Our continuing exploration of Rome's Centro Storico brought us to its most historic sites, ones that have been standing for 2,000 years and longer.
There is an overwhelming sense of history as you descend towards what was once the center of Roman life, politics, society and culture. One of the
first sites you see is the towering Column of Trajan which recounts the Empire's conquest of Dacia and is told pictographically in a carved marble
scroll the winds up to the pinnacle. Originally topped by a bronze of Trajan it now holds Saint Peter:
You are next drawn to the mammoth Forum of Trajan, the largest of the Imperial Forums. It was at the time one of the largest civil engineering works
ever undertake and required excavating parts of the Capitoline and Quirinal Hills. It is also the first example of mixed use structures with
retail/workshops on the ground floors and upper stories where the merchants and their families would have resided. The great Apollodorus was the
Looking west towards Trajan's Column and the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument:
The Forum is split by a modern, arched street, this is the north side looking east:
South side looking west:
The north side looking west where you can see the steps leading to the former portico:
And the south looking east which backs up onto the Foro Romano:
The next of the Imperial Forae is that of Augustus. It was adjacent ot his Grand Uncle's, Julius Caesar and lays between the Foro Romano and that of
Trajan. Here is a view looking west towards the Capitoline Hill:
In this shot you can see the much smaller Forum of Caesar behind that of Augustus. Caesar's Forum was the first forum built outside of the original
Roman Forum which had existed for over 500 years by that point:
This is a picture looking south towards the Palatine Hill and gives you a great perspective on how high that hill is even today. It was once the site
of the imperial palaces and is where we get the name 'palace' itself:
The next stop is the most famous of all of Rome's landmarks and is visited by over 6,000,000 people each year, the Colosseum. Built on the grounds of
Nero's Domus Aurea, or Golden House, its actual name is the Flavian Amphitheater named after the Emperor Vespasian Flavianus and his two sons, Titus
and Domitian, who undertook the construction using the spoils from the sack of Jerusalem. Its name is taken from the Colossus of Nero which once stood
adjacent to the Colosseum and saw his head replaced with that of Helios.
Built in only 10 years it could hold over 50,000 Romans, who did not pay to enter, and would host games from morning until dusk, sometimes in
festivals lasting over 100 days. Seating was assigned and the Colosseum had architectural innovations we use to this day, including a retractable
It looms over your view when coming down the Via dei Fori Imperialii and no picture is really able to capture its monumental scale:
The road is above the former street level and affords a great view of both the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine:
It also provides a great view of the upper stories of the Colosseum. Notice the projecting brackets at the top, these were used to hold the masts that
the Valarium, or closing roof, would be anchored on. The entire system was operated by 1,000 Imperial Navy seamen who would often times use the ropes
to dramatically swing down to arena-level before looping back up to the roof:
The interior of the Colosseum is just as impressive as the exterior and, due to a good portion of the marble facing being removed, you are able to
view the inner support structure. In some areas the marble still remains and interesting finds are on display.
Contrary to popular belief most gladiatorial matches were not to the death as the athletes were very expensive to train, house, feed and equip.
Additionally, as they continued to amass victories, they became incredibly popular, much like modern day athletes, and even had their own fan clubs.
In the below picture is a topless Amazon (her partner was off to the left) and their trained pet tiger. The tiger is wearing a good luck charm. Sadly,
the charm did not work as this is a memorial inlaid into the marble and paid for by their fan club:
Moving to the arena area you can easily take in the scope of the Colosseum, despite their being a good portion of the outer walls missing. These are
from the second level, which is as high as you are permitted without special passes:
The last photo shows some of the continuously occurring restoration on the 2,000 year old edifice. Also of note in the second picture is a trap door.
The curator of the Colosseum held a contest by reaching out to the major engineering universities in the world to see who could devise an actual
functioning trap door system using the indentations and markings present in the Colosseum. Only one university was able to do this, the
German Archeological Institute at
. Here is another angle:
The trap door reaches down into the hypogeum where hundreds of workers would toil in dark, hot, cramped and dangerous quarters using the 24+ lifts to
hoist animals, people and scenery onto the arena floor for the beast hunts, executions, historical recreations and gladiatorial events. The hypogeum
reaches over 20 feet underground and is labyrinthine in its layout:
Not everything was toil and drudgery, just like modern arenas there were preferred seats.
These are from the ground level and would have been for Equestrian and Patrician seating:
This is a view of the Senators seats, still with the marble intact:
The Vestal Virgin's box on the lower level:
And the Emperor's box:
From the Colosseum you get a very good view of the Temple of Venus with the Church of Santa Francesca adjacent to it:
As well as the Arch of Constantine: