1. Ancient Rome
With my interests in both history and architecture, I was anticipating this sight more than any other that we would see on the trip. For whatever reason, I have always been fascinated by the classical civilizations (and Rome in particular), and it was great to finally be able to see the area that I’ve been studying on some level for more than a decade. For the purposes of this post, I’m defining Ancient Rome as the Forum(s), the Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum.
For those that aren’t incredibly familiar with the area, the Forum was the main public square of Rome throughout both the republican and imperial period. The ancient Via Sacra (Sacred Way) is the central axis of the Forum, and it is lined with the ruins of the vast temples, administrative buildings, and triumphal arches that served as the heart of Roman society for a thousand years.
The Palatine Hill overlooks the Forum, and over time it evolved from simply the most desirable address for the Roman aristocracy to the seat of imperial power. While there are certainly gardens and other structures on the hill, a large portion of the hill is covered by the ruins of the massive imperial palace built by Domitian in the mid 1st century AD (in fact, the word palace is derived from the word Palatine).
The Colosseum is probably the most famous building in Rome, and this massive stadium, built over 1900 years ago, served as the entertainment centerpiece of the Roman Empire. The Colosseum boasts an intricate network of tunnels and a structure that allowed over 50,000 people the opportunity to see the often grotesque spectacles of the day. It was a true marvel of its time, and it remains impressive these many years later.
The Forum was the highlight for me. It was so incredible to see things like the mound of earth where Julius Caesar was cremated, the rostrum (speaker’s platform) that Mark Antony used to eulogize him, the triumphal arches that celebrated important military victories, and the delicate, curved façade of the Temple of Vesta, but I was most pleasantly surprised by our visit to the Palatine Hill. I pretty much knew what to expect from both the Forum and the Colosseum, but the splendor of Domitian’s Palace was incredible. In particular, the personal stadium enclosed in the walls and the immense patio that looked out over the Circus Maximus were impressive even in their current state.
All in all, it was just such a pleasure to experience this area, and gain a better understanding for all the history that took place in this very location.
The Emperor's personal stadium at Palatine Hill
The Temple of Vesta
A view of the Forum from Palatine Hill: