A Rome from Home

Rome Travel Blog

 › entry 8 of 11 › view all entries

Another Train Journey on the impressive Italian Railways. This time back down to Rome. We check into the Hotel and head straight out into the eternal City.

The Romans believed that their city was founded in the year 753 BC. Modern historians though believe it was the year 625 BC .Early Rome was governed by kings, but after only seven of them had ruled, the Romans took power over their own city and ruled themselves.

 Ancient Rome grew from a small town on central Italy’s Tiber River into an empire that at its peak encompassed most of continental Europe, Britain, much of western Asia, northern Africa and the Mediterranean islands. Among the many legacies of Roman dominance are the widespread use of the Romance languages ,Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian, derived from Latin, the modern Western alphabet and calendar and the emergence of Christianity as a major world religion.

After 450 years as a republic, Rome became an empire in the wake of Julius Caesar’s rise and fall in the first century B.C. The long and triumphant reign of its first emperor, Augustus, began a golden age of peace and prosperity; by contrast, the empire’s decline and fall by the fifth century A.D. was one of the most dramatic implosions in the history of human civilization.

Rome eventually collapsed under the weight of its own empire, losing its provinces one by one: Britain around 410; Spain and northern Africa by 430. Attila and the Huns invaded Gaul and Italy around 450, further shaking the foundations of the empire. In September 476, the Germanic prince Odovacar won control of the Roman army in Italy. After deposing the last western emperor, Romulus Augustus, Odovacar’s troops proclaimed him king of Italy, bringing an ignoble end to the long, tumultuous history of ancient Rome.

This leaves us lots of places to visit.Our first stop being the Forum.It can be difficult for modern visitors to appreciate the Roman Forum at first, for this remnant of Classical Rome has fared worse than most. The Colosseum is still recognisably what it was 2,000 years ago, but the Foro Romano was so looted for building materials during late antiquity and the Middle Ages that there appears, at first sight, to be little left.

Dig into the ruins and we find a lot going on. The Via Sacra runs through the centre of the Forum. This main street of Ancient Rome runs from the Capitoline Hill in the west to the Arch of Titus. Victorious generals and emperors would parade along here, finishing at the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. The steps that run alongside the road at the main entrance to the Forum are a fragment of the Regia, the foundations of the house of the old Kings of Rome.

Beyond lies the Curia, originally built by Julius Caesar, reconstructed by Diocletian and the seat of the Senate during the Republic. Outside, a black pavement marks the supposed burial place of Romulus and then on to the arch of Septimius Serverus, one of the best preserved structures in the Forum. Left of the arch is the Rostra, the wall leading to the Basilica Julia, the temple built by the victorious Caesar on his return from the wars in Gaul.

Moving on, we come to the Temple of Castor and Pollux: the oldest temple in the Forum, and dating from 484BC it is now a huge pile of stones, topped by three columns. Further along is the House of the Vestal Virgins (rebuilt in the second century AD) and the Temple of Vesta. Here too is the Temple of Romulus, rededicated as part of the Christian church of Santi Cosma e Damiano.

On to Possibly the most recognizable monument in Rome, The Colosseum. The monumental structure has fallen into ruin, but even today it is an imposing and beautiful sight.Emperor Vespasian, founder of the Flavian Dynasty, started construction of the Colosseum in 72 AD. It was completed in 80 AD, the year after Vespasian's death.
The huge amphitheater was built on the site of an artificial lake, part of Nero's huge park in the center of Rome which also included the Golden House  and the nearby Colossus statue. This giant statue of Nero gave the building its name.

The Colosseum could accommodate some 55,000 spectators who entered the building through 80 entrances. Above the ground are four stories, the upper story contained seating for lower classes and women. 
The lowest story was preserved for prominent citizens.

Below the ground were rooms with mechanical devices and cages containing wild animals. The cages could be hoisted, enabling the animals to appear in the middle of the arena.

The southern side of the Colosseum was felled by an earthquake in 847. Parts of the building - including the marble cladding  were later used for the construction of other landmark buildings such as St Peters Bassilica. It's hugely impressive even now and is still used for live events although no animals or people are harmed nowadays.

Two more sights to tick off today. There is so much to see in this city that you could spend a week here and still only scratch the surface. We visit the Trevi Fountain next. Situated at the end of the Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct constructed in 19 BC by Agrippa, the son-in-law of Emperor Augustus.

The aqueduct brings water all the way from the Salone Springs ,approx 21km from Rome and supplies the fountains in the historic center of Rome with water.

In the fifteenth century a small Trevi Fountain was built here during the papacy of Nicholas V. In 1732, pope Clement XII commissioned Nicola Salvi to create a large fountain at the Trevi Square to replace the existing fountain.

A previous undertaking to build the fountain after a design by Bernini was halted a century earlier after the death of pope Urban VIII. Salvi based his theatrical masterpiece on this design. He never saw his monumental Baroque fountain completed. The Trevi Fountain was only inaugurated in 1762, eleven years after Salvi had passed away.

The fountain, which is designed like a monumental triumphal arch, was built against a wall of the Palazzo Poli. It measures twenty meters wide and twenty-six meters high and occupies more than half the square. 

The central figure of the fountain, standing in a large niche, is Neptune, god of the sea. He rides a shell-shaped chariot that is pulled by two sea horses. Each sea horse is guided by a Triton. One of the horses is calm and obedient, the other one restive. They symbolize the fluctuating moods of the sea. The statues were sculpted by Pietro Bracci.

On the left hand side of Neptune is a statue representing Abundance, the statue on the right represents Salubrity. Both these statues were the work of Filippo della Valle. 

Above the two allegorical statues are bas-reliefs.
The one on the left shows Agrippa, the general who built the aqueduct that carries water to the fountain. Attic of the Trevi FountainHe is shown explaining his plan for the aqueduct to Augustus. The bas-relief on the right captures the moment the virgin points to the source of the spring. The allegorical statues on the top, in front of the attic, symbolize the four seasons. Crowning the top is the coat of arms of pope Clement XII.

Tradition has it that you will return to Rome if you throw a coin into the fountain's water basin. You should toss it with your right hand over your left shoulder or left hand over your right shoulder with your back to the fountain. You're not allowed to look behind you while you're tossing the coin but the fountain is so large it's basically impossible to miss.

Our last stop of the day is the Spanish steps. Climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinita dei Monti at the top the steps aredominated by Trinita dei Monti Church.  Situated at the eastern end of the old city centre. From the base there is a maze of very narrow lanes crammed full with designer shops waiting to be explored or ignored depending on your inclinations.

Although a major draw for visitors there is no particular wow factor as such, a place to congregate and hang out for a while and do some people watching.

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photo by: vulindlela