Friday, January 30, 2009

Rome - Day 3

Every day in Rome is better than the last! Today we saw truly ancient things: the Colosseum and the Roman ruins.

We started at the Colosseum. Luckily, we decided to do a guided tour (in English, thank goodness). The tour guide was awesome. She taught us so much about the history of the Colosseum and that era in Rome.

I’m sure you know that the history of the Colosseum is brutal and quite sad. To think that such an advanced society was so barbaric that they enjoyed watching battles between humans and hunts with animals. It’s horrifying. However, the history of the building itself is astonishing!

To think that over 2000 years ago, the technology existed to build a building on such a massive scale! It held over 70,000 spectators! It also had 3 subterranean levels where the Gladiators, animals, workers, food, etc. were housed – all operated by pulley and counterweight systems to lift things onto the arena floor.

And did you know that the Colosseum was once completely covered in marble? The marble was pillaged (or “recycled”) hundreds of years later to build St. Peter’s Basilica and other buildings in Rome!!! And all the metal that was used to support the marble and bricks was also pillaged. It was melted down to make weapons for wars!

Yet, despite the fact that the marble and metal have been removed – and despite a huge earthquake and time erosion – the Colosseum is still standing strong.

Speaking of standing strong . . . here are some of my own Gladiators.

Funny story! Max’s full name is Maximus, which is something you see carved into almost every old building in Rome! It is also the name of the Russel Crowe character in the movie Gladiator (no – we did not name our son after the character in this movie!). As we were walking around the Roman ruins, there were a few street vendors. Max noticed that one vendor was selling Gladiator helmets. Right away, he picked out “the one with spikes”, and he asked how much it was. Well, much to his despair, it was 180 euros. Later that night, the adults watched Gladiator (we wanted to see how the Colosseum and the Roman Forum were portrayed in the movie), and guess what?! The Gladiator helmet that Max picked out is the same exact one that Russel Crowe picked in the movie. Pretty cool.

Facing the Colosseum are the Arch of Constantine (built as a monument to Emperor Constantine) and the former Roman Forum.

Here are some pictures of the Arch of Constantine.

We walked through the Roman Forum, and I was spell-bound! All of these ruins . . . over 2000 years old!! The Roman Forum is where the market was held – all the shops and cafes, etc., along the side of the hills. And between the walls were the temples, baths, and other buildings that marked the Roman society. As we walked, I was trying to imagine this area teeming with people living their lives.

When we returned home, I started my research to learn exactly what we had seen. I wanted to learn everything! What were these buildings? What were they used for? I am like a sponge – I want to soak up all the history.

Here are some photos looking into the valley of the Roman Forum.

Below is a shot of the Forum wall and the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina.

And the Basilica de Maxentius (the building after which most basilica's are modeled!)

Arch of Septimius Severus

I found two great websites. On one site, you can see a photo of the Roman Forum. You can click on the different buildings in the photo for a description of the building. It’s great!

On the walk home from the Colosseum, we passed some more amazing buildings: the National Monument and the Corte de Cassazione. Have I said before that everywhere you look in Rome, you see something amazing?

Mike and I finally found some pasta shops! About 8 blocks from the apartment, at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, is the Via de Croce. On this cobblestone street are several restaurants, gelaterias (gelato stores), and a few delicatessen stores that sell meats, salami, sausages, pasta, sauces, wines, etc. Here we found many, many yummy things for our homemade meals. Plus, it was fun to take short shopping trips alone with Mike. Mark and Susie were sweet enough to keep the kids at the apartment while we made our nightly shopping excursions (usually while Sean was napping).

Love to all!

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