DAY 3: AM-Rome Ancient City

2 July – Ancient City Guided Walking Tour

(Guide – Rome In Limo)

Our first full day in Rome began with a walking tour of the ancient city of Rome. We walked from our hotel located about three blocks from the Coliseum and crossed to the southwest side to meet the guide at the Arch of Constantine. The tour was to include a daytime tour of the Coliseum; however, fortunately, that didn’t work out. We weren’t fully aware of how much walking would be involved on this tour and Rome was in a heat wave. As it was, we did not spend time down in the Forum area because we were overheated and exhausted.

We had scheduled the guide for three hours and the tour, including roundtrip from the hotel and back, was about four kilometers. Below is a map with our approximate route. 

Arch of Constantine

One way of analyzing Rome is to break it up into three Ages. The Ages are:

Roman Kingdom – 753 to 509 B.C. The age of Roman Kings. (The Kindom on a Hill)

Roman Republic – 509 to 27 B.C.  Rule by the people through representatives. (Constant wars and expansion)

Roman Empire – 27 B.C. to 1453 A.D. Rule by an Emperor. (Domination of the Mediterranean and peace followed by a long slow decline)

While structures existed in the area of Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, most of the structures were built (or rebuilt) during the Age of the Roman Empire. The Arch of Constantine was dedicated in 315 A.D. as tribute to a victory of Constantine the Great. It was built near the Coliseum that had been completed almost 250 years prior.

Palatine Hill

The Aqueduct (Aqua Claudia)

When climbing up the east side of Palatine Hill, the first significant structure is the remains of the Claudia Aqueduct. This aqueduct was 69 kilometers (43 miles) long. The final sections of the aqueduct were transported on a brick structure that at some locations was over 30 meters (100 ft.) tall. It delivered up to 190,000 cubic meters (6.7 million cubic feet) of water in a 24-hour period.

Roman Red Brick

The aqueduct and the lower level of the Coliseum used a common Roman building material known simply as Roman Brick. The Romans learned that oven-fired clay bricks were  strong and durable and they used them in many of their structures. Once aware of them, they became obvious on our tour of the ancient city.

Palaces of the Emperors

Palatine Hill became the home for Rome’s Emperors; however, Palatine Hill was the place where the Kingdom of Rome was initially established. For two centuries, the Kindom of Rome was Palatine Hill and the surrounding area. It was the place that overlooked the Roman Forum (the heart of the ancient city), Circus Maximus, and the Coliseum. It also was the place where diplomats from other countries were brought to see the glory of Rome.

Circus Maximus
The view of Circus Maximus from Palatine Hill (click for larger image)

Our introduction to Roman chariot and horse racing is likely from the movie Ben Hur. The real place for chariot and horse racing is more like a drag strip. Circus Maximus sits just below the southern slope of Palatine Hill and the Imperial Palace offered special rooms to oversee the area. They seem to be the Roman version of box seats.

The Roman Forum

Looking down on the Roman Forum from Palatine Hill. The Forum is to the north and northwest of the Imperial Palace and its garden (For a larger image, click on picture)
The Roman Forum with labels of significant ruins (For a larger image, click on picture)

The Roman Forum was Rome’s past and present. Prior to becoming the seat of Rome, it was a graveyard and a swamp. During the Roman Republic, the area was drained and filled in for the first temples and public buildings.

For a few glorious centuries, Rome became the center of power of the Western World. Unfortunately, the Roman Empire would be split by the Christian Emperor, Constantine, who moved the primary capital in the third century A.D. to Byzantium, and renamed it New Rome. A few years later, the name was changed to Constantinople. Rome continued as the capital of the western regions but it divided the resources of the Romans and left Rome vulnerable to attack. Within a century, Rome and the Western Roman Empire fell.

Some suggest that the Western Mediterranean region had become weak economically and that Rome had become corrupt. Whether the Christianization of the Roman Empire was at fault or just contributed to its downfall, it fractured the Roman culture and changed the focus of the society. The ancient city’s temples for pagan diety’s were destroyed or converted to Christian churches. The City of Rome lost its personality and pride as the center of the Empire.

Roman Forum site map
Artists’ rendering of what the Roman Forum looked like during the Empire.