Rome days 5 & 6: The Ancient Ruins

30 Jul
Our 5th and 6th days in Rome were spent exploring the ancient ruins of Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli, and the ruins of Imperial Rome. Now, of all the things we did, the ruins were by far the ones I was most looking forward to, and my favorite of the trip. I’ve combined them into one post here.

Pictures are up on Flickr, here. We took sooooo many pictures these two days, but I freely admit that they look like piles of rubble for the most part. I find them enrapturing, partly because I remember seeing them. But I’ve posted both there and here mostly the highlights of the days. I hope you enjoy!

Day 5: Hadrian’s Villa

On July 21 we headed to catch the metro to the last stop, and then a bus out to Tivoli, about 20 miles east of Rome. We were kinda sad, because Harry Potter came out that day, and we were sure we wouldn’t be able to get a copy in Italy. Until we passed a bookstore and saw the British version there!

Okay, so we arrived in Tivoli and had to walk about a mile to Hadrian’s Villa. Hadrian was emperor from 117 to 138 AD, named by Trajan as his successor. During his reign, Hadrian travelled across the extent of the Roman empire, which spanned from Italy to the British Isles (remember Hadrian’s wall in England?) to Egypt. While he was not a great conqueror, he strengthened Rome from within and was one of its most successful emperors.

After his reign, Hadrian built his grand villa, where he lived out the last 3 years of his life. His estate was one of the greatest ever erected, and was filled with art, sculpture, temples, baths, theatres, fountains, gardens, and canals. He filled his estate with architecture such as that seen on his many travels, including a replica of a Greek theatre.

The Teatro Marittimo was a circular theatre with a central building surrounded by a canal. Along the outside of the canal was a colonnade spotted with statues. Swing bridges connected the surrounding floors to the building in the center. While this is the most that remains now, a little imagination can provide what is lacking.

There are two bath houses on the estate, which were really more for pleasure than actual cleanliness. There’s a picture on Flickr of the Great Bath, which is enormous and still retains a lot of its structure, including parts of the domed roof.

The second highlight, and most famous part of the Villa, is the Canopo. It is a large pool enclosed on the ends by colonnades and statues. Along one side of the pool stand 7 statues. The ones standing now are probably replicas – I imagine the originals succumbed to the elements long ago. This structure is a recreation of the Egyptian city of Canope and its Temple of the Serapis. It is quite picturesque among the backdrop of the other ancient ruins.

After we finished walking around the Villa, we headed back to Rome, and stopped by the bookstore to buy a copy of Harry Potter. Of course, we went back to get another one later that night, because GP and I do not share well.

Rome Day 6: Imperial Rome

We awoke and headed down to the ancient ruins of Imperial Rome. There is so much I could say about these ruins, and choosing what pictures to post has been a real chore. I put plenty more on Flickr, and I strongly urge you to check it out. The amount of history contained in such a small area is just unbelievable!

We entered the Forum by the Arch of Titus, a triumphal arch erected in honor of his sacking of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 81 AD. The war that this arch symbolizes is the war responsible for the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora throughout Europe. We walked through the ruins, passing the sites of original temples and came to the Curia, or the Senate House (below).

Of course you know, this is the birthplace of modern republican government, and is the model for our current legislative system. The present building is the 5th on this spot, and was a church until 1937, when the fascist government gutted it. They found that the original floor of Egyptian marble is intact and the tiers that one held the seats of the senators remain. Although the Roman senate is the founding stone of modern government, it too had its problems. The third emperor of the Republic, Caligula, appointed his horse to the Senate, giving a pretty good idea of the state of the government by the end of the 1st century. Things got better, though!

We walked back across, looking at the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Basilica Julia, the Temple of Julius Caesar, and the Temple of the Vestal Virgins, which has quite an interesting story. The most impressive of the structures, however, was the Basilica of Constantine. Back then, a basilica was not a church, but rather a type of courthouse. Constantine’s is the largest by far, and a picture of the back is on Flickr. But you can make out the people standing in front to get an idea of scale. Constantine was the first Christian emperor; the night before Constantine’s battle against the emperor Maxentius, Constantine saw a cross in the sky inscribed with the words “In this sign shall you conquer.” He did conquer, and declared Rome a Christian empire, but did not do away with pagan traditions, although he did put a stop to persecution of Christians.

Along with the most massive basilica, Constantine also has the most elaborate triumphal arch. It sits next to the Coliseum and was erected in 315 to commemorate his victory over Maxentius in 306 AD.

The most flamboyant monument in Italy can be found (quite easily) in Rome, the Vittorio Emanuele Monument. It was built in the 1800s as a monument to the first king of Italy. It sticks out like a sore thumb; a blindingly white monument surrounded by the golden hues of Rome. This picture was taken across the street, and I still couldn’t fit it all in the frame! The interior has been off limits for years, but is about to open as a museum. Under the massive equestrian statue front and center is the eternal flame lit over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

(From here we also visited the Forums of the early Caesars: Julius, Trajan, and Augustus. More on them on Flickr.)

To end our day, we visited the one landmark that everyone thinks of when they envision Rome. The Colosseum. I’m sure you know about this already, but I’m going to ramble anyway. This elliptical sports arena was order built by Vespasian in 72 AD, and was inaugurated by Titus in 80 AD with many weeks of bloody gladiator games. At its peak, the Colosseum could hold 50,000 Romans! Under the rule of Domitian, the cruelest games were carried out, including those that pitted animals against each other, and against humans.

Seating at the Colosseum was based strictly on a class system, and the sloped areas are where the bench seating was once found. You can see part of the area under the floor in this picture – a number of passageways and rooms are down here, where gladiators and animals were held and transported. The floor was wooden, and has partly been reconstructed. It could be covered in sand for added drama, or even flooded to put on mock naval battles for the entertainment of the masses.

After visiting this monumental site – of which we took a lot of pictures! – we made our way back to the hotel for a nap, had dinner, and then stayed up all night finishing Harry Potter!

The next day we headed home, leaving the cloudless and sunny skies of Rome for the grey, dreary skies of home. Overall, I guess we walked 35 – 40 miles, we got a nice tan, and made some great memories that will stick with us forever. If you ever get the chance to go to Rome – GO! I hope one day we’ll have the opportunity to go back for another visit.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed reliving our trip with me. Sharing it with you and gathering all this information has been fun. Elke asked how I know all the facts I’ve shared with you. Well, facts about the churches and many other buildings I learned on our trip and thought interesting enough to share with you (after all, facts make story telling more fun). Facts about Roman history, such as about emperors, and about Renaissance art and architecture I knew before hand. After all, the reason I wanted to visit Rome above all other places is due to Mrs. Shewmake, my World and European history teacher, who made me fall in love with the history of Rome when I was a mere 16 years old.

Tomorrow, back to our regularly scheduled knitting blog!


3 Responses to “Rome days 5 & 6: The Ancient Ruins”

  1. Elke July 30, 2007 at 10:16 pm #

    There are so many stagnant pools around Hadrian’s Villa – were there lots of mosquitos? It’d be worth braving a swarm of them for those gorgeous images.

    History was never my forte, so I always have to learn and relearn facts. It boggles the mind to know that someone can keep all those names and dates straight. I’m proud of myself if I can remember what I had for dinner the night before!

    Well, back to my summary of the religious experience that is flagellin. Can I get an Amen?

  2. gp July 31, 2007 at 11:00 am #

    I assume “learned in Rome” actually means “read in the Fromer’s book” and “Wikipedia?”

    Great blog, thanks for doing this! Love you!

  3. Jill August 1, 2007 at 11:54 am #

    I loved reading all about your trip, and the pictures are great. It’s hard to pick a favorite part, but the ancient ruins of the last two days look wonderful!
    All the beautiful fountains, architecture, and art are awesome…I would love to visit St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel…I would especially like to see the works of Michelangelo.
    Thanks for taking the time to share what you saw on this great trip!


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