Friday morning we took a quick Metro ride to the heart of ancient Rome. Even the walk from the subway is picturesque: we get a close-up glimpse of Trajan’s Column as we head to Julius Caesar’s Forum and then, just down the street, the great Forum Romanum.
The sun is high and the Forum is hot, dusty and thin on shade. But our travelers are well-prepared with sunscreen and water bottles, and we traverse the whole Via Sacra, taking in temples (the site of Juno Moneta’s temple, Magna Mater, Castor & Pollux–Horse Riding Gods!); public buildings; the site of Julius Caesar’s spontaneous cremation; and triumphal arches (Septimius Severus and Titus).
On the Palatine Hill we read some Latin: the story of Romulus and Remus. Then we tour the remains of the imperial temples.
After a quick lunch we move on to the Colosseum! First we take some time to walk around the massive upper level (and visit the gift shop)…
Then we read some Latin: a story in St. Augustine’s Confessions (VI.8.13) about a pious Christian who attends the gladiatorial games with his friends. At first he tries to avert his eyes from the “inhuman sports,” but when he hears the cries of the crowd he can’t help peeking at the action…and by the end of the passage he has so forgotten the teachings of his faith, and is so drunk with bloodlust, that he ends up cheering on the “bloody pastime.”
Then it’s back outside the Colosseum to read Pope Benedict XIV’s 18th century inscription commemorating papal restorations of the building:
…AMPHITHEATRUM FLAVIUM TRIUMPHIS SPECTACULISQue INSIGNE
DIIS GENTIUM IMPIO CULTU DICATUM
MARTYRUM CRUORE AB IMPURA SUPERSTITIONE EXPIATUM
NE FORTITUDINIS EORUM EXCIDERET MEMORIA …
“…The Flavian Amphitheatre, distinguished by triumphs and spectacles,
dedicated to the gods of people with impious worship
cleansed of impure superstition by the blood of the martyrs
lest the memory of their bravery be lost…”
We walked to dinner at Wanted (Via Leonina 90) and then back to our residence, to debrief and reflect on the day.