Adventures in Roma – Part 3

Thursday was our final full day in the Eternal City. We made sure we got up super early and got to the Colosseum before opening at 8.30am, and I am so glad that we did. The queues were not long and there weren’t tour guide touts about to try and charge us 3x the normal entry price. The Colosseum is such a breathtaking place, and having learnt about it during my modules on Ancient Rome at University, it has somewhere I have always wanted to see.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by how low the entry fee was. As I’m still under 25, and a citizen of the EU my ticket cost only €7.50, and that paid for access to both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum area. My partner had to pay full price, but even €12 was a bargain.

Now then, you’ll all know as well (at least I hope you all know!) that I am a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed series. Rome is the setting for AC: Brotherhood and the Colosseum plays quite a big part in bits of the storyline. It was kind of cool wandering around this amazing building thinking, “So Ezio jumped right off the top of that into a pile of hay, and there’s an imaginary hidden tomb underneath the building”. And that is the end of my Assassin’s Creed fangirling for this post. Now then, back to the serious stuff.

As we walked through the entrance, both of us just stopped and went, “wow…”

Most of us know what the Colosseum was used for. Or at least I hope we do. And considering as how this is a history blog, I hope you won’t mind if I indulge in a little history on this most amazing building.

The Colosseum was begun by Vespasian in AD72 and completed by Titus in around AD80. It was Titus who officially inaugurated the Colosseum with shows that lasted for no less than 100 days at a time. Construction was therefore hugely rapid, taking less that 10 years to complete, however later Emperors made changed to the structure. Domitian made the final changes to the building. As we all (or most of us, I hope) know, that the Colosseum was used for both gladiatorial combat and venationes (hunting wild animals in the arena). One such Emperor, Commodus, apparently took part in gladiatorial combat himself and called himself a gladiator. Though it seems that he was never actually in any real danger! The structure went through many repairs during its lifetime, however in the 4th and 5th centuries material from the Colosseum began to be looted and reused which is what eventually lead to it looking the way it does today. All throughout the middle ages and Renaissance the structure was basically used as a quarry for building materials (I overheard a tour guide at the pantheon saying that a lot of the outer facing stones were looted and used in church building, but I don’t know whether that’s true or not. Again, not so hot on my Roman history). According to a book I picked up at the Colosseum bookshop (La Regina, 221), even the Pope’s plundered some of the stones to help build St Peters!! It was also used as a container for animals! In 1675, by Papal degree, it was made official that the Colosseum would be used to honour the memory of all the Christian Martyrs who had lost their lives there.

The archaeologist in me obviously got very very excited at seeing this building. Although it was only in the Nineteenth century that the first systematic excavations of the building were completed. And during this time major restoration work was begun. These days the Rome Archaeological Service looks after the building, preserves it and conducts further excavations as and when they are needed.

The photo just above, although it just looks like a bunch of stones got me really rather excited. Behind a massive iron grate were all these bits of masonry. And each and every one of them had some of the most beautiful carvings on them. As I said, the archaeologist in me got really excited.

Once we were finished with the interior of the Colosseum we decided to make use of our tickets and head up to the Forum. Once we excited though, we realised that actually we were out of water and the day was getting hotter and hotter. It wasn’t even midday and the temperature was already creeping up towards 40 degrees. So we sat in the shade for a bit to try and recharge our batteries before setting off. And in the mean time I took a couple of pictures of the most amazing Arch of Constantine.

The Arch of Constantine is the largest triumphal arch known and dedicated to Emperor Constantine. Aka the bloke who made Christianity legal in Rome and stopped all the persecutions. The arch was dedicated to Constantine in AD 315 by the senate and people of Rome to commemorate his victory at Milvian Bridge. From the Fifteenth Century study and restoration work was carried out on the Arch was continues to this day. I won’t go any further into the history of either the Arch or the Colosseum because to be quite honest there is enough information on them both to fill three theses on both subjects separately!

After this we began to make our way towards the entrance to the Archaeological and Forum area, swinging by a quick drinks stand to see how much a bottle of water was. After seeing a tiny bottle, which the stall had put ice cubes in being sold for €2, we decided against it, remembering that there were fountains in the forum area. Said fountains would prove a lifesaver within the next hour or so, I can tell you!

We didn’t spend much time in this area because it was just painfully hot and we were struggling. When we eventually found one of the water fountains (by the arch of Titus), we ended up sinking down onto a stone bench underneath the trees and filling our massive two litre bottle up at least three times after draining the thing. Even that wasn’t enough!! Because of this we didn’t get to see any of the majorly important parts of the area here, but we did see the Via Nova, the Nymphaeum and the Arch of Titus which if I’m honest, in that heat, was more than enough. We agreed as we made our way out of the area that we would visit when the weather was a little bit (aka, a lot cooler!) so we could see more! However, here are a couple of pictures that I did manage to take.

Archaeology hjdshdfshfdks *flails about* – yep actual archaeology going on. No archaeologists about though, probably because you know…heat and stuff.

After we crawled out of the Forum area, barely able to stand and still chugging yet another 2 litres of water, we decided to hop back on the Metro and head back to the Battistini area so I could see the one little place left on my “To See While In Rome” list as well as to find some lunch. When we got there we decided to try and find this Irish bar we had seen advertised (the other half was fed up with Italian food and didn’t really like the Italian pizzas all that much ha!). So off we went and spent a pleasant couple of hours in a little pub that reminded us somewhat of home. It’s a shame everything was so expensive though…but anyway, we managed to recharge our batteries, have a bit of a moan over the price of our lunch and then set back out to find the Convento Di Cappuchini.

Now then, this fabulous little Convento and Crypt deserves a post all of it’s own. Mainly because in such a teeny place there is just so, so much history and it is incredibly moving. So keep your eyes peeled over the next couple of days for that one!

Further reading

La Regina, A (ed), 2011, Archaeological Guide to Rome, Electa: Milan

Adventures in Roma – Part 2

Our original plan on our second day in Rome had been to go to the Colosseum. But we overslept and by the time we got there the crowds were huge and we ended up being accosted by more tour guide people wanting to charge us extortionate prices for the tour. No thanks. So we decided that the Colosseum would be done the next day, that we would get up early to avoid the crowds, and off we headed to the Pantheon!

It has long been a dream of mine to see the Pantheon. I honestly think it is one of the most beautiful buildings in the entire world. So, as we got off the metro at Battistini and began to walk towards the Piazza de Rotunda, I could feel my excitement growing.

First of all however, due to the insane heat (seriously, it was around 40 degrees every day we were there!), we decided to swing into the nearest gelataria and get ourselves some famous Italian gelato.

It seems that the place we had chosen was actually quite a posh place. I was expecting it to come in a little cardboard pot or something. But nope, posh glass bowl and biscuit was the order of the day. It ended up being quite expensive, but it was tasty. The one I had was made up with Nutella!

Following this we began our search for the Pantheon, and got ourselves rather confused. However, thanks to actually looking up directions on the net the night before we knew that it wasn’t all that far from the Trevi fountain. We wanted to see the Fountain anyway, and realised it would be easier to find the Pantheon if we found the fountain first. And when we rounded a corner, and saw not only a massive crowd but quite possibly the world’s most beautiful fountain, I was blown away…

The history of the Trevi fountain is really quite interesting, as the beautiful carvings we see today weren’t finished until 1762! However there has been a fountain in the area since around 19BC. It is actually the decoration of a termination of the Virgo Aqueduct and was created by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. It was however in the Fifteenth Century that Pope Nicholas V ordered that a new fountain be built there, which was the beginnings of the beautiful monument we see today.

Of course while we were there we had to have some pictures taken in front of it, and I did the whole throwing a coin over my shoulder and making a wish. I’m not going to tell you what I wished for though…

Once we were finished at the Fountain we made a slow bimble down the side streets towards the Piazza de Rotunda. There weren’t too many people down the little streets when we were there thankfully so it gave me the chance to take some pictures.

And then, as we dodged various restaurant people trying to get us to eat in their establishments, we entered the Piazza de Rotunda….and there it was.

The Pantheon is the oldest and most preserved Roman building in the entire city. And it is totally breathtaking. We stood out the front gazing up at it for such a long time before actually going inside. I couldn’t believe for a moment that I was stood there.

The Pantheon that we see today is actually a replacement built by Emperor Hadrian between AD 118-125. The original Pantheon, built in 27 BC by Marcus Aggripus, burnt to the ground in around AD 80. In fact the Latin inscription above the entrance is still the original dedication to Marcus Agrippus and reads: “Marcus Agrippa son of Lucius, having been consul three times made it”. Nowhere on the building we see today, has Hadrian’s name written on it.

Today, the Pantheon is used as a Church (and a tourist attraction, obviously) but back in the day it would have been a temple to the Roman Gods. It has been used as a church since around AD 608 when it was given to Pope Boniface VIII.

Inside, it just gets even more breathtaking.

The dome, with it’s occulus completely blew me away and I took so many pictures of it. Reading up on how it is built is so interesting too, although going into the architecture of the place would end up needing a post or five all of their own. However, the dome is made up of a series of interconnecting arches which rest on a series of 8 pillars which consequently correspond to the bays at the floor level which house the statues. As I said, the architecture of this beautiful place involves a blog post all of it’s own so I won’t go into any more detail of it here.

There was one particular place in the Pantheon that made me flail a little (*cough* a lot) and that was the tomb of the quite frankly awesome Raphael! Yep, Raphael the famous Renaissance painter guy who did all that painting in the Vatican.

Raphael has to be one of my favourite Renaissance artists, second only to Leonardo Da Vinci so it was a big moment for me to stand in front of his tomb.

Back outside in the Piazza is a rather beautiful fountain, the water of which is lovely and cold! Of course I didn’t totally put my hands in there to cool off……..Anyway, a lovely lady offered to take a photo of me and my partner whilst we were there, and the picture is lovely. He has asked me not to put said picture up on the blog though. So have some pictures of the fountain in question instead.

And that was that. We had agreed to make this day a bit easier, considering as how we had exhausted ourselves the day before, so we took a slow bimble back towards the metro, stopping off for some lunch in a restaurant down one of the high streets. This was probably the biggest mistake of the day…as it was so close to the Pantheon, they obviously thought they could get away with charging through the roof for stuff. Ok, so the food was priced as to what we expected (9 euros for a pizza, still a bit steep), but when we got the bill we realised that we had probably had the most expensive cans of diet coke in the entire city. €3.50!!!!!

After finishing our lunch we headed back for the metro via some of the shops in the side streets where I picked up a bottle of limoncello. As we were almost back at the station, I noticed a bar which my seventeenth century self flailed a lot over…

That Samuel Pepys gets everywhere!!!