Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Rome 2 - ruins

You cannot go to Rome without seeing the vast history overlapping itself and modernity. Though the forum is more crowded these days (put a price on it and tourists will flock?) one cannot help but be fascinated. On the Via Sacra, the main road going through the forum, the very large facade of the Temple of Antoninus & Faustina is clearly visible. You can see that there was a church built onto it later.

The Basilica of Maxentius is so impressive, especially when you consider that these large arches would have been to the side of the basilica. This basilica can easily be compared to St. Peter's, Vatican City, for scale. I have a book that I bought on my first trip to Rome which is really helpful for visualisation: photographs of sites have flippable overlays which illustrate the site as it would have appeared in its heyday! I love this book!

All that remains of the circular Temple of Vesta in the forum. I was a bit disappointed that there are barriers to go along with the better footpaths in the forum, so I didn't have the freedom to wander among the ruins as I did on my first trip. But perhaps "disappointed" is too big a word, as walking this close to these ruins will always be an amazing experience.

I was taking a good look at the Arch of Septimius Severus and was curious about this "angel" with the soldier's uniform on a stick, My daughter had the interesting suggestion that it could represent soldiers doing the will of the gods, like puppets. Another possibility is that it is Victory (Nike figures in Roman iconography have wings) displaying the armour of the vanquished. On the bases of victory columns (such as Trajan's Column, the Column of Marcus Aurelius, etc) the armour of the defeated armies is depicted. I went back to the other arches in the forum, the Arch of Constantine and the Arch of Titus, to find that the same motif recurs.

On another day it was lovely to stroll by some other ruins which have had some reconstruction work done. There are two remaining temples from the original Forum Boarium, one of the earliest Roman river port facilities (Portus Tiberinus). This circular temple is often attributed to Vesta but  apparently research has shown that it more likely the Temple of Hercules Victor, dating from the 2nd c BCE. When taking a closer look at the nearby rectangular temple (also in good nick, restoration/renovation work having been done) I noticed part of a modern sign visible through a window. I could read "ecola" and wondered if a university "school of archaeology" had access to the buildings. They were clearly locked with modern locks.

Walking further up this road (parallel to the river, between the river and the forum) one comes upon the remains of the Theatre of Marcellus (begun by Julius Caesar and finished by Augustus; Augustus dedicated it to his nephew & heir, Marcellus) and three columns of the Temple of Apollo. The beauty of this site is its easy access, and as you can see by the photo, the rarity of tourists.

Continuing a stroll, in the direction of Campo de Fiori, is the Area Sacra. This forum is below ground, with limited access (only at certain times) and is a cat sanctuary. Apparently Rome is famous for cats everywhere, but we only saw two at the Colosseum and counted thirteen here; we saw no others. One of the four temples at Area Sacra is the site of Julius Caesar's murder and wreaths are still lain in his memory.

Sunset is a lovely time to view the Imperial Fora (across the road from Forum Romanum, aka the forum).These fora were built by/dedicated to Julius, Augustus, Domitian, Nerva and Trajan. There is limited access to Trajan's Forum at certain times, but all fora, including Trajan's Column, can be viewed from street level (i.e., looking down into fora and in the case of Trajan's Column looking both down and up!).