Monday, January 16, 2017

When in Rome...

Although our trip to Rome started later than planned because of bus delays, it turned out to be an eventful day once it got going. After our three hour bus ride, we arrived at the hotel in Rome. After we checked in, we began our tour of the capital of the world.

The first stop was the Colosseum, a Flavian amphitheater capable of holding up to 55,000 people, which was built between 72 - 80 CE by the Flavian Dynasty next to Nero's Palace as a testament to his greed. The reason why this amphitheater has remained in such good condition is because of its multitude of arches which signify triumph and help keep the building sturdy. The Colosseum had many functions including entertainment as a part of the patron-client system, political value, and creating a sense of community. Additionally, the games were a way for politicians to gain votes and get public recognition. The games were also a demonstration of Rome's ability to conquer others. Perhaps most importantly, the Colosseum served as a means by which social hierarchies were established. For example, royalties and Vestal Virgins had the privilege of sitting in the bottom seats while those lower down on the social class had seats near the top.

In regard to the games held in the Colosseum, the first half of the day was typically reserved for animals fighting other animals with the occasional gladiator on animal fight. The middle part of the day incorporated the audience by having drawings for door prizes, songs, shows, and executions. The afternoon was reserved for gladiator battles and was the part of the day that everyone looked forward to. Gladiators tended to be outcasts or slaves and were forced to fight for their freedom. Gladiator battles taught moral values by demonstrating the nobility of death and the gladiators lack of fear of death. Although everyone loved to watch the fights, the emperors sometimes limited the amount of gladiator paris to avoid being ostentatious and demonstrating a lack of virtue.

Next we walked through the Arch of Titus to enter the ancient Roman forum. The forum was originally swamp land, but it was drained by the Etruscans in the 7th century BC with the intent of using the space as a market place. This atypical forum boasts of two basilicas along with the House of Vestal Virgins, which is an ancient religious cult central to the identity of Rome as a republic and an empire. Girls were brought into the cult as early as the age of 12, upon which they were seen as women. Members of the cult could supposedly feel when Rome was threatened, which is why they were viewed as so important. These women remained priestesses for thirty years, during which they were required to retain their virginity upon threat of being buried alive. Next to the House of Vestal Virgins was a temple to the goddess Vesta, who symbolized the hearth and the home. The Romans viewed the home and family values as central to the foundation of the empire.

Next Lynn showed us one of her favorite spots, the cloaca maximum. (Fun fact, cloaca means bird poop hole.) This was not only used for a sewage, but also to divert the water of the marsh land into the Tiber River. Romans valued water systems because they saw them as a way to control nature, so they outlined the cloaca maximum with marble in order to show its importance.

We wrapped up our tour of the forum by observing the Temple of Concord and Temple of Saturn, which are the two oldest temples in the forum. We also took a look at the curia, which was built in 44 BCE and served as one of three center buildings in Rome along with the Senate building. Since then, the curia has undergone several renovations and has been kept as a church. Inside of the curia there is an image of Emperor Tiberius forgiving people who have to pay off their debts.

Our last stop of the day was the monument to King Victor Emanuel, also known as the Victorian and the "altar of the nation". Started in the 1890's and finished in the 1920's, this massive monument was designed to give Italians a sense of unity. Complete with a 50 ton statue of King Emanuel riding his horse to meet Garibaldi to get the key to the city, the monument also includes four statues of women on top of the building which are meant to depict the four different regions of the Italian state. There is a fountain located on each side of the monument which symbolizes the two seas that surround Italy, the Mediterranean and the Adriatic.

Overall, we had a great day, and we can't wait to see what else Rome has in store for us.

- Bailee & Zach

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