When the Mediterranean Was A Roman Pond: The Forum… Armchair Series

We added Rome’s ancient Forum to our walk-about where we visited the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. I’m still tired! Today concludes the Rome section of my adventure travel series from posts I did in 2015. Next up will be Florence.

While much of the Roman Forum is in rubble, the temple of Antonius and Faustina still stands proudly… fortunately. The striations around the columns were caused by someone trying to cut them down.

At the height of the Roman Empire, around 100 CE, Rome ruled from England to the Persian Gulf. The Mediterranean Sea was considered a Roman pond. The Forum, located next to the Colosseum, was the site of Rome’s government. Julius Caesar was killed here on the Ides of March, after which Mark Anthony gave his famous speech: “Friends, Romans and Countrymen, lend me your ears.” The following photos are from the Forum.

Excavating the Roman Forum is still very much a work in progress, as this photo shows.
I found the simple elegance of this single column outlined against a cloudy sky to be quite beautiful.
These columns were once part of Caligula’s Palace. Caligula, who enjoyed torturing people, built his horse a house and planned to appoint him as a Consul. It was around that time that Romans decided to assassinate the infamous emperor.
The building on the lower left covers the site where the body of Julius Caesar was burned. Above it, to the right, was the Temple of Vesta, attended by the Vestal Virgins. Their job was to stay chaste for 30 years and attend the eternal flame. Being bad got you buried alive. Flings were few and far between. Palatine Hill, where the wealthy lived and cavorted, is in the background. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
The Arch of Titus commemorated the Roman victory over Judaea in 70 AD. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
While Peggy was capturing photos of important historical sites, I was busy with the local cat.
What remains of the massive Temple of Constantine, the Emperor who made Christianity the official religion of Rome. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
This impressive six-story arch commemorated the victory of the African born emperor Septimius Severus in far off Mesopotamia. BTW, it was the booty from these Roman victories that helped build the arches.
Speaking of aches, I like the perspective of their photo taken by Peggy.
Do you think the Latin says park bench? I was tempted.
For my last picture on my Forum post, I chose this magnificent boar. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

NEXT POST: Off we go to Florence

Going on a Rome Walk About, Plus Pickpockets… The Armchair Series

Today, I am continuing to dip into my archives as part of my armchair travel series in the age of Covid-19. On Wednesday we visited Rome’s impressive colosseum. Today, Peggy and I go on a walk-about visiting various historic sites and dodging pickpockets. In terms of coronavirus, I had an amusing thought: It must be much harder for pickpockets to work when 6-foot social distancing is being practiced!

One of the joys of walk-about is you come on treasures you might not see otherwise. This delightful elephant carved by Bernini is located near the Pantheon. It serves as the base for an obelisk.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know we like to walk extensively when visiting a new city. It’s a good way to become acquainted with the region and its people. Plus it’s great exercise. While Rome is huge, the historic section is confined to a relatively small section. It was large enough, however, that we used mass transit for longer distances.

There were two challenges. The first was figuring out the where and when of catching a train in a language we didn’t speak. The second was that the subway is a great place for pickpockets, especially during rush hour. Rick Steves, in his book on Mediterranean Ports, was constantly admonishing us to be on theft alert.

Peggy, who is more paranoid than I, is always urging me to transfer my wallet to my front pocket when we are in a crowd. Sometimes I even comply. Once, she didn’t even have to ask. We were in Amsterdam and the city had put up huge banners across the streets warning people about thieves. Neither did I require urging in Rome. Folks in Southern Europe were suffering from serious Euro Deficit Dysfunction. Times were tough. We both wore money belts.

The stories are legendary about various scams. Travelers love to share tales. One of my favorites is a woman will ask you to hold her baby while her compatriots grab your wallet. No way was I going to hold a stranger’s baby. Heck, I’ll hardly hold the baby of a woman I know. Babies are known to burp and pee on you. Can you imagine the insult added to injury if a baby was burping and peeing on you while someone was stealing your wallet?

While the stories are fun, the problems are real. A man staying at our hotel lost 2000 euros. A woman told us she was waiting at the airport when a nicely dressed couple told her something was sprayed all over the back of her jacket. The woman took it off. Sure enough, the jacket was covered with green goop. While her husband took the jacket to the restroom to wash, the couple kept her company. They left when her husband returned. Only later did she realize that her purse left with them.

We were at the Termini, a major transfer point on Rome’s transit system, when our turn came. It was at the peak of rush hour and the train was crammed full. John, Peggy’s brother, and his wife Frances had climbed on first. Four little kids, maybe eight years old, jumped on in front of us. Peggy and I were squeezing in when John shouted. He had felt someone reaching in his back pocket. Meanwhile, the four little kids were trying to jump off the train. Peggy, being the ex-elementary school principal she is, thought the kids were confused and tried to shove them back on. The little pickpockets, of course, thought she was trying to collar them. They managed to escape just as the doors were closing. Fortunately, John was also wearing a money belt. He kept his euros and we had a story to tell.

Besides our experience with the pickpockets, we had managed to visit Trajan’s Column, the Trevi Fountains and the Pantheon on our day’s walk-about.

The emperor Trajan apparently had lots to say about his victorious Dacian campaign circa 103 AD. He told it on the bas-relief making its way up the 140-foot column— in a cork-screw fashion. See below for details. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
This photo shows how much detail is included on Trajan’s Column. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
The Trevi Fountain has always been worth visiting on its own but its popularity got a significant boost by the 1950’s movie and theme song, “Three Coins in a Fountain.” Sinatra sang the song. The coins are for wishes. The first gets you back to Rome, the second helps you find true love, the third sees you happily married. Or so they say.
The Pantheon is one of the world’s most famous structures. It was built to honor Rome’s numerous gods. Its dome has served as a model for domes ranging from St. Peter’s Basilica to the US Capitol building. Peggy’s brother John and his wife Frances made it into the right corner of the photo.
The interior of the Pantheon is quite striking.
It was common practice for the Catholic Church to take over sites that had been used to worship Roman gods. It was a clever ploy that the church also used for other local gods as well.
A final view of the Pantheon’s dome from outside.
This fellow was attached to a carriage out side the Pantheon. I liked its ear covers. A horse approach to ear muffs! Or maybe just decorations.
Peggy found this door knocker intriguing. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
And this dragon lamp. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
A final street scene from our walk about through Rome.

NEXT POST: No trip to Rome is complete without a trip to the Vatican.