Rome is one of a kind. It’s considered the birthplace of Western civilization and it provided the backdrop for several major art and architectural movements.
Archeological evidence shows human occupation of this city for over 10,000 years – which is hard for my brain to even think about. Rome has history on history on history (literally, just dig deeper). So when in Rome… you better check out some of the major historical sites.
Rick Steves calls seeing the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the Pantheon the “Caesar Shuffle.” I’m pretty sure he might be one of the cheesiest humans alive, but he is also kind of my hero. You should definitely download his free walking tours of Rome. They are money-savers and invaluable to appreciating all the old stuff you’re looking at.
First, we went to the Roman Forum, a rectangular plaza that was the ancient center of politics and business. Julius Caesar used to chill there, and even though he was assassinated about a mile away, the altar of his tomb is still in this plaza.
While the Roman Forum is just little fragments of gigantic buildings that once existed, what’s left is still super impressive and makes me feel like a tiny ant person.
Everything’s bigger in ancient Rome, y’all.
The photo below shows a part of the Forum and the surrounding area. (The Colosseum is in the top right corner, across the street.) Find some people on the sidewalks to get a sense of the scale. It’s cray cray.
The three gigantic arches are what remain of the Basilica of Constantine. What we see here were actually just small side niches of the original building! WHAT. It was the biggest structure ever built at the time, and required some hardcore engineering and architectural skills.
Next up is the Colosseum, built as a giant amphitheater in 80 AD so that gladiators could kill each other for sport and over 50,000 screaming spectators could watch them do it. Yay, history – let’s take a picture!
It was originally called the Flavian Amphitheater, which prompted Flavor Flav jokes from us all day. #YeahhhBoiii
That middle part used to be covered with planks and sawdust. Down below (out of audience view) were intricate networks of props, scenery, wild animals, and performers that would be pulled up old-school elevators and popped up onstage like a Lady Gaga concert.
It’s really kind of awesome, until you think about the fact that thousands of people died on that stage solely for the public’s entertainment. And then it’s just kinda like, WTF ancient Romans. Don’t do that.
Next up, the Pantheon. You can see the massive (40 foot tall) columns and triangular portico from the plaza.
This is one of the best-preserved buildings from ancient times. It was originally built as a Roman temple to all of the gods, hence the name, pan (“all) + theos (“gods”).
In the Middle Ages, the Pantheon was converted to a Christian church, which is a big part of the reason it stayed so well-preserved. (Unlike the Colosseum, which people completely tore apart to get stone, marble, and bronze to build other buildings.)
Once inside, you can see the huge dome leading up to a 30 foot wide sunroof. It’s literally just a hole in the ceiling, so if it rains, and you’re standing in the Pantheon, you get wet. This dome was the model for lots of other buildings, including the Capitol Building in Washington DC. So it’s kind of a big deal. You should probably stand in it, even if it’s raining.
Aaaand that concludes the Caesar Shuffle. #Yeahhhboiii
(In our next post, you’ll see a lot of these same sites again, but in Dubsmash form. YASSSS. GET EXCITED.)