Roman Colosseum

A Glimpse into the Ancient City of Rome

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

However, with the density of tourism to Rome, visitors can often outnumber locals. So, how does one know what the Romans do—or don’t? Or maybe the saying is to do as the ancient Romans did. So we look to the statues that remain for inspiration.

“Does that mean I have to pose naked for a marble statue?” Trin asked as he eyed the river gods adorning the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in Piazza Navona.

All kidding aside, the remnants of the Roman Empire that endure within this ancient city evoke a sense of awe and fascination. It is a city and an empire that has shaped history. Among its most iconic landmarks are the Roman Colosseum and Roman Forum, each bearing witness to the grandeur and complexity of ancient Roman civilization. 

Inside the Roman Colosseum
Inside the Roman Colosseum

The Roman Colosseum

Once a place of both entertainment and brutality, the Roman Colosseum is a monument to the extremes of human endeavor. Here, amidst the cheers of crowds and the roar of wild beasts, gladiators fought for their lives, and condemned prisoners were burned, torn to pieces by wild animals, or hunted by other convicts. The condemned who were tortured here as entertainment may have committed a wide host of crimes, from theft, treason, and rebellion, to deception of a customer, disrespecting a temple, or holding faith in a God that the Roman culture denied. 

The game organizers sought a delicate balance: deaths should neither be too swift, lest they diminish the spectacle, nor overly prolonged, risking delays to the proceedings. Human lives were reduced to gruesome entertainment. The Colosseum, with its capacity to hold up to 80,000 spectators, was the stage for these spectacles.

Rising over 50 meters tall, the Colosseum is a marvel of ancient engineering and architectural innovation. Its ingenious design, complete with intricate systems of ramps and trapdoors, ensured the smooth execution of events and the safety of the audience. Much of it still stands today, nearly two millennia later.

Echoes of the Past

As Trin and I stood on the platform of the arena, surrounded by echoes of the past, we couldn’t help but contemplate the lives lost within these walls. The exposed pulleys used to hoist wild animals onto the stage served as a stark reminder of the brutality that once unfolded here. Exposed alleys below the arena floor stood before us, and I wondered who suffered there and what their last thoughts were.

Looking up at the stadium, I reflected on the crowd who ate and drank as people were torn apart before their eyes. I questioned the parallels between ancient entertainment and modern-day relationships with violence and spectacle. Some may argue that today it is not brutal because the gore in movies is fake, but does that change the fact that culture is still fascinated with bloody deaths? Is this “fake” gore just another example of our growing trends towards disconnection? Are we not entertained?

Water fountain in the Roman Forum
Water fountain in the Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

Adjacent to the Colosseum lies another treasure of antiquity: the Roman Forum. This sprawling complex served as the political, religious, and commercial center of ancient Rome. From its humble origins as a marketplace in the 7th century BC to its evolution into a bustling hub of civic life, the Forum was where citizens gathered to debate, trade, and participate in the rituals that defined their society.

Every Emperor added to or modified the ancient buildings surrounding the large open rectangular area of the forum. The song that played through my head all day was “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day” by Morcheeba. These stones witnessed the rise and fall of emperors, the enactment of laws, and the celebration of religious festivals. Here resided the ebb and flow of daily existence in the center of the ancient world.

Walking through the ruins of the Forum, we marveled at the ancient structures that once defined the heart of Rome. From the Senate House to the Temple of Saturn, each monument speaks volumes about this city of grandeur. Many Romans lived in luxury. They had indoor plumbing, central heating that ran under the floors, luxurious bathhouses, and more.

The Vicus Route: Path of the Warriors

The Vicus route paved with large stones leading through the Roman Forum and surrounded by Roman ruins.
Vicus route through the Roman Forum

We arrived at 9 AM, just as the site opened to visitors, giving us time to wander down the Vicus route before the crowds arrived. This historic thoroughfare, one of Rome’s oldest roads, cuts through the heart of the ruins. As the morning sun bathed the forum in golden light, it cast long shadows from the majestic pillars surrounding the path.

Contemplating the centuries of history that unfolded here, I couldn’t help but imagine the triumphant war heroes and powerful emperors who once walked these same stones, basking in their glory, emperors feeling like gods. Yet, despite their once-mighty stature, every one of them is now but dust, where we all return.

The Roman Forum is huge. My pedometer says we walked 5.6 miles in our exploration of these ruins. We did walk back and forth and retraced some steps, but still, we did not comprehend the size of it till we walked it.

Roman sculpture of a head made from white marble carved with clothes wrapped around the head. It is laying sideways on a round table.
Roman head sculpture

Map of Ancient Rome at its Height

Map of the Roman Empire in 117 AD and it's vasel states
Dark Red: Roman Empire in AD 117 at its greatest extent, at the time of Trajan’s death. Light Red: Vassal states Attribution: By Tataryn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19625326

The system of government in the Roman Republic shares many similarities with the system of government in the United States of America. It was established on the principles of representative democracy, with elected officials serving as representatives of the people. Additionally, both systems included a system of checks and balances to prevent the concentration of power in any single branch of government.

The founding of Rome predates written history. The Roman Republic lasted almost 500 years; the Roman Empire replaced it in 27 AD. In 117 AD, the Roman Empire reached its height of power. From there, increasing troubles gradually reduced the extent of power.

History permeates every corner of the city of Rome. Solid stones pave the paths, worn smooth by the countless feet that have trodden upon them throughout the ages. Each step taken evokes a sense of wonder: Who were the individuals who walked in these same footsteps thousands of years ago? What were their lives like, and what thoughts occupied their minds as they traversed these ancient streets?

Rome is not the only place where the ruins have left us in awe. Hadrian’s wall, marking the edge of the Roman Empire in what is now England, reshaped the landscape. The stones, hewn by the Empire, remain in the wall and homes nearby. Even in Morocco, the ruins of Volubilis captivate. It consumed a day just to navigate the ancient streets, remnants of the Roman Empire’s zenith.

Statue of the legend of Romulus and Remus rescued and raised by a she wolf
This statue is a symbol of Rome. It depicts the legend of Romulus and Remus being rescued and raised by a she-wolf.

Roman Sites on every corner

During our few days in Rome, we walked many miles, viewing ancient relics. Cathedrals and basilicas rose high into the sky, seemingly on every street. The idols of stone and imagery honoring men and women adorn the city. Fountains run with clear water where once aqueducts fed the city from springs miles away.

Monuments above Trevi Fountain and blue water beneath
Trevi Fountain

The Pantheon, near the center of Rome, was originally commissioned by Marcus Agrippa in 27 BC. Emperor Hadrian completely rebuilt it sometime between AD 118 and 128. It still stands today, as it was built nearly two millennia ago. 

Its name, derived from the Greek words “pan” (meaning all) and “theos” (meaning gods), reflects its original function as a temple dedicated to all the gods of ancient Rome.

The dome of the Pantheon is a marvel of ancient engineering, renowned for its innovative design and structural integrity. The dome stands as the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. The oculus, a circular opening at the top of the dome, provides natural light, casting a mesmerizing beam that moves across the interior throughout the day.

The Pantheon
The Pantheon

What do we build today that will last through the ages, like these Roman ruins? Have we lost the knowledge or skill to make that which will endure?

View of Rome from the steps of The Victor Emmanuel II National Monument
View of Rome from the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument

An Italian Breakfast

If you want a coffee and pastry, the typical Italian breakfast, a bar is the place to find them. A bar in Italy is a place for refreshments, coffee, soda, or alcohol, as well as pastries and paninis.

This, I suppose, was our chance to do as the Romans do. So Trin, with his typical travel research prowess, found his favorite Google Maps discovery just a stone’s throw from our accommodation. The Caffè & Cappuccino turned out to be the perfect breakfast bar. Its irresistible aromas beckoned us as we approached.

The pistachio cornettos, fresh from the oven, were a taste of heaven. Our cappuccinos, adorned with perfect little hearts in the foamy crema, delighted our senses. Then, I kid you not, Sinead O’Connor’s voice filled the air with “Nothing Compares 2 U.” I couldn’t help but remark, “Quite fitting for this moment.” Trin simply nodded, fully absorbed in savoring every delectable bite. This, an everyday breakfast in Italy, was only € 2.50. We have never found anything quite this good anywhere else, not even in Italy.

Trin walking through one of the doors in the palace of the Roman Forum
Trin walking through one of the doors in the Palace of the Roman Forum

6 thoughts on “A Glimpse into the Ancient City of Rome”

  1. Michael Louis Pellegrino

    Roma is my favorite city in Italy. It has the most history of any city I’ve visited. I came to America at 3 years of age from Cava di Tirenni 2 miles inland from Amalfi.. I’ve visited 8 times in the past… Never to be forgotten

  2. I’ve been following this blog for years and it’s amazing to see how much it has grown and evolved Congratulations on all your success!

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