Friday, 9 August 2013

The Forum and the Trevi Fountain

This afternoon, Jean and I joined a tour which took us a short distance from the Colosseum, namely the Forum Romanum.  Near the Forum is the palatine, where Rome was founded.  The palatine itself was a palace where many of the Roman emperors lived.  In fact, the word 'palatine' lends itself to the English word 'palace', as well as at least to palazzo, palacio, palais, palac, and Palast, in Italian, Spanish, French, Polish and German, which is as many other languages as I can think of that have inherited that contribution from this place.

We didn't tour the palatine, but we stopped to look at the Arch of Titus, one of three surviving triumphal arches (there used to be 23).  From there, we could see the Forum, which is a large site just down in a small valley between a couple of hills that are close to each other.  The Forum was like the Forum at Pompeii, the centre of commercial activity and social life.  But here, it was also the centre of government; the Senate met here at the Curia.  Important speeches were delivered here.  It was the administrative centre and also judicial, the scene of criminal trials. The site today is a sprawling pile of relics from antiquity just laying there on the ground.  One temple is apparently intact, but we don't remember its name.  We saw the spot where Julius Caesar was cremated after his assassination in 44 BC.  We were told a comet appeared after his death, thus Caesar was declared a god.  

We climbed the hill behind the Curia, made our way to the other side of Palazzo Venezia, a much more 'modern' building, and walked for about ten minutes to the Pantheon.  The Pantheon, which was a religious site where animals were sacrificed to the gods, is the most intact of all ancient Roman buildings.  It was built in 27 BC, and still looks pretty good today.  

Soon, we found the Trevi Fountain.  I was a lot more impressed with it than I'd expected.  I thought of my mum coming here in 1979, throwing a coin into the fountain, and thinking it was great.  Today, she has Alzheimers, and doesn't know I'm here.  I threw two coins in, and thought of her.  Jean also threw a coin into the fountain.  The Trevi Fountain is a splendid example of baroque architecture.

But I didn't really come to Rome to look at things baroque.  Rome from a much earlier period is what I wanted to see.  I've come to appreciate that the Romans were very much masters of their world and built things to last long periods of time.  When I came away from the Forum this afternoon, I was thinking that we can build whatever we want, for whatever purpose, and use it well in our lifetimes.  Perhaps when we die, our children and grandchildren and maybe more generations will use what we build.  But there will come a point in the future when what we build will become either an ancient monument or it will vanish in the dusts of time.

The Arch of Titus
The Palatine in background
The Temple whose name we've forgotten
Much of the Forum is a sprawling pile of ruins
More ruins
Outside the Pantheon
Inside the Pantheon
Trevi Fountain

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