Ally, Jordan and I met Vincenzo at the Colosseum and we were off. Ally had met him years ago on a different trip to Rome and he gave us a free tour of the Forums and the Colosseum.
We had learned during the domus tour that there were actually several forums in the area. It's now surrounded by the ruins of ancient government buildings and the current city buildings are above it.
In ancient times it was the center of public life as a venue for public speeches, trials, elections, commercial affairs and more.
Ceasar's body was also publicly burned in the area, using any timber the Romans could find, including the roof of the Roman Senate.
We went into the original Roman Senate, as it's still largely intact and the roof was replaced. There's currently an exhibition on Nero inside. That's where I learned the origins of "body politic" and "head of state." Seriously, how had I not heard those before?
The Romans had headless statues that represent the institution, the "body politic," and they would change the head as the emperor changed, leading to "head of state." That showed that to the Romans, the institution was more important than the man, a similar concept to the American political system. So much for my polisci degree, don't remember learning that!
But, standing in there and seeing an ancient stack of bricks (I kid, it's amazing), made me realize, yet again, how little I know or remember about ancient Rome and how it influences us today. I will be making some library visits this weekend or parking myself at the bookstore and giving myself a history lesson.
They think Ceasar's cremated remains might be buried somewhere in the area of the forum, but no one has found them yet. It's one of Rome's great mysteries.
We walked on the original walk ways, or Sacred Way, where many ancient stones remain. Cool for the history factor, miserable to walk on for very long. You find yourself silently yelling at yourself to LOOK UP instead of concentrating on the stones, so you have to move slowly so as not to break your ankle but to also take in the ancient ruins.
We made our way to the Colosseum next and really, it's one of those things that you see the pictures and then you see it in real life. It looks just like the pictures, but still takes your breath away and you have a major "I am here" moment. I love those moments.
Interesting that we build stadiums pretty much the same way they built the Colosseum, minus the massive rocks and the fact that we have modern technology to speed construction. And yet, the Colosseum still stands.
Many statues and pieces are missing, the statues were mostly stolen. Some was disrepair and after the Colosseum ceased to be used for public events, people basically squatted in the vacant space.
We learned about the brutality of the gladiator matches, but also the killing of animals and the people that were killed by the animals, largely for sport. The emperor paid to build the Colosseum and also for the activities there. It was free entertainment, food and drink for the Romans. The guide told us it was in many ways to keep people happy with the emperor, keep them entertained and keep them aware of having to fight invaders/enemies at any time.
But, it was brutal and we asked if anyone had ethical issues with the activities, this was before PETA after all. Vincenzo told us that there were reports of a friar who stood between two gladiators at one match. The friar was killed, but the matches stopped after that. No one really knows if it was the friars actions that stopped the matches, or if the emperor ran out of money, or something else entirely.
The views from the top of the Colosseum are incredible and not to be missed. Taking in all of the Forums and part of Palatine Hill from there was just amazing.
Vincenzo had to catch another tour so we headed to Palatine Hill on our own. A little tougher to figure out without a guide, but still amazing. It's where the emperors lived and Augustus was the first, I think. We found some of the rooms that were part of his house and some of the frescoes are still visible. If you see the pictures on Facebook, there's a few where you can see the frescoes.
We found some more awesome views of the city from the hill and wandered around the ruins for awhile, eavesdropping on another tour now and then to figure out what we were looking at.
By then we were starving and passed Circus Maximus (very anticlimactic) on our way to the Jewish Quarter for lunch at a place that came highly recommended by Jordan's host mom. Ba'Ghetto and it is in fact amazing. Amazing! We had falafel and I had a pasta with cheese and pepper...in a bowl of baked cheese. Seriously. It was like the pasta never ended. I struggled a bit, but managed to pretty much clear my plate.
We visited a very popular bakery that was pretty much cleared out by then, but Ally picked up some sort of pastry thing that included jellied fruits. Interesting, but surprisingly tasty. With our baked goods to power us on, we walked (more walking!) to the church with the Mouth of Truth, or Bocca della Verita. Again, some pictures on Facebook. It's where they would bring accused adulterers and have them put their hands in the mouth and if you were guilty, priests were on the other side to hit your hand. This tradition apparently came from Venice, where people would write and submit their accusations into slots that looked like mouths throughout the city.
After pictures with the Mouth of Truth, we went into the church that had a sign in which a translation went awry: "Dress whit dignity."
Language barriers aside, the church, Santa Maria in Cosmedin was beautiful. Probably my favorite. This is where I really noticed how much the tile mosaics looked like the one we saw in the domus tour on Saturday. And where my obsession with this tile really took hold. Seriously, there are lots of pictures of it on my phone that I need to upload.
With time to kill before dinner, we crossed the river to Trastevere for some exploring. We ended up in one of the earliest churches in Rome, Santa Maria. The support columns inside were "repurposed" from other Roman sites.
After a day of history, we wrapped up with dinner at the site where Ceasar was stabbed. Seems fitting to have already seen his cremation and possible burial site. It is, after all, all about Ceasar.