Ancient Rome – to understand the past

Europe’s capital cities are filled with famous sights, and often there is one in particular that stands out among the rest. Rome has many but the Colosseum and the Roman Forum are without doubt symbolic of Ancient Rome. You soon appreciate the opportunity to explore and learn about ancient Rome rather than focussing on the present.

We have all heard so many stories about the Colosseum. Entering the arena was a bit unreal. It has an imposing presence and a remarkable endurance in the face of time and earthquakes. It is as impressive as the stories of cruel gladiator games and elaborate mock sea battles. This is the Colosseum’s power of attraction.  The Colosseum played an important social role in Roman society providing citizens with the ability to participate in public celebrations. It provided the means for rulers to provide entertainment to the masses and more importantly, influence and measure the mood of the people.

Entering the Colosseum through the Gate of Death, where the bodies of gladiators were carried through after their fateful battles, you feel quite small and insignificant. Standing on the edge of the arena floor, you look up at the massive ruins of what was once the largest and most impressive structure of its kind. The original arena floor was dismantled centuries ago, but the new stage still offers a unique vantage point of the Colosseum.

The upper levels provide a wide view of the Colosseum, as well as the ruins located nearby at the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. This is also one of the few spots where you can still see pieces of the original outer walls of the Colosseum. The rest were taken and sold after the fall of Rome.

You can never truly capture the spectacle of the Colosseum without all the people and the noise. But, having access to this wonderful and unique structure and listening to the tales that once occurred made it a little easier to imagine what the Colosseum must have looked and felt like for those who fought and the spectators. Along with the experience of the Roman ruins in Merida, this is truly amazing and memorable.

Moving away from the Colosseum, we are regaled with stories associated with the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. Both the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum are entirely just ruins, which keeps them feeling authentic rather than museum-like.

Several myths and legends surround this area, the most famous of which (the tale of Romulus and Remus) depicts the fabled events that led to the founding of the city of Rome. Fables aside, there is a lot of real history to be seen here. The Palatine Hill is an excellent spot to take a walk. It’s the least crowded of the Ancient Roman historical sites with the added bonus of expansive views over the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and other areas of the city towards the ‘Toaster’.

Flavian Palace is an enormous palace built for Emperor Domitian dominating Palatine Hill. Stadium of Domitian was most likely used as Domitian’s personal gardens, it’s possible small sporting events were also held here. Domus Severiana were the last rooms added onto the imperial palace by Emperor Septimius Severus. The baths provide an insight into Ancient Roman life.

The Lookout Terrace, although not a part of the ancient ruins, is a terrace near the connection between Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum is one of the best spots to get a good look at the Forum ruins before you enter them at ground level.

The Roman Forum was transformed from a marshy plot of land to the administrative, political, and economic heart of Ancient Rome. This is where you discover Roman history and get a glimpse into daily life during the height of the Roman Empire. Looking at the Roman Forum is an experience, seeing monuments from a time period long ago, trying to comprehend the generations that have constructed the arches, temples and dwellings. To think that people walked these cobbled streets and held meetings in those areas feels impossible.

It was the epicentre for social life, a place where citizens and slaves would cross paths with patricians and senators and attend events of public interest. A collection of beautiful and majestic ruins of buildings representing different ages in the life of the city, it is today one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.

It is not hard to believe that the Roman Forum was the true beating heart of the city, an area around which several temples, public buildings, statues of significance and memorials were once situated. The Roman Forum was the commercial and political centre of Rome. Walking through the Roman Forum along Via Sacra, Rome’s Sacred Road stretching from the top of Capitoline Hill through the Roman Forum and to the Colosseum, you walk past government buildings where the Senate met as well as temples and shrines and several monuments dedicated to Rome’s famous rulers of the times.

A few select buildings, arches and columns, and statues remain recognisable in their semi-original forms. The rest is only fragments of what once was. But it is enough to be able to imagine how incredible the Roman Forum would have looked in its prime.

Arch of Titus The oldest of the Roman Forum’s triumphal arches, erected after the death of Emperor Titus by his brother Emperor Domitian.

Temple of Castor and Pollux These three, tall Corinthian columns known as the Three Sisters are one of the most recognizable monuments still standing in the Forum.

The Curia The official meeting place of the Roman Senate, the Curia was torn down and rebuilt many times. The current Curia dates back to 305 AD.

Temple of Saturn The original was the first temple built in the Roman Forum. The eight columns still standing today belong to one of its successors built in the 4th century.

Arch of Septimius Severus Commemorating Emperor Septimius Severus’s decade in power, this arch was also considered the symbolic center of Rome.

Maybe Rome can be defined by its ancient past. But Rome is far more than that. You should admire Rome from its ancient ruins to its cosmopolitan present. This is a beautiful city to visit, especially for the history it holds and the abundance of artefacts. You will be left in awe when you visit not just the ancient ruins, but the juxtaposition of a modern city just a short walk away.

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