peak.
A mix of some silly pictures. Most of the pagan buildings were saved by being converted into churches. This cross was installed at the colosseum and ledged has it that if you kiss it, you get 190 days of free indulgences. My dad fell asleep while we were chatting with a British family. Aaaaand there are my feet.
There were 3 tiers to the colosseum, with the base being for emperors, senators and other high ranking citizens. The second was for the general masses and the third was reserved for women and slaves. The Vestal Virgins were the only women allowed on the first level. Even the wives of prominent figures had to sit up high.
To protect those on the first level, there were three lines of defense.
- A large net that lined the perimeter
- Archers positioned in cubbies all around to shoot rouge gladiators or animals
- The top of the net was lined with elephant tusks to further trap the contenders. Most elegant fence ever.
My camera died near the beginning of the tour so I only have a few photos. Just imagine tons of marble, and paintings, and gilding everywhere.
We learned all about frescos. It is a method of painting where you lay the plaster, let it partially dry and then paint on it. I only allows you an hour or two to complete your painting, but it lasts incredibly well because the pigment is one with the plaster.
Michelangelo always thought of himself primarily as a sculptor. He was commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel and there he completed his first ever fresco painting. It is still considered one of the best frescos to date.
Rome at Twilight
Thomas was our guide here, an American living in Rome. This tour was a little more casual, especially because there were only 5 of us – my family and 1 other tourist. He gave us some insight into modern politics, where things came from, some of the sneaky little bits of history and the culture of the city. It was more of a conversation than a tour and it was really wonderful. We went to see the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon, and along the way he described the different types of architecture including medieval, baroque and renaissance.
Final Fun Fact: Popes tended to come from very prominent families that had rivalries with each other. One pope had commissioned a fountain in front of his families’ palace, but when he died, only the pipes had been laid. The next pope was from a rival family and decided to outshine the palace with HIS design for a fountain. The Trevi fountain is so grand, you don’t even notice that it is in front of a palace.
Well that sums of up our time in Rome. This will likely be the longest recap because we spent so much time there (and it was my favorite).