In Vancouver we really don’t have that many old historical things around. There’s Stanley Park that’s been around for xx years, maybe an old school house in Surrey that’s 150 years old. Maybe if you classify the Rocky Mountains as something old we have lots of it, but it wasn’t made by humans.
Walking through the city of Rome is like walking through a different age, or as our friend James put it, “tripping over history”. You can walk up any street and see a fountain that’s 1,000 years old, a temple that’s 3,00 years old, and a Colosseum that’s 2,000 years old, and many other random remains of the old civilization just lying about. It’s truly amazing exploring this city that was built by a civilization that were more civilized 2,000 years ago than the rest of the Europeans were even 500 years ago. But, after the fall of the Roman Empire around 500AD, the next 1,000 years was pretty brutal for them compared to the 1,000 before them.
All Metro Trains looked something like this in Rome
One of the top things I wanted to do when we were in Rome had to be the Roman Colosseum. We set out on the highly graffiti covered metro and stop at the Colosseum station. Low and behold the first thing you see as you walk out the station entrance…. The colossal Colosseum! We crossed the street and our group of 6 was immediately stopped by a guy selling a tour, usually we “just say no” and ignore these type of guys but this one time we actually listened and decided to take an English guided tour. However, this tour turned up Milhouse in our favor for a couple reasons; we managed to skip a 2-hour line and learned some valuable information as there is really no information plaques inside.
The Colosseum is much larger than I expected and was the largest in the Empire with the ability to sit 50,000 people. The richer and more royal Romans obviously sat near the ground, but they didn’t forget about everyone else as each level was set for a certain class, from the richest to the most poor. It was free to get in, and they gave out enough free bread and water for everyone to eat during the event, because of this almost everyone in the city would attend an event. Also, since summer can be super hot in Italy the Romans installed a retractable awning to cover spectators from the sun and rain. For many people it was their only way to see animals from far away lands, as there weren’t any Zoo’s you could take the kids to and since Gladiators were so valued, it was usually only fighting to first blood, rarely to the death. (except those Christians, but it was really the lions faults!) All together they think 500,000 humans and over a million animals had taken their last breaths inside these walls.
The people looks like ants in comparison!
As I said the Colosseum is huge, but less than half of it is still up. And looking around we couldn’t help notice some beautiful white blocks and stone lying amongst all the brown stone. This is when our guide pointed out an interesting fact; almost all of the old “pagan” monuments are now nothing like they used to be. The Colosseum was actually covered in white limestone during its glory days, and not the brown stone we all envision it as today.
It seems that with the fall of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church became the new power in the region. And they needed to build their own monuments and churches, but hard rock and marble were so far away. To solve this problem easily they ended up “recycling” all of the old Roman Empire monuments for their beautiful stone, tile, silver and gold. Many were pillaged to never been seen again or left in a sad shell of their former glory. I suppose at one point the Pope thought that they may want to preserve some history, and ordered parts of the Colosseum to be restored. This was a costly affair and more to win favor and charity, and over the many years they have rebuilt small patches. It’s really too bad all the beautiful Roman Empire buildings were recycled, but it does make sense as we tear down so much in the West to rebuild that we really don’t have anything old at all!
Some random old ruins… or is it more then that?
While walking through the city I saw yet another block of some old building ruins and crossed the street to see more. I’m glad I did as I wandered into a place simply called “Cat Sanctuary”. There were maybe 50 cats sitting amongst some old ruins of what used to be a theatrical stage. Down the stairs was a small office with a volunteer team tending for all the stray cats. Once a stray cat is approved healthy by a vet the volunteers then work to have them adopted. They don’t pay rent as the city just allows them to be there, and as everyone knows that this area “belongs to the cats”.
They say this huge building used to be covered in intricate colorful tile work until it was “recycled” by the church after the fall of the Roman Empire
We also went to the exact hill that the city of Roma was founded, Palatine Hill, since a free walking tour of the area was included in our Colosseum tour. We saw so many more pieces of history and again heard some great information from the guide. One of the best stories we heard and he claims that many Romans believe is the following:
The god Mars came into her the chamber and made the virgin Rhea Silvia pregnant with the twins Romulus and Remus. An angry uncle found out and packed them into a little boat and sent them up river. Then a She-Wolf found them and looked after them, suckling them with her She-Wolf milk until a shepherd came along to raise them. When the god Mars found them again and told the grown twins their origins, they decided to returned and kick their uncles ass and establish a new city. After completing the ass kicking they decide to figure out who shall be King by climbing to separate hills and whoever gets a signs from the Gods first shall be King and build the start to the empire on that very hill. To make a long silly story short, Romulus convinced Remus he saw the sign first and so began the Roman Empire.
Found on the side of a Garbage can
This story is pretty much symbolized all over the city. You can find images of the She-Wolf with little human babies “suckling” underneath it all over Rome. If this story doesn’t convince you enough to come see the crazy awesomeness of Rome then maybe this will convince you…
Pay attention to the middle of this photo
You can buy all your Pope needs in one place! Look at that collapsible important looking cane thing (sorry we have no idea what the actual word for it is) in a travel size case! Wonder if any of these wonderful items would get a normal person like us first class upgrades?
Check out the rest of our pictures from tripping over history in Rome at our Flickr album by clicking here or on one of the thumbnails below: