Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Roman Holiday: Ancient Rome

Our last day in Rome started with a trip to the Colosseum. (well, it actually started with Olimpia's eye freaking out and swelling up in the middle of the night, but that's another story...)

Thankfully, both of us could see when we set out on Monday morning. Our awesome Roma passes we bought the day before let us skip the insanely long line and go right in!

I kind of wish we had done a tour or something, because we didn't really know what we were looking at. However, it was really fun to just wander around and take our time. It took us a while to walk around the whole place and see both levels. I mean, it's obviously a huge place. It could seat 80,000 people!

One thing I didn't know was that a lot of Christians believe that early Christians were martyred here. There's a big cross as you walk in commemorating that. When I looked it up later, though, apparently historians say there's no evidence that that happened here. You never know I guess.

I was excited to be wearing my 'gladiator boots' for this occasion. Not sure if gladiator's wore flowers in their hair though, so the authenticity ends with my boots.

After getting our fill of the inside, we walked around the outside to take it all in.

The Colosseum is right next to the Roman Forum, which I didn't know! I took this picture of Constantine's Arch from the upper level of the Colosseum.

This was built to celebrate his victory at Milvian Bridge, which was the beginning of Christianity's association with Rome!! Oh, no one else is excited by this? It's just me? Because I'm a history nerd? Ok.

Anyways...here's a picture looking back towards the Colosseum as you're walking to the Roman Forum. It makes me feel like I'm artsy because it turned out well.

The Roman Forum is basically the city center of ancient Rome. You can see lots of ruins there from the most important buildings of old Rome- like monuments to emperors, temples, palaces, and government buildings.

After Constantine's Arch, the first thing you come across is Titus' Arch. And this was the thing I was the most excited to see! 

Brace yourselves for another history nerd moment. This arch commemorates Titus' victory over the Jews. He was the general that oversaw the siege of Jerusalem, and eventually the destruction of the temple and the end of the Jewish rebellion against Rome. So carved into the arch is a picture of Romans taking the treasures from the temple, including the menorah.

This is fun for a couple of reasons. One, Israel based the menorah that they use as their national symbol form this carving. Two, ancient Jews refused to walk under this arch. When the state of Israel was declared, Roman Jews gathered here to celebrate and walked under it backwards to symbolize that Jews had a country again. 

Three, pretty recently some Arab extremists have tried to claim that Jews never even lived in Jerusalem or had a temple there.

In yo face, Yasser Arafat.

Pretty sure 1st-century Romans didn't just make that up. 

Right away from this arch, we were getting some cool views of Rome.

There were stairs leading up, so we decided to go higher to get even better views. And we found some!

When we went up the stairs, we actually ended up on Palatine Hill (the middle hill of the 7 that the Rome's built on). During the Roman Empire, several emperors had their palaces here. Palatine is actually the root word of 'palace'...if I remember right. 

There weren't a ton of ruins on the hill, but it was a very pretty place with lots of gardens and great views. We probably enjoyed ourselves a little too much up here.

After doing weird things such as the things pictured above, we headed back down to the Roman Forum and wandered through lots of columns and old buildings and things of that nature.

The columns that are on top of the circular platform in the far left of this picture was the Temple of Vesta, where the Vestal Virgins lived. Something else that I was interested to see.

And that concludes our visit to Ancient Rome. One last site I wanted to see before we left Rome the next day was the church San Pietro in Vincoli. It's famous for Michelangelo's statue of Moses with horns that's there. On the map it looked like the church was right outside of the metro stop, but we couldn't find it right away.

It was only later that I remembered my grandpa telling me a mission story about how hard it was to find this church...we'll have to trade stories later.

The bonus was that we were wandering through a very picturesque part of Rome that we hadn't seen before.

We stopped here on this pretty street for some gelato. Because really, who needs lunch when you can just eat gelato instead? At the place we stopped at, Olimpia had the best gelato of her life and I had the worst. It was mint flavored with actual mint leaves in it and it was naaaasssssssty. But I least I got to sit on a pretty street while I ate it.

We wandered a little more until we came to this secret tunnel staircase. 

Thankfully, Olimpia decided it would be a good idea if we climbed it and went through, because the church was on the other side! The church doesn't really look churchy on the outside:

But the inside does, so no worries.

And herrrrreee's Moses!

I got to have my second Jewish history moment of the day, because Michelangelo giving Moses horns is based on a Hebrew mistranslation. And a little after Moses' time, Jews started to be more villainized  by the Catholic church and were often depicted with horns. I don't think it was Michelangelo's intention to be anti-Semitic here, but that's definitely how many people have interpreted this sculpture. In fact, I even got to listen in on an Israeli tour group talking about Catholic anti-Semitism in front of this sculpture.

By this point, me and Olimpia were very satisfied with our Rome experience and had seen everything we were planning to see. We went back to our apartment to get started on packing, and then ventured back out at night for one last hang-out at the Trevi Fountain.

I still can't believe I got to see this city that I've been dreaming about for years! And this was only the first half of my time in Italy. Stay tuned for some posts about Florence, Siena, and Pisa.

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