Saturday, November 6, 2010
Colosseum and Roman Forum - Rome, Italy
The Colosseum had been completed up to the third story by the time of Vespasian's death in 79. The top level was finished and the building inaugurated by his son, Titus, in 80. Dio Cassius recounts that over 9,000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games of the amphitheatre. The building was remodelled further under Vespasian's younger son, the newly designated Emperor Domitian, who constructed the hypogeum, a series of underground tunnels used to house animals and slaves.
The arena itself was 83 meters by 48 meters (272 ft by 157 ft / 280 by 163 Roman feet). It comprised a wooden floor covered by sand (the Latin word for sand is harena or arena), covering an elaborate underground structure called the hypogeum (literally meaning "underground"). Little now remains of the original arena floor, but the hypogeum is still clearly visible. It consisted of a two-level subterranean network of tunnels and cages beneath the arena where gladiators and animals were held before contests began. Eighty vertical shafts provided instant access to the arena for caged animals and scenery pieces concealed underneath; larger hinged platforms, called hegmata, provided access for elephants and the like. Separate tunnels were provided for the Emperor and the Vestal Virgins to permit them to enter and exit the Colosseum without needing to pass through the crowds.
According to Roman mythology, the Palatine Hill was the location of the cave, known as the Lupercal, where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf that kept them alive. According to this legend, the shepherd Faustulus found the infants, and with his wife Acca Larentia raised the children. When they were older, the boys killed their great-uncle (who seized the throne from their father), and they both decided to build a new city of their own on the banks of the River Tiber. Suddenly, they had a violent argument with each other and in the end Romulus killed his twin brother Remus. This is how "Rome" got its name - from Romulus.
Many of the Forum's temples date to the periods of the Kingdom and the Republic, although most were destroyed and rebuilt several times. The ruins within the Forum clearly show how urban spaces were used during the Roman age. My favorites in the Forum include the following major monuments, buildings, and ancient ruins:
One of the most fully intact buildings is the Curia Julia, or Senate House, a stark brick building. The relief panels knows as the Plutei of Trajan, commissioned by either Trajan or Hadrian to decorate the Rostra, can be seen inside.
The circular Temple of Vesta was one of ancient Rome's most sacred shrines and was dedicated to the goddess of fire. The flame, kept alive by the six Vestal Virgins, symbolized the perpetuity of the state and its extinction prophesied doom for the city. The Vestal Virgins were selected when they were between six and ten years old and served for thirty years. They were buried alive if they lost their virginity and whipped by the high priest if the sacred flame died out.
The white marble Arch of Septimius Severus at the northeast end of the Forum is a triumphal arch dedicated in AD 203 to commemorate the Parthian victories of Emperor Septimius Severus and his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, in the two campaigns against Parthia (modern day Iran and Iraq) of 194/195 and 197-199.