Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill

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After St Clement’s, we headed over toward the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill, which are all grouped together. We avoided the Colosseum, because I read that it would be less crowded later in the evening, shortly before it closed.

So we went first to the Roman Forum. We rented an audio guided tour, which was very informative. It described in great detail, for example, the scenes depicted on the Arch of Titus, which was built to commemorate his victory over the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. On the arch, you can see scenes of the triumphal parade back into Rome with its long caravan of booty stolen from the Jerusalem Temple, as well as captured Jews being paraded in moveable cages.

The top photo is of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, which was built in the 2nd century AD to worship the deified Emperor and his wife.

The second and third photos are overviews of the Forum, taken from atop the Palatine Hill.

In the second photo, on the right hand edge, you can see some columns cut off. These are the remains of the Temple of Vesta, where Rome’s famous Vestal Virgins served.

The Temple was built in the 3rd century BC, for the worship of Vesta, who was the goddess of the hearth and home. The building contained no statue of her, but rather only her symbol, a fire. It was the job of the six Vestal Virgins to make sure that the fire never went out.

These virgins were selected between the ages of 6-10 and were required to give 30 years of service in chastity. After their 30 years of service, they could marry, but the punishment for not remaining chaste during their service was to be buried alive.

Despite this, there were many advantages to service. A Vestal Virgin was a free woman who could travel about the city unaccompanied, had reserved seats at all public events, and even had the power to grant clemency to condemned prisoners.

Next to the temple was the house of the virgins. One of the six was named as the chief priestess, and the remains of their house feature statues to many of the chief priestesses. They are all identified with a name except one, which had its name scratched out. This is believed to be of a chief priestess who converted to Christianity and was martyred.

After the Forum, we walked up the Palatine Hill, which was once home to Rome’s wealthiest citizens. (In fact, some speculate that the word ‘palace’ is derived from the enormous homes built on the Palatine.)

For many years, it was also the home of the Emperor’s Palace. The bottom photo is of a private stadium that was part of the palace. The Emperor would invite all his rich neighbors there for exclusive games.

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