26 August 2011

Liberty of the Seas : Rome Part 3 - Roman Forum

Slipping out from the crowd at Trevi Fountain, we meandered our way through many more prominent ancient souvenirs, some still in use while others gap as historical scars all over Rome. Many aren't as elegant as Trevi Fountain, which for me, is really a rather odd aqueduct monument.

It is unusual not because the fountain is the largest of its kind, but for the rarity that it contained pagan gods, yet its construction was commissioned by the Catholic Church. I thought the church would be itching with iconoclasm, not build it.

We crossed many centuries and caught up with time through its reflection on the faces of ancient structures. That's our guide leading the way in our time travel!
Before we tread more of Rome in this post, let me first apologise. This entry will be filled with questions and probably some lapses in accuracy. I usually try to provide correct information as best I could about the sights featured on this blog but with the tour of Rome, it's almost impossible.

Every building, street fixture and countless ruins here all have a name and story. With no handouts or printed map of our exploration, I had a hard time juggling between looking for camera angles with listening to our guide's narration of history and reading whatever English text I can lay eyes on during the track.

Maybe I'm just too kiasu, everything also must record down... 有杀错,没放过!

Roaming Rome

I think with age, we tend to appreciate where we come from better. Of course I don't come from Rome lah, I'm just saying that I'm more interested in history and culture now than ever before. This difference was observed when I compared what I focused on during my first visit here in 1997 and this trip in 2011.

Then, I was enthusiastic about finding the best angle to have my photo taken in. This trip, I was more keen on the facts and stories. Uh-oh... I'm joining the ancient! Heh. So let's continue our architectural-excavation of Rome's ancient history through the mega-structures, or what's left of them...

Founded in 1551, the Pontifical Gregorian University is the first university founded by Jesuits priests.
En route to the ruins of the Roman Forum, we passed by the Pontificia Università Gregoriana (a.k.a. Gregorianum or PUG). Opposite the univeristy's facade is a an old complex where our modern-day Gregorian Calendar was christened in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. 

Do you know that there are more than 20 ethnic calendars still in use in the world today? Just to name a few, they are the Chinese Lunar Calendar, Thai Solar Calendar, Islamic Calender, three Hindu Calendars, etc. Can someone please invent the Benjamin Button Calendar?

Not sure what building this is, maybe it's the side of the Gregorian Uni. We were told this is where Michelangelo passed away, in the room at the end of the corridor in 1564. Age 89. From historic accounts, Michelangelo though a multi-gifted artist, was a social misfit with a low self-esteem. If that's a pre-requisite to be an artistic genius, where do I sign up?!

Don't know what's the name of this building but I think it's some sort of freedom monument. We didn't go closer to have a look, just passed by it.

The Italian 'white house' is very impressive. Pity I don't know more about it. If you know the name or have info about it, please leave a comment. Thanks! 

Rome is one colossal outdoor museum. There's such character in every building. Again, I have no idea the stories behind them. I think the Augmented Reality technology would be very useful here where we can download a phone app that allows us to point at the buildings and information appears on our phone screen.

Statue of Julius Caesar adorned with fresh wreaths. The Italians must really love him to offer such respect centuries after his death. I mean, the Statue of Sir Stamford Raffles back home where got flowers laid at its feet everyday? Lots of pigeon poo more like it! 

The streets of Rome are littered with statues and bas reliefs. One of the more noteworthy one is the brass image of Julius Caesar (100 - 44 BC), a powerful military general who seized control of Rome from his ally later turned foe, Pompey the Great. The Roman Republic vastly expanded its territories during his rule to become the Roman Empire until his assination by statesmen who considered him a dictator.

He may have conquered many lands, but one thing Caesar didn't conquer is our dinner table. Caesar Salad, which many mistakenly attributed to him, was not named after the ruler. Rather, the famous salad took its name after Caesar Cardini, an Italian-born restaurateur who supposedly created the dish in 1924.

Statue of Augustus, who is the successor of Julius Caesar and considered to be the first emperor of the Roman Empire. Pic on the right is part of the Roman Forum ruin site.

Another angle of the Roman Forum site visible from the street leading to its entrance. Caught sight of these striking red poppy flowers growing wildly before entering the ruins. What cheery ambassadors to welcome tourists!
And now, let’s step into what’s considered the centre of the universe during the pre-renaissance Romanesque period...

Roman Forum
Opening Hours : 8:30 am to 1 hour before sunset (check timings here)
Ticket Price : €12.00 (Adult combo) for entrance to Palatine Hill + Roman Forum + Colosseum

As I followed a packaged tour, I don't have the direct experience of purchasing tickets. The ticketing info above was sourced from the web. Entry to Roman Forum used to be free but is now packaged with entrance fees for Palatine Hill and the Colosseum in a 2-day pass.

What used to be a marshland was drained by the Romans to build a civic centre that became the commercial and social hub with buildings dating as far back as 7th century B.C..

Remanents of the Temple of Vesta (7th century B.C.) which was cylindrical. The temple kept virgins from noble families who must remain chaste for 30 years. If any one broke the vow of virginity, she was buried alive! I had no idea what I was pointing to but I later found out its the site of a collection of temples with The Tabularium (the highest tower) as a backdrop. It was a prison but is today used as the City Hall.

Just opposite of where I was pointing at City Hall was a shed. This was where the body of Julius Caesar was cremated. The spot with the flowers is supposed to be where the fire freed his soul.



Didn't get the bearings about those ruins preceding this photo. Imagine our Singapore CBD district in ruins and you know how hard it is to identify every structure. What I wanted to show in this photo is... wear comfortable walking shoes! The surfaces we walked on varied greatly... from well-paved asphalt sidewalks to sandy pits to cobbled pathways.

Passed by more ancient stones and buildings. Archaeological excavations and restorations are constantly underway. It's a 'live' site so there could be new discoveries waiting to be unearthed. See that guy in hot pink behind my parents? He commited and despicable act at the Colosseum. See that post to find out what he did!



Our tour of Roman Forum ended at this arch. By now, I've given up on trying to remember what the guide was telling us about this structure. All I know is that it is where visitors would exit and head on towards the Colosseum.

See the girl in bright blue at the left side of the photo? She is the back chaperone. The tour guide walks ahead while she walked behind our group to herd us in case we get lost in the crowd. I must've given her a hard time coz I was always the one left behind taking photos.
After weaving through the countless civic buildings where rallies, public executions, worship and trade took place, I was overwhelmed with info and stories to the point I no longer registered any of them. It had been an incredible experience to footprint through those ancient streets and touched those ancient structures like the Romans eons ago did...

Strangely, I felt invigorated with a sense of being alive.

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