If you’ve ever seen the play Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, you’ll hear one of Brutus’s famous lines he speaks to the inhabitants of Rome. The line is his way of explaining his actions for murdering their ruler. [It’s] “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.” This powerful comment alone shows the audience just how Brutus has been manipulated by the workings of ‘Rome’ both internally and externally, and feels his actions will saved its people and the city he loves.
Today, Rome can still manipulate its visitors indirectly when they allow both its magic and history to seeped deep into their souls. From the smallest to the largest; or even to the oldest aspect of its existence, this city will enrich and change the lives of everyone who comes in contact with it both physically and emotionally. Just like the rest of Italy, Rome has its own unique personality that makes everyone speak their own variation of Shakespeare’s famous words …“It’s not that I loved Italy, but I loved Rome more!”
Nicknamed the ‘Eternal City,’ Rome stands as a testament to history and the passage of time. As Italy’s largest city in Italy and the country’s capitol, its multi-millennium existence has made it the center of power, culture, religion, world influence and the assertion as the birthplace to one of the world’s greatest civilizations. Located on the ‘Tevere’ River (Tiber River) between the Apennine Mountains and the Tyrrhenian Sea, Rome is built on the historic seven hills of this region in central Italy.
Rome’s city center is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, offering a collection of palaces, millennium-old churches and basilicas, ancient ruins, lavish monuments, ornate statues and beautiful fountains. Its rich historical heritage and cosmopolitan atmosphere, makes it one of the world’s most visited and beautiful capitals. Also regarded as one of the fashion capitals of the world, some of Italy’s oldest jewelry and clothing establishments were founded here.
Rome is a truly global city, and when you walk around it, you’ll also find it’s a city of contrasts. One minute you’re walking in areas among huge majestic palaces and long avenues among basilicas, little churches and old houses surrounded by tiny alleyways; then grand buildings and tree-lined elegant boulevards will suddenly disappear as you go around a corner and stumble into the center of a cramped Medieval-like street. Even modern buildings rising alongside ancient ruins and millennium old structures.
It’s a cornucopia of architectural evolution offering the observer a delightful and awe inspiring lesson in the progression of human civilization in one place. As a visitor, when it comes to tasting a bit of the flavor of ‘ancient Roman life,’ there are a few sites you must see, just for their sheer ruinous beauty and inspiration:
The Roman Forum. For centuries this area was the center of Roman public interaction and offered its inhabitants a place to watch, interact andexperience everyday life. From celebratory processions and elections; public speeches, criminal trials, and gladiatorial matches; to commercial commerce, this was the core of Roman life. Amongst these great ruins, visitors can see the remains of statues and monuments commemorating the city’s great men while acquiring a sense of what this area must have been, teaming with thousands of people from every walk of life. Many of the oldest and most important structures of the ancient city were located on or near the Forum; the ancient former royal residence the Regia, the Temple of Vesta and the House of the Vestal Virgins. Other shrines like the Umbilicus Urbis and the Vulcanal (Shrine of Vulcan) developed into the Republic’s formal Comitium (assembly area), where the Senate, as well as Republican government began.
The Coliseum. Known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, this elliptical theatre in the center of Rome, was the largest amphitheatre of the RomanEmpire, and is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. Situated just east of the Roman Forum, it is estimated it could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. It ceased to be used in the early medieval era, and much of its building materials were reused for other building in the city. (Most of its marble was stripped and used to build St. Peter’s Basilica). As one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions, it is well worth taking a guided tour to see and hear the extensive history of this incredible wonder of man’s making.
The Circus Maximus. Remember the movie Ben Hur and its famous chariot race scene? Today visitors to Circus Maximus can walk the remainsof this once massive racing track reenacted in the movie. As Rome’s first and largest stadium for ancient chariot racing it measured 621 m/2,037 ft in length and 118 m/387 ft in width, and could accommodate around 150,000 spectators. In its fully developed form, it became the model for circuses throughout the Roman Empire. Today it is a public park and you can walk or run its length to view what is left of its spectator stands. If you listen closely, you might hear the ghostly cheer of the crowds pushing you to the finish line.
The Pantheon. Considered one of the oldest and best-preserved of all Roman building, still in continuous use, this onebuilding has been an enormous influence in Western architecture. Originally built and used by the Greeks as temple, the Roman Marcus Agrippa, commissioned its reconstruction during the reign of Augustus as a temple to all the Gods of ancient Rome. As an architectural wonder, it possesses a perfectly circular shape with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky.
Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same (43.3 meters/142 ft). Since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic Church dedicated to ‘St. Mary and the Martyrs’ (Santa Maria della Rotonda). The square directly in front of the Pantheon, the ‘Piazza della Rotonda,’ is a perfect meeting point for visitors and residents in the city, and within a few feet of it is an incredible gelato shop that serves over 250 flavors – you must stop at it!
We’ve only scratched the surface of Roman, so it is only appropriate that we continue our journey further into its historical, cultural and artistic bounty next week. With thousands of years to travel around, you’ll soon discover that no matter how many times you visit this incredible city, there is always something new and exciting to discover. Isn’t history an amazing thing?
Rome Skyline © Paolo Margari (Paragraph #1)
Roman Forum © Mshai (Paragraph #7)
Coloseum © Tjflex (Pargagraph #8)
Circus Maximus © nottp86 (Paragraph #9)
Pantheon © ben_lei (Pargagraph #10)
Juliet Martini is an aspiring romance writer in the contemporary and romantic suspense genres, seeking fame and publication (hopefully), in the near future. Currently, she is working on her second book, the first in a three book series centered on passion, wine and Italy. By day, she hides out as Margaret Hren, a marketing and fundraising consultant, and when time permits, she is building her author website and planning her next exotic travel get away. She also hopes to also launch her travel blog, The Travel Savvy Chick, later this year focusing on travel tips and personally acquired destination information.