Tuesday, July 27, 2010

And then there were two

This post is not going to be as high on intellectual content as some of my previous posts, but it will be full of lots of images of picturesque ruins and azure sky.

So today, Charlie arrived to spend five full days and nights (he leaves Sunday morning) in Rome! I went to the airport this morning to pick him up, and he was already waiting for me when I got there - he took much less time to get through baggage claim and customs than I thought he would. We took the train back up to town (Charlie agrees that Termini looks like an even worse-designed Penn Station, if such a thing is possible), and after stopping by the hotel, gave Charlie his first taste of Italian pizza. Of course, he doesn't think it tastes as good as the pizza from Mack and Manco's in Ocean City, NJ.

From there, we were off to one of the biggest tourist destinations in the city, the Colosseum and adjoining archaeological park. Thankfully, we are now in possession of two Roma passes, magical cards that give you two free museum admissions, unlimited public transportation, and the ability to skip most major lines, and we were able to get into the Colosseum without a wait.

Here we are smiling away in an amphitheater that was the site of many bloody executions (including the infamous woman-donkey-leopard incident):

The Colosseum is full of placards with wall text to make sure that people associate the space with these bloody games, although one of them also notes that apparently there is no written evidence to connect the Colosseum with any specific Christian martyrs, and the idea of the Colosseum as a site for martyrdom only came about in the seventeenth century. I did not know that.

Here's a gratuitous shot of the Arch of Constantine through one of the Colosseum's tall arches:

From the Colosseum, we headed out into the Forum Romanum and then the Palatine. If there's one thing I can say about this archaeological park, it's that it is HUGE and overwhelming - we walked around for hours and I still don't think we saw everything. It was fun to imagine the structures as they must once have looked when the ancient city was at its height.

Here I am in front of the Basilica of Maxentius, one of the most impressive structures in the Forum:

One great thing about having Charlie around is that now he can take pictures of me in front of things - I am definitely going to take advantage of this! So at least for a few days, you get a break from my MySpace-style arm pictures.

Another old friend:

The Arch of Titus! Charlie and I spent a while talking about Roman triumphal processions: after a military leader came home from a victory in a foreign war, he was often rewarded by a triumphal celebration that involved a parade through a temporary archway designed for the occasion. The stone versions were put up later to commemorate the most important triumphs. I'd definitely like to do more with the relationship between Roman triumphal celebrations and American monument forms - the triumphal arch has definitely made its way over to our shores. I will probably play with this idea a bit when I start writing my dissertation.

When I saw this little door in the Arch of Titus (protected by a pigeon sentinel), I felt a twinge of longing:

I'm getting so used to grad student field trips, which so often involved tours of abandoned houses or visits to the storage rooms of major museums. Seeing this, I felt like I should be allowed to get a look at whatever awesome (and probably remarkably dusty) thing lay beyond that door, but I know that here I am just a regular tourist.

Another gratuitous view:

The blue sky and the marble ruins really made for some interesting pictures.

Here's a view from a tall promontory jutting out from the Palatine Hill:

I think the ruins at the right of the middleground are the Baths of Caracalla. Charlie got me out on the promontory by pretending that we were playing a game and all the good prizes would be gone unless we hurried to get there. I felt a little weak in the knees looking at this view, but I managed to keep my fear of heights under control.

Back on terra firma, we came across this awesome display:

Now called the Stadium, this was part of Domitian's palace and was usually used as a garden, although horses may also have raced here occasionally. I was amazed to see that so many of the columns and pillars were made of brick and only dressed with marble panels. Not quite the plastic columns of Las Vegas, but still a bit of deception!

Charlie thought that he should try to help re-erect one of the columns:

And meanwhile, I was amused at the spectacle of a piece of an antique cornice laid out for visitors to use as a bench:

In general, I was amazed at all the loose piles of architectural elements just lying around. In some ways, this visit made us aware of Rome's glut of pieces of archaeological fabric.

Coming down the hill, we had another great view of the Basilica of Maxentius:

And then Charlie thought he might have found an entrance to the catacombs!

And that was pretty much it - we were both exhausted by that point, and we came home to a lovely supper of cheese, bread and tomatoes from the local supermarket. Charlie is already asleep, dealing with his jet lag, and I may not be far behind! It was something of a struggle to write this post without falling asleep.

Tomorrow, Charlie will be getting a big dose of downtown Rome!


  1. I remember feeling the same when I was walking around the Palatine. How can they just leave this stuff laying around?! :)

  2. I think that is right bout that. Nice info and thanks. Need to get in google feed.