September 29, 2008
The Fountain of the Moor is at the southern end of Piazza Navona was designed by Giacomo della Porto in 1575. It features four tritons facing each direction of the compass, with a basin of antique rose marble. In 1654 Bernini added the central figure of a towering Triton riding a dolphin. Because the central Triton looks like a "Moor", the fountain is called Fontana del Moro.
Fountain of the Moor
Fountain of Neptune is at the northern end of Piazza Navona
On our way back we walked across the Ponte Sant' Angelo, the bridge over the Tiber River leading to Castel San’t Angelo. Some of the spans of this pedestrian-only bridge date from Roman times.
Castel Sant' Angelo
Castel San’t Angelo was originally built by the Emperor Hadrian as his tomb. Construction began in 135 AD. In later years it later served as a fortress, and as a place of refuge for popes during wars and seiges. In 590 Pope Gregory the Great was leading a procession to intercede for the end of a plague, when he saw a vision of St. Michael the Archangel sheathing his sword; signifying the end of the plague. In gratitude, the Pope replaced the statue of Hadrian with that of St. Michael the Archangel. In 1753 the angel was replaced by a bronze statue.
The angels on the bridge are examples of Bernini’s best work. Two of them are copies.
The ruined floor of the Colosseum reveals the animal and gladiator cells that were below.
In each of the arches on the 2nd and 3rd level was a statue. The 4th level had wooden steps which provided the standing room. The most important people sat at the lowest level, with the people of lesser importance on the higher levels; although everyone was admitted free.
The Colosseum could hold about 70,000 people, and could be emptied in 5 minutes through its 80 exits.
I am standing in front of the Colosseum in Rome!
Originally the Colosseum was called the Flavian amphitheater, but later came to be known as the Colosso because near it stood a 115 foot tall statue of guilded bronze of the Emperor Nero.
Its construction was a remarkable engineering accomplishment, because it stands on a marshy spot which was reclaimed by draining an artificial lake.
The Colosseum originally had an enormous canvas covering that could be hoisted by many sailors to provide shade for the spectators - the world’s first domed stadium.
Admission was free, but people were assigned seat locations according to their social status, with the emperor, senators and vestal virgins having the best seats at ringside.
The huge structure of the Colosseum demonstrates the Roman's advanced building techniques
The floor of the Colosseum itself was covered with wood, which in turn was covered with a layer of sand to absorb the blood that would be spilled during the “games.” The floor has long ago disintegrated, allowing us to look into the basement, where the animals were kept. When a certain animal(s) was wanted, it was taken from its cage to a hoist, and lifted up by slaves pulling on ropes. When the door was opened, it was free to run out and attack whatever it found. The gladiator never knew by what, when or from where he would be attacked.
The subsurface prison cells of animals and victims
We had a most interesting time at the Colosseum, and learned quite a lot about ancient Rome.
The four of us standing in front of the Colosseum.
There were some enterprising actors dressed up outside the Colosseum. They approached Roseann, and invited her to pose as a Roman queen, which she did. They invented all sorts of stories about her, posed her on a red velvet chair with a red cape and a cardboard gold crown. Then they hailed her to the gathering crowd. I was laughing so hard, I could scarcely hold the camera steady enough for pictures.
Roseann had her picture taken with these exuberant street performers. They were quite funny.
Legend has it that as long as the Colosseum stands, Rome will stand; and when Rome falls, so will the world. This prophecy did not stop Renaissance builders from taking its stone for their own buildings, nor the Nazis from riddling it with bullets.
The Arch Of Constantine
The Arch of Constantine
Many of the marble decorations were taken from other monuments, to save money.
Closeup shot of carving details on the Arch of Constantine
The Roman Forum
The Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum
In Roman times, the Arch of Septimus Severus (203 AD) would have dwarfed any image of democracy. This huge, 6 story tall arch honors the emperor’s battles in Mesopatamia. But even with these conquests Rome’s empire was already beginning to crumble under its own corruption, disease, and decaying infrastructure.
The Triumph Arch of Septimus Severus
Along the Appian Way
The super straight Appian Way is another demonstration of the Roman engineering skill.
We decided to visit the catacombs at San Callisto. All people of any class were required by law to be buried outside the city walls. The oldest tombs were on the top level, and then newer ones were deeper and deeper. The soil contained soft volcanic ash which hardened into hard rock on exposure to air, making the walls very sturdy. Contrary to popular stories, the Roman armies knew where the catacombs were, just as everyone else did; and the stories of Christians hiding in them, were just that: stories. The damage to the graves happened much later by the Vandals who were seeking precious metals to be melted down into weapons or jewelry. Although they disturbed and broke open many graves they did not find the riches they sought - because there were none there in the first place.
Entrance sign to the catacombs. No pictures were permitted underground.
There were a great many small children’s graves, due to the high children’s mortality rate. Some people did not even name a child until it reached its first birthday, because so few of them survived their first year.
Back on the surface once again, we visited the church of Saint Sebastian, the patron of this particular area of catacombs. He is buried here.
Nearby was the immense tomb and complex of Cecilia Metella, a noblewoman. She must have been very important, and well thought of, to have such a monument built for her. We were unable to determine what she had done.
The tomb of Cecilia Metella
Maxentius was the Roman Leader who was defeated by Constantine, the first emperor to allow Christianity to be practiced openly. The ruins of Maxentius’ estate were large even though badly deteriorated.
The ruins of Circus of Maxentius, only the Circus Maximus was bigger. It was used for chariot racing.
Egyptian décor became very popular in Rome for a time, following the Marc Antony/Cleopatra scandal (30 BC). One Roman, Garius Cestius built a pyramid of brick and marble in just 330 days to honor himself.
The pyramid of Cestius originally stood outside of Rome, but when the city grew the pyramid was eventually incorporated into the newly expanded city walls.