Edit Blog Post
Published: December 28th 2007
From the outside the Colosseum looks impressive
When in Rome - see what the Romans did 2000 years ago
Now over Christmas and New Year I am visiting Rome
in Italy. To be honest it was not on my top-10 list of places where to spend Christmas. But since affordable flight tickets to other places were scarce this year (and I am a miser) this is where I ended up. But Rome is a wonderful city and I have been planning on going here for several years so I am not disappointed or anything. It's just that December and January are not the best months to visit Italy. But here I am and I intend to make the best out of it.
The city of Rome traces its history back a very long time. There is historical evidence of people having lived here for 3000 years at least. Many of Rome's major attractions are in fact 2000 years old or more. The city of Rome was the centre of the Roman Empire
- an empire that 1900 years ago completely surrounded the Mediterranean Sea and totally dominated Europe for several hundred years.
You might say that Rome was a superpower and as such they did what
When you see the interior you notice that there is very little left if Colosseum's former glory.
superpowers usually do - they built impressive buildings. Many of these buildings are today only ruins and most of those still standing are more or less damaged. One of the most famous of the remains from the Roman Empire that can be seen today is the Colosseum
. The Colosseum was the main arena for spectator sports and other events. It is mostly known for the vicious gladiator fights (see Ridley Scott's film Gladiator
for an idea of what these fights could be like) but was also occasionally used for other things. Architects have found evidence that it is possible that the Colosseum could be used for staging play naval battles, with water and boats and everything. For a very long time this was thought to be only legends. But when they discovered evidence that the arena was actually made waterproof and built like a gigantic water reservoir they started to believe that there might be some truth behind it after all. It is possible that they could have created a gigantic pool inside the Colosseum.
😊 It is also a little known fact that during the Roman Empire they also used to have rock concerts in Colosseum. In fact
This used to be a playground for sports and games located in the Palatino Hills
the Rolling Stones kicked off their 457 AD world tour with 10 consecutive shows in the Colosseum and the Who was thrown in Jail when Keith Moon threw a drumstick at emperor Nero during a show in the Colosseum in the Summer of 64 AD. When Keith Moon later was released from Jail he was so angry that he set fire
to the entire city. 😊 (Someone said that irony went out of fashion in 1989. I hope that is not true because then I am hopelessly out of date here).
The Colosseum is big, but not the largest amphitheatre in the World, and it is relatively well preserved, though there are other amphitheatres from the Roman times in much better shape. But still Colosseum outshine any other amphitheatre, or for that matter most historical buildings in the entire world, by being the mother of all stadiums. The reference for stadiums and arenas for thousands of years.
The truth is, Colosseum today is nowhere near what it used to be. Large sections of the outer wall is missing and the spectator stands have collapsed a long time ago and the pitch is all gone so all you can see
Forum Romanum or Roman Forum
The Roman Forum used to be the centre of Rome both politically and economically. Today it's not even ruins. It is mostly scattered stones.
the old walkways that used to be hidden from view. But Colosseum is, in spite of its sorry shape today, still a great place to visit. But to get the most out of it it's not a bad idea to see the movie Gladiator first.
Around the Colosseum there are plenty of other remains from the Roman Empire. The Palatine Hill
, a short walk away from the Colosseum, is where the most prominent people of ancient Rome used to have their houses. Today there are lots of ruins standing all over the hill and if you have a really good imagination it is possible to picture what the houses, mansions and the palaces might have looked like.
Also close to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum
. It was the political and economical centre of the city of Rome. But after the Roman Empire collapsed the Roman Forum was abandoned. Nature took over and the stones used for palaces and temples were removed and reused for other buildings. So today there is mostly scattered stones left of what once was the heart of the Roman Empire.
But there is actually one building from the days of the Roman Empire that
One of the few things still standing in the Roman Forum
is still standing today - the Pantheon
. Originally it was a temple and later it was transformed into a church. Panteon has been standing there for almost 1900 years. The outer walls have taken a beating over time but Emperor Hadrian, who had Pantheon built in the year 125 AD, would clearly recognise it if he was to see it today since it essentially is the same building now as it was 1900 years ago when it was new.
An odd thing about Rome is that you can find remains from the Roman Empire just about everywhere. The other day I found a street where there were two Roman walls or possibly old aqueducts sticking out between the modern day houses and in several places I have stumbled upon Roman ruins just by chance. This reminds me a little about Athens in Greece actually. That is another place where old ruins jump at you all over the city.
In northern Rome there is a bridge named Ponte Milvio
. It is a nice old bridge very much like other nice old bridges in the World. Only this one has a twist. A few years ago loving couples started to come
Triumph Arch in the roman Forum. It dates back to the reign of Emperor Septimus Severus.
to the bridge bringing padlocks with them. They hocked the padlock onto a lamppost and threw the keys in the river. This symbol of love became so popular that the lamppost they used threatened to collapse under the weight of all the padlocks. It came to a point where the Mayor of Rome banned the habit and removed all the padlocks. But after protests the Mayor had specially designed padlock hangers put up and now anyone may put a padlock there. Well I don't have Emma with me on this trip so hanging a padlock on Pont Milvio felt wrong. But I helped some friends and trusty travel companions to put up a padlock. If you don't understand who they are don't bother trying to figure it out.
Near Ponte Milvio is another bridge that caught my eye. It is called Ponte Flaminio and the construction was ordered by the fascist leader Mussolini. I dislike fascism but I have to admit that they knew how to build grand monuments.
All over Rome there are interesting places. There are squares, here known as piazzas (not to be confused with pizzas), fountains, statues and more. The best way to explore
Formerly temple now a church. The Pantheon has looked essentially the same for the last 1900 years.
these nice pieces of art and architecture is to do it on foot.
One thing I found on the first day I wandered around the streets of Rome was the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II
. It is a grotesque marble monument symbolising the unification of Italy and also holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. According to my guidebook the Italians don't like it. They think it is too large and dominating. But I kind of like it. I like the bombastic style it is made in. It appeals to me. But then I don't have to see it every day...
Behind the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II there are the Capitoline Museums
. The most famous of all the exhibitions there is the statue of the Capitoline Wolf
or, as most people think of it, of Romulus and Remus. The statue is probably around 2500 years old and was at first only the Wolf. But at some point in history someone wanted the statue to fit in the legend of how the founder of Rome, Romulus, and his brother Remus had been adopted and brought up by a wolf. Therefore they had two small children made and added to the statue.
The entrance to the Pantheon seen from a different angle
to tell you about a man I met yesterday when I was having lunch. He was sitting with his wife at the table next to me and we ended up chatting about this and that. He told me that he was from Russia and when he heard that I was from Sweden he told me that Sweden, along with the rest of the Scandinavian countries, has a reputation in the World of being a moral superpower. I thought that was interesting. Being Swedish I have to say it's not entirely true. But still it's nice to know that we are known for having high moral standards.
Tot: 0.071s; Tpl: 0.019s; cc: 8; qc: 27; dbt: 0.0079s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb