Ancient Roman Ruins

We spent most of the day on Saturday exploring the ancient Roman ruins.  I had no idea so many parts and pieces of the really ancient buildings still existed.  It seems the key to survival was repurposing.  If a building found a new life as a church, it was preserved.  If not, it was allowed to fall down and something else was built on top.  The Pantheon is a perfect example of this.

Another way an ancient building could be “saved” was to be buried over time.  Many of the buildings we saw were completely covered in the 1800s and have only been excavated since then.  It’s really amazing what they’ve found and continue to find everyday.

As is usually the case, pictures tell the story best.  Enjoy!

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Of course, we have to start with the Colosseum, which is a nickname for a building really known as Flavian Amphitheater.  It’s undergoing some renovation so most of the outside is covered in scaffolding.  Mostly what they’re doing is cleaning the marble so it is mostly white once again.  The portion you see here has already been cleaned.

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Inside the Colosseum.  The giant oval would have been covered by a wooden floor and that would have been covered by sand.  Sand in Italian is “arena” and that’s where the word we use comes from.  Of course, sand is great at absorbing excess amounts of blood.  The structures in the middle would have been below ground and there are about 100 lifts that ended in trap doors.  They allowed the ancients to put 100 animals into the arena at the same time.  FYI:  our tour guide said there were many factual errors in the movie Gladiator, but the reconstruction of the Colosseum was exactly right.

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Here we are!  May I just say this was an incredibly hot and humid day? Still no curling iron!

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This is the view from the Colosseum.  We were allowed as far up as the second level.  They are slowly beginning to open the third level and the underground tunnels to tours, but the next available English tour wasn’t until November.  If you’re planning a trip, book that tour early!  It’s really, really popular.

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I’ll be honest, I’ve forgotten whose house this was.  We saw so many; but it was one of the emperors.  Probably Domitian.

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More of Domitian’s house.  This was the private area, with the beautiful gardens and courtyard.  It also had a bath that was beautifully shaped and tiled.

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The view of the area around the forums (yes, there are several forums) from Domitian’s house.  The building on the right with the giant arches was a basilica — a place for trade and commerce.  When the Christians were designing their first churches, they were uncomfortable mimicking the pagan temples, so they were molded after civic buildings.  That’s why many early churches have lots of arches, naves, and side alters.

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This was the arch Hadrian built to honor the sacking of Jerusalem in about 70 A.D.  the frieze on the inside (not shown) shows the Roman soldiers carrying off the booty from the Jewish Temple.  It is said that the jews who lived in Rome during the time this arch was in use refused to pass under it and would always go around.

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This is a temple of Romulus.  It’s not THAT Romulus, however, but that is why it was probably preserved.  It’s actually in honor of a 7 year old boy, the son of an emperor, who was deified upon his death.  Even the bronze doors were saved during a time when anything bronze (including the Collosus and every other ancient bronze statue) were melted down to make cannons.

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This was fascinating to me because I didn’t realize any evidence still existed.  This is the courtyard of the home used by the Vestal Virgins.  Just behind where I’m standing when I took this picture are a couple columns in a partial circle that would have been where the fire of the Vestal Virgins was kept burning 24/7.  Girls were brought here by their families between the ages of 7 and 10 and left here to serve as Vestal Virgins for a period of 30 years.  After that, they were free to leave, but most didn’t.  They were old women by then, given the life expectancy at the time.  FYI: if a Vestal Virgin might happen to have lost her virginity at any time during her service, she was buried alive, no questions asked.

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