Day 2 - City of Seven Hills


Palma de Mallorca

Ah, Rome, city of seven hills, center of the Roman empire, capitol of Italy.   So much history, impossible to see in one day, but we did our best.  Our visit to Rome was on Day 3 of our vacation.  Holland wanted a high price for the tour of Rome, and since there were six of us, we decided to make our own tour with a Limo.  Mauro, our driver, drove down from Rome to pick us us at 8 AM.  Actually, he arrived early, but we weren't ready.  An hour and a half later we were in Rome.  Being from the U.S., you can see right away that the early Italians didn't tear anything down, they just built somewhere else.  Not that they protected the ruins, they were used for building materials.  The Colosseum, built in 70 to 80 AD, was stripped of the marble facade which was used on St. Peter's in the 1500s, as well as other places.  There is no telling where all the statues went from the Colosseum.  They're probably in someone's garden.

Overlook of Rome

In the upper left hand corner of the picture below can be seen one of the main two landmarks that are quite visible in Rome, the Altare della Patria, or Altar of the Native land.  It was constructed from 1885 to 1921 in order to celebrate the national unification.

Our first stop was supposed to be at some place Tonya picked as being the best example of something or other.  

Tempietto of San Pietro

It was called the Tempietto of San Pietro.  After asking everyone around, many only a block from it, I think it's main attraction was finding it.  We took pictures of other fountains and statues while searching for the Tempietto -- they're all over the place -- but ended up going around and around the top of the hill (one of the seven, I assume) trying to find how to end up at somewhere else.  It seems they change the direction of traffic routinely just to make things lively.  As for the Tempietto, which is a 15 foot diameter round Temple built in 1502 in the middle of what now is a language school, there is no crowd looking for it.  For the morning, only one other couple discovered it.  It wasn't worth the time.

Castle of St. Angelo

Next, we went to the Castel Sant' Angelo, just a drive by, really.  Originally, I believe, this was a Mausoleum when it was constructed in 135 AD.  It was transformed into a Castle in 271 AD.  The bridge was adorned in 1668 with ten statues of angels by Bernini.  In 1753 a bronze angel was placed on top commemorating a vision by Pope Gregorio of the ending of the plague in 590 AD.







Spanish Steps

One hundred and thirty-eight steps that lead from a French Church S.ta Trinita d, dated 1495, to a plaza which contains another Bernini fountain built in 1629: La Barcaccia


Personally, I thought these steps represented our entire vacation.  It seems we were going up and down stairs or steep roads everywhere we went.  The spike-like statue in front of the church at the top of the stairs is an Egyptian obelisk.  This is a very pretty area normally; unfortunately, June is not only the peak of the tourist season, but evidently the peak of building and statue cleaning/repair.

Piazza Navona

As Plaza's go, this has to be one of the most filmed in Rome.  We ate lunch just across the plaza from the Bernini fountain of four rivers.  Actually, it is called the Fountain of the Rivers.  The four rivers it represents are the Ganes (Asia), Nile (Africa), Danube (Europe), and Plate (America).  At the time it was built (1657) they were unaware of there being more than four continents, so the rivers represented the continents.  Strange they chose the Plate (Riodella Plata), which may be wide but probably 2 inches deep, as the American river instead of something significant like the Mississippi which they were completely aware of at the time.  

Notice in the photo below how most of the church is very white but the top is not.  The same is true of the fountain.  These items were being cleaned....very slowly.  We didn't see any workers.  Maybe they don't work on Mondays.

The outside cafes, of which there are a number, also have varying prices and menus.  I think the locals use the cafe on the corner just left of the center entrance (to the right of this picture).  We ate at one that advertised Pizza.  The pizza was definitely not up to American standards, although somewhat interesting for a one time experience.  Prices were extremely high, about $120 for a light lunch for six.  The plaza actually contains three fountains, all by Bernini.  To truly appreciate the Rivers fountain you have to have some knowledge of the conflict between Bernini, one of the most famous artists and contractors in the 17th century of the baroque style, and Borromini, his baroque style protagonist.  The building behind the statue was built first.  Both Bernini and Borromini were in consideration for the contract for building the church which wasn't unusual for any project contracted by the Pope, but in this case Borromini won.  As a conciliation, Bernini was awarded the three fountains.  To show how horrified he was of the style of the church, Bernini had all the figures in the Rivers fountain looking appalled, as can be seen from this figure with his hand up and a blanket pulled over his head.  As it worked out, Bernini only had the first strike, although possibly the most blatant.  I have no idea which river this guy represents.

The Pantheon

It is hard to talk of the Pantheon without giving somewhat of a history lesson.  Many have heard/seen the Shakespearean version, but I seriously doubt anyone knows of the politics of the time.  Nevertheless, after the murder of Caesar on March 15th, 44 BC, Octavius, a 19 year old man, was named as Caesar's chief heir.  Unfortunately, Octavius 

wasn't old enough or had enough experience to actually take over for Caesar.  Eventually (about 40 AD) a Triumvirate was established consisting of Octavius, Mark Antony, and Lepidus.  Lepidus was later forced out by Octavius, which upset Antony since the third member usually voted with him instead of the younger Octavius.  Octavius tried to iron things out by giving his sister Octavia to Antony as his wife.  Meanwhile, back in Egypt, Cleopatra was given the throne of Egypt at 18.  Somewhere along the way she had a child by Caesar.  Evidently, Augustus desired her enough to set aside Octavia and marry Cleopatra.  His and Cleopatra's army clashed with Octavius' at Actium.  Octavius won, partly due to the abilities of Admiral Agrippa.  Antony and Cleopatra rushed back to Egypt and committed suicide, a fate far better than what Octavius had planned for them.   Executing all of her children including her son by Caesar, added Egypt to the Roman empire until its fall over three hundred years later.  To honor the victory Octavius had the Pantheon built which was designed by Admiral Agrippa.  At the time it was only the rectangular front with 16 columns.    After being struck by lightning around 110 AD, the round domed structure was connected to old monument in 117-125 AD and the old structure became the front porch.  Actually the domed ceiling could not have been done in 27 BC anyway since they needed to make it out of molded concrete and concrete wasn't invented (at least by the Romans) until about 20 BC.

Okay, don't cross your eyes, just a little more history.  In 125 AD the monument of 27 BC became a temple to the Gods (of the week): Apollo, Diana, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.  Seven niches were made inside the temple, one for each God.  Above, a dome with a diameter of 142 feet (and starting about 142 feet off the ground), has an 18 foot diameter hole in the center to let in light.  The floor was made slightly concave to drain off water that came in through this skylight through a center drain.  Huge bronze doors were on the front.  After the sack of Rome plus almost 300 years, the Temple was reconsacrated on March 6, 609 as the Church of St. Mary of the Martyrs.  In place of the long ago "removed" statues, Italian kings and queens, plus Raphael, the prince of Renaissance painters, were interred in their place.

It seems every plaza in Rome has an Egyptian obelisk.  The obelisk represents great wisdom.  I think they all came from the Byzantine empire in the 6th century and were used in the 17th century fountain and sculpture building frenzy.  They are everywhere.  In front of the Pantheon, at the top of the Spanish Steps, on the Rivers fountain, in the middle of Piazza San Pietro, and our favorite here on top of an elephant.  We called it the "Meeting Elephant" since it is half way from where our Limo parked and the Pantheon (the back of which can be seen in the photo).  With all these narrow streets that look alike, we used this as a reference point so we could discuss where we were on the walkie talkies we carried.  It is a Bernini1667 sculpture in Piazza Della Minerva of an elephant by Ercole Ferrata.  The obelisk situated on the elephant's saddle was swiped from the Temple of Isis.

The Forum

Unfortunately, the Forum looked like it was under construction.  This was the place where most of the buildings in Rome were located just 2000 years ago.  It is just down the street from the Colosseum.  

The Colosseum

The Colosseum was one of the main structures I had to see.  Also called the Flavian Amphitheater, it was built in 75-80 AD.  The oval stadium was 617 feet by 512 feet and held (depending on the source you believe) anywhere from 45,000 to 80,000 people.  The arena measured about 280 feet by 175 feet, or about two-thirds of an American football stadium.  Considering this, I doubt it held more than 50,000 people.

The Romans were warriors first then became politicians or architects.  The Roman calendar started in March, the first month you could go to war after the winter.  Monuments were made to their victories, the leaders were picked from the most popular Generals.  In times of peace, these warlike people needed serious entertainment.

The Colosseum was designed with four floors and a basement.  The bottom three floors consisted of 80 arches that were used as entrances on the bottom floor and held statues on the second and third.  The arches on the bottom floor were Roman Doric, Ionic on the second and Corinthian on the third.  The outside walls were travertine until the surface was removed to be used on other buildings hundreds of years later.  The arena surface, which was the basement roof, was wood covered with sea sand for Gladiator and animal battles and was removed and the arena flooded for naval battles.  After 10 years or so they quit using it for sea battles due mainly to the damage it was doing to the foundation.  An earthquake seriously damaged the structure long after it was not being used.

Shows in the Colosseum were all day affairs, the lighter entertainment in the morning and the battles in the afternoon.  Battles by gladiators were generally to the death.  Upon completion of the Colosseum, ceremonies were held for 100 days in which 2,000 gladiators (about 20 a day) were killed, not to mention hundreds of animals.  I don't think many volunteered to be Gladiators.  They were generally condemned criminals, prisoners of war, and slaves.  A catwalk surrounded the main floor which held archers to protect the spectators.  Gladiator fights continued until being outlawed in 404 AD.  Fights with animals went on for another hundred years.