This morning I go from my hotel to the most historical corner in the world. Right at one corner you have the meeting point of the Forum Romano, the Palatine Hill, the triumphal arch of Constantine the Great and the Flavian Amphitheatre better known as the Colosseum. So at this corner you have the main ingredients in the Roman Empire meeting up.
The Palatine Hill was where Romulus according to the legends of Rome founded the city in 753 BC – or year 0 according to the Roman calendar. The hill would later become the most prestigious place to have a house in Rome – and everybody who had enough money wanted a house there. All the richest and usually most important senators would have a house on the Palatine Hill. Later the emperors squeezed out the senators and took the hill as their private residence. I start my journey through Italian history where it all began – on this very hill.
There are still quite a few Roman remains on the hill but it is far from the best preserved Roman ruins you’ll find in Rome or at other locations for that matter. It is still fascinating to go wondering around the hill and walk into the house of the first emperor – Augustus. Or walk through a covered walkway which was made by Nero. One great think about the hill is you get a pretty good view of the Forum Romano from up there and if any place has more historic significance than the Palatine Hill – it got to be the Forum Romano.
The Forum was the centre of the world during the Roman heyday. At the forum people with power came to see and even more importantly be seen. The Roman Senate held its meetings at the forum and the most important religious buildings in Rome would be on the forum. The Vestal Virgins had their home on the forum where they would protect the sacred fire of Rome and keep it burning at all time. Gaius Julius Cesar got a house at the outskirts of the forum when he was elected to the office of Pontifex Maximus.
When I start wondering the Forum Romano I walk along the Via Nuevo – the new road. I guess in Rome a 2000+ year old road can still be called new – that’s just not happening anywhere else in the world. I walk along the new road for a while – this isn’t the central part of the forum – so there are not that many people up here they mainly stay down at the central road – the Via Sacre. At the end of the Via Sacre I get to Tiberius arch which is one of the monuments which are still fairly intact next to the arch is the Curia the old meeting house of the Senate which is also intact. There are lots of other sights at the forum including the remains of the giant basilica Cesar had built in honor of his family. Going back along the via Sacre I get to a fairly small sight which doesn’t appear to have much significance compared to the other sites in the forum. But inside this small building is a pile of flowers. The flowers are in memory of Julius Cesar – this is the very spot where he had his funeral fire after he got murder.
Walking out along the road I get to see the house of the Vestal Virgins and another grand basilica.
Going out of the forum I get right across a small square from where I can see down towards the Constantine Arch which has become the model for most later triumphant arches around the world.
When I cross the small square I get to the entrance to the Coliseum. I can fortunately get in easily without waiting in the long line to buy a ticket because my entry ticket from the Palatine is good here as well. No other ancient building is as easily recognizable as the Coloseum. Most everybody is intrigued by the stories of the gladiators fighting for fame or death at the games in the Colosseum. Countless of movies have been made about this giant sporting venue – and going inside is impressive – but crowded since this is the Roman sight which gets the most visitors of any Roman sights in the world.
The Colosseum have for centuries been used as an area from it is easy to get access to just those stones, statues or other items you need for your new palace or church. So it is a bit difficult to really see how this arena could be transformed into a venue where you could both carry out bloody fights between men and beast, man against man and even naval battles. The structures used for the arena are long gone but there are still enough left to give you an idea about what it used to be like.
I leave the historical centre of the world for now and walk down the road to the Capitol. In the process I pass Piazza Venezia where Mussolini used to give his speeches from the balcony of one of the palaces. Then I head up the hill to the Capitoline museum which is one of the best museums in Rome – which considering the quality of museums in Rome by definition makes it one of the best museums in the world. Inside is an exhibition of both paintings and sculptures of which are both the remains of a giant statue of Alexander and the statue of the dying Gaul by Michelangelo.