Rome in details – Forum Romano, Forum Imperiale, Circus Maximus, Palatine Hill, Colosseum

So, I am detouring from my travel diary to focus on specific places in Rome. Why? Just because Rome demands and deserves it, Rome exudes beauty, vibe, power, history. Rome, well Rome is so diverse, so fantastic that it surely has forever a special place in me.

As I wrote previously I lacked planning on my first trip to Italy. I did plan for Florence and Venice, but no plans for Rome. I would be there alone, and I would see it at my pace. I did miss places (I did not see Coliseum inside, Sistine Chapel, Saint Peters basilica inside, Borghese gardens and gallery), but now I realize I subconsciously did it on purpose. Because I want to go there again, and again, and again. Each time seeing new places, new corners, and repeating others that by either its charm of the impact they had, are worth a revisit.

The power and magnificence of the Roman Empire is everywhere, every street, piazza, corner, building. It is a city with so much character, where you truly breath history, you are literally transported back in time, and if you have a prolific imagination like me, you can vividly see the ancient Rome and feel there.

I walked km each day in Italy. I broke every record in Rome. I never thought it would be possible to walk 27km in one day. Well it is. It was. It will again be, soon I promise. Rome is so walking friendly, that I did not even feel I was walking so much. Early autumn still with sunshine and hot days, but cooler nights, so good for a wine and a nice meal.

So today I will focus on a small area that deserves a special post due to the history it exhales: The area that comprises Fori Imperiali –  the Forum Trajano, Circo Maximo and Colosseum.

Fori Imperiali

This is where I had my second (and last) emotional moment in Italy. I don’t know if it was the huge weight of history or any other reason, but I could not stop the tears when I looked at the remains of the ancient times of the Roman Empire here at the Trajan Forum. It was quite difficult to put myself together and leave, and it did not happen with the Roman Forum or even the Coliseum. It was a very emotional yet strange moment that I still cannot explain.

Marcus Ulpius Traianus – Trajan, reigned as Rome’s emperor from 98 until 117 C.E. According to the history, he was a damn good military man, Trajan was extremely popular.

The emperor was born on September 18, 53 CE in Italica (Seville) in the Roman province of Hispania, becoming the first emperor born outside of Italy as his family had its origins in northern Italy. Young Trajan entered the army at an early age, under his father in Spain and commander in the Seventh Legion in northern Spain.

Trajan’s usefulness was recognized by Domitian, and he was able to avoid his reign of terror and stay alive.

Like his predecessor, Trajan and his wife were childless and, like Nerva, he chose adoption to solve the problem of an heir. He adopted and named his cousin’s son Hadrian (remember, Adriano and Castel Sant’ Angelo from my previous post?) as his successor. However, rumours persisted that Hadrian had never been officially adopted. Trajan’s wife Pompeia Plotina supposedly used a ruse – forging documents – to make the adoption official, thus making Hadrian the third of the Five Good Emperors. Ancient History Encyclopedia
The Forum Traiano was the last imperial forum to be constructed. After conquering what is now known as Romania (Dacia), the emperor was extremely rich. He used the spoils to construct the forum in his name. The semi-circular shape of the market and the Trajan column, are fine examples of its magnificence. The Trajan forum once comprised two libraries and a civic space. The massive and beautifully carved Column is called the
Trajan Column and narrates the victory of the Emperor in Dacia, with a statue of St. Peter installed on top. 
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Trajan Column and Basilica Ulpia

Part of Forum Trajano is the market, considered the first shopping center ever known to men. It had six levels in which there were once 150 shops and apartments.

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Fori Imperiali – Trajan Market
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Close up of the Trajan Market
The impressive Basilica Ulpia is located at the northern edge of the courtyard, dividing the fora in two, being on the east side the courtyard and the libraries and the Column of Trajan on the west side.
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Basilica Ulpia

 Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus

The Roman Forum was the religious, political and social hub of the Roman people in the ancient times. With the fall of the Roman empire the forum was, as time progressed, buried under the earth. In the 20th century excavations took place revealing that marvelous historic past when Rome was literally the most powerful empire on earth.

The Roman Forum was built over a marshy area, that was drained in the 6th century B.C. using Cloaca Maxima, one of the first sewer systems known in the world.

The forum comprises a huge number temples (Venus, Vesta, Saturn, Romulus, among others as well as the Via Sacra (the main street in ancient Rome), the Arch of Titus (commemorates the victory of Rome over Jerusalem), Arch of Septimus Severus, Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, Temple of Maxentius and Constantine, the Curia: (where the Senate met) and the Column of Phocas (dating back from 608 A.D. is over 13 meters high, is one of the few that have remained standing).

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Foro di Cesare, Churches of Santi Lucia e Martina and on the right Santa Francesca Romana
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The passage ways in the Roman Forum
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Basilica Aemilia Palatine Hill on the upper left
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Temple of Saturn in front, Curia Julia on the left at the back and the Temple of Antoninus e Faustina on the right at the back. Between the two, stays the Basilica Aemilia
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Arch of Septimius Severus, Umbilicus Urbis, and the Column of Phocas, the last monument built in the Roman Forum, Basilica Julia, and at the back Tempio dei Castori e Polux. Far back the Palatine Hill
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Largo Romulus and Remo, Curia Julia on the right. Curia Julia was one of the earliest buildings built in the Forum, the house of Senate
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Temple of Antonius & Faustina on the left next to Temple of Romus, Colosseum, at the top Basilica of Maxentius

Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus

The Palatine Hill is approximately 40 meters above the Roman Forum and one of the oldest parts of the city. It is considered as the place where the Italian capital city was born, dating back to 1 thousand years BC.

According to Roman mythology, the cave where Luperca (the she wolf that adopted Romulus and Remus  lived) is in Palatine Hill. The brothers grew up and decided they would form a city on the banks of the Tevere River, but they could not agree on some particulars of that decision. Romulus then killed his own brother and founded Rome.

The Palatine Hill holds an impressive array of ruins of buildings that belonged to the members of the high society. Among them you can find:

  • Domus Flavia: Dating back from 81 B.C. and built by order of Emperor Domitian. Some parts of it can still be seen.
  • House of Augustus: a private residence of the Emperor Octavian Augustus, who served as the first Emperor of the Roman Empire, controlling Imperial Rome from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. The building had two levels and today still has part of the frescoes that decorated the walls.
  • Farnese Gardens: dating back from the 16th century they were one of the first botanical gardens of Europe.
  • Hippodrome of Domitian
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Palatine Hill

Circus Maximus was the largest stadium in ancient Rome, where chariot races were held. It dates back from the 6th century BC and it began to be constructed by order of King Tarquinius Priscus. It is located between the Palatine and Aventine Hills (two of the seven Hills on which Rome stands). The stadium was reached its maximum size during Emperor Constantine reign, with a seating capacity 250,000 people, approximately 1/4 of the Rome’s population at the time.

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The archaeological side of Circus Maximus
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Palatine Hill, ruins of the Imperial palace, view from Circus Maximus
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View from Circus Maximus to Palatine Hill – Temple of Apollo Palatinus

The Colosseum and Arch of Constantine

The Colosseum is located east of the Roman forum. The construction of the Colosseum, during the reigning time of Emperor Vespasian, started in 72 AD, and was completed 8 years later, in A.D. 80. Titus (Vespasian’s son) directed the official opening of the Colosseum (known as Flavian Amphitheater) with a full 100 days of games. The Colosseum is a magnificent and impressive structure, built in an elliptical form, with more than 48m in height. The huge building could accommodate more than 50,000 people, that accessed the building using one of the EIGHTY (YES 80) entrances.  Colosseum had a total of 4 above ground stories, being the upper one reserved for the lower classes and women, and the lowest story for important people.

The Colosseum was used by the Roman Emperors to entertain the public with games that were a symbol of power as well as prestige. The games comprised comical acts and displays of exotic animals as entrance acts, to open space for the deadly fights between animals and gladiators or between gladiators themselves.

Trajan is said to have celebrated his victories in Dacia in 107 with contests involving 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators over the course of 123 days. During lunch intervals, executions ad bestias would be staged. Those condemned to death would be sent into the arena, naked and unarmed, to face the beasts of death which would literally tear them to pieces. Other performances would also take place by acrobats and magicians, typically during the intervals.

the great earthquake in 1349 severely damaged the Colosseum and collapsed the outer south side, that was over alluvial terrain. Much of the stone was reused to build palaces, churches, and other buildings in Rome.

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Via Sacra, with the Colosseum in front
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Panoramic of the Colosseum
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The magnificence is sill present
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Beautiful architecture
Next to the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine, the most recent of the three still standing triumphal arches (Titus, Septimus Severus and Constantine), and celebrates the victory of Constantine over Maxentius, back in 312 AD at the Battle of Milvian Bridge.

It is a beautiful and impressive structure, carved with decorations. The frieze depicts Constantine’s army driving the troops of Maxentius into the Tiber.

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The beautiful setting of Contantine’s arch
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Constantine’s Arch and Colosseum
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Close up
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From a distance

 

 

 

4 comments

  1. motoguzzimomma

    My goodness, Dalila! How interesting and informative. Rome is now on my agenda for sometime this year after reading this and seeing your wonderful photos.I prefer to travel alone because there is no need to plan and discuss – one can lose oneself in wherever we find ourselves. I can understand the emotional reaction you had. Beauty can move me to tears too. Thank you once again.

    Reply

    1. heelsandspices

      Rome is a city to be visited many many times! September I will be there again

      Reply

  2. Barb

    What a great travel writer you are. I can feel the love in your words. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

    1. heelsandspices

      Thank you Barb

      Reply

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