For our second trip into Rome we decided to make it a "short" day, focusing just on the Colosseum, the Roman Forums, and the Palatine. It is a good thing we didn't plan anything else! When we arrived we each plunked down 12 euro for a combined ticket to see all three sites and started in on what would become a six hour trek through ancient history.
The Palatine, home of elaborate gardens and the estates of Rome's ancient kings was first. It is said that high atop the Palatine was where Romulus (of Romulus and Remus) first looked out on the view and drew the outline of the city of Rome. Emporer Augustus lived there, as well as Caesar and a long line of Roman kings.
It was hard to believe that the buildings and hunks of marble column strewn everywhere were two thousand years old. On more than one occasion as we were walking near crumbling arches or some remarkably intact ancient building I looked down at the (mostly) dirt path to notice I had stepped on a very nice bit of tiled floor. The first time this happened is when it really hit me: people have been walking on that tile for 2,000 YEARS!
I was filled with questions—who lived here? What did they do for a living? Did they like their tiled floor? Did kids play on it? Who built these walls? What did they use for brick and mortar that made the walls last 2,000 years? Who taught them how to do it? Were they slaves or were they paid craftspeople? Did they get lunch breaks? What did they have for lunch?
Even more mind boggling to me is the idea that in the grand scheme of things 2,000 years isn't even that long. Will anything we make these days last 2,000 years? I feel doubtful.
My favorite part of the Palatine was Augustus's house. We had to wait in line as apparently only a certain number of people are allowed to breathe on the fragile frescoes at once (we're told moisture could damage them). We didn't mind the wait; it was one of the few shady spots on the Palatine and we were already tired. When it was our turn, I was excited but I didn't know what to expect. We walked down a "hallway" to the inner chamber of Augustus's house and saw this:
I could not believe how vibrant the colors were and how much of the frescoes were still intact. Who painted them? Who mixed the plaster? How did they get such intense red colors? Where did the pigments come from? If we were at home I would be buried in the shelves of the local public library finding out.
After several hours there was still plenty of Palatine left unseen when we decided we'd better move on to the Roman Forum. We stopped to rest our legs on the way, sitting on a beautifully carved marble column that somebody shaped hundreds of generations ago.
We only made it a short way into the Roman Forum before realizing we didn't have the energy to explore another vast area filled with the crumbling remains of an ancient civilization. We took a few pictures under the beating sun and carried on to the partial shade of the Colosseum. As we approached, men dressed in ancient Roman armor paraded around trying to pose with people for pictures (and tips).
By the time we reached the Colosseum we were starting to become a little desensitized to massive, ancient structures. Nevertheless, we read all of the informative displays explaining the history of the building and were quite impressed by the man who began the project, Emperor Vespasian. A bit of a rebel, unimpressed by wealth and ceremony, he lived simply and quietly and tried to rule more fairly and justly than his predecessors. Somehow under his rule they managed to build the Colosseum in just five years.
Some interesting facts:
The animals killed in the bloody shows were butchered and the meat was given out to the public for free.
NAVAL BATTLES were held in the Colosseum. I never got a clear answer as to how but they filled the stadium with enough water to have full size ships fight each other!
Gladiator blood was mopped up and sold in a lucrative business based around the idea that drinking human blood was supposed to cure epilepsy.
The shows were free for the public and everything was paid for by the "editor," which in Rome's case was the emperor.
After circling the Colosseum several times in awe, we made our way back to the modern streets of Rome. We were completely exhausted as we walked across town to St. Peter's station to catch our train back to the campsite. On the way, we stopped once more to admire the peaceful Pantheon as our farewell to Rome.