Friday, December 20, 2013

11:10 AM Arrival at the Roman Forum (Part 2 of 2)

Today in Part 2, let us continue our journey to the Roman Forum (Foro Roma) in the 115 CE Rome (see Part 1). As mentioned in yesterday's post, I'm quoting a VERY long passage from Alberto Angela's book A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome. Andiamo di nuovo! Let's go again!

As we come to the far end of the piazza of the Forum, we find ourselves in front of a lot of other temples, on different levels, [...].

While our guide is talking, we are struck by other wonders. The boy, in fact, shows us almost distractedly a long terrace that looks out over the piazza. It's a large podium decorated with the prows of captured animal galleys. These are the rostra veteran, or rostrums, and we will learn that it was from right here, leaning against this balustrade, that Marcus Aurelius recited his famous funeral oration for Julius Caesar, featured in so many films. The Forum is a blend of history and architecture.

With the rostrums now behind us, a strange object comes into view: a large gilded column. It shines like a jewel at the feet of the Temple of Saturn. This is the zero point of all the roads that leave from Rome: the
Milarium Aureum (Golden Milestone). The distances between Rome and all of the major cities of the Empire are carved into its gilded bronze surface. There is no better way to demonstrate the veracity of the saying all roads lead to Rome,"or vice versa, that they leave from Rome.

And that is not all. Just ahead there is an even more symbolic place. The boy points to a small building. "Umbilicus urbis," he says, the umbilicus of the city; that is, the center of Rome. And since Rome is the center of the Empire, that point is the center of the entire Roman world.

The Forum is also the daily paper of the Roman era; this is where you hear the news. You'll find people who want to talk politics, others who are upset about the latest taxes, and still others who have the inside dope about job openings in the government. Then there'll be somebody who has a brother serving with a legion who will tell you about the progress of some military campaign, or even a soldier who'll tell you about a battle. Not to mention upcoming gladiator fights or chariot races, or gossip about famous families in the social limelight. In short, walking through the Forum is like leafing through the pages of a newspaper; there's a business section, a sports page, politics, gossip.

There's another striking thing about the piazza: the statues and bas reliefs are colored! Today we're used to seeing them in museums with the natural tone of marble that is, white. The truth is that the color has faded away over the centuries. If the Romans could view them in our museums, they'd be surprised to see them so pale, like faded t-shirts. The Romans actually paint their statues, and the colors are brilliant: the lips are red, the face pink, the robes blue, etc. [...]

There you go. I love the way the author transform history into a wonderful and engaging story. It is a vivid account through a single day in the capital city of the Roman Empire. I highly recommend this book, especially if you will be visiting Rome (or have visited). By the way, have you read Part 1 of this post?

As I thumb through the pages, I re-lived the moments I spent at the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill (Palatino), the Capitoline Hill (Campidoglio), and so many other breathtaking places in the ancient city. It will be impossible for me to forget Rome.


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