The Eternal City's Trevi Fountain (remember Anita Ekberg in the classic scene in La Dolce Vita), the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo, as well as some of the Roman heritage sights, such as the Pantheon, the Colosseum and the Forum Romanum are well worth seeing.
The Coliseum is considered the symbol of Rome. This amphitheatre, built in about 10 years, shortly after the A.D.70, was the most imposing of all the monuments in ancient Rome. This ancient venue, where 50,000 people could be entertained was probably paid for with the treasures brought from raids. Usually it was used for shows with wild animals, and gladiators, and even sea battles.
In A.D.438 this was abolished and the shows were only about animal hunting. The last show is dated in A.D.523 by Theodoric, King of Ostrogoths. The Coliseum was named after the giant statue that stood nearby. In medieval times the four-storied theater was used as a quarry until in 1749 it was acclaimed to be a holy site in memory of Christian martyrs that were slain here. Holes in the remains of the coliseum were made when bronze in the structure was removed to be melted for arms for war.
The Forum Romanum
With the name Forum Romanum are called all the monuments which remaining parts are standing between the Capitol, the Colosseum, the Imperial Fora and the Palatine. Here you can find the Arch of Triumph of Titus, the big Basilica of Maxentius, the Temple of Antonino and Faustina and the Temple of Saturn, just to mention some of these antique monuments.
The forum, which was the heart of the city, started out as a open marketplace, but gradually it got more and more adorned with portico's basilica's and temples. This was the area in which public life manifested itself. If you wanted your name to be remembered in history, the thing to do was to donate a building to the city on the forum.
It was also the place gladiator games were being held before the institution of the amphitheaters. The old forums became due to the addition of all kinds of public and privately build additions quite chaotic and the expanding also city needed a larger area as its center. This is why Julius Caesar initiated the building of the first imperial forum, of which four were to follow, build by his successors.
Though neither a cathedral, nor the mother church, this enormous church is in fact the center of the Catholic World, a role once performed by the St John Lateran. From here the pope, the successor of St Peter, tends his flock. The church was built over the grave of St Peter. Because of the location of this tomb on the hill, the St Peter is one of few churches that are not orientated towards the east, but just the other way around.
Some people read in this orientation a reference to the crucifixion of St Peter, who was crucified up side down. The present day building is a replacement of the Basilica built by Constantine. Work started about halfway through the 15th century and continued up to the 18th century. Most great high renaissance architects have left their mark on the final design, but most important are Michelangelo and Bernini.
Bernini used the copper plates from the roof of the pantheon to cast the four twisted columns that support the ciborium above the altar.
La Bocca della Verità (the mouth of truth)
This strange river god used to be a drain cover, but since the middle ages this frightening image served as a lie detector. It was believed that if you told a lie with your hand in the mouth of this god, it would be bitten of. Of course it had to be helped sometimes by a servant with a blade. The "Bocca" was placed in the front yard of the Sta. Maria in Cosmedin church in the 17th century. The sculpture is thought to be part of a roman fountain or perhaps a "manhole" cover.
Another two blocks along and on your left you'll find the Torre Argentina, a large square. In the center are remains of several Republican Temples (i.e., before Caesar Augustus, probably 2nd or 1st century before the Christian Era). Across (on your right as you were walking down Corso V. Emanuele II) you'll find via di Torre Argentina. This eventually becomes via Rotondo, which will in turn take you into Piazza Rotondo, the square in which you'll find the Pantheon.
The Pantheon ('Temple to All Gods') is the largest dome in Rome (yes ... larger than St. Peter's.) And, if you have the luck to be there on a rainy day, see how much rain enters ... or doesn't ... the 10m hole in the roof. The interior is quite lovely. Typically open from 9-2: quite interesting, and an important sight to behold. A top the proscenium you'll find the inscription:
"M. AGRIPPA L. F. COS. TERTIUM. FECIT" This points out a couple of problems in reading Latin inscriptions. Even knowing a bit of Latin you'll find translating them a bit difficult: "Marcus Agrippa, son (F) of Lucius, Consul (COS) for the third time (Tertium), built this." The facts aren't always in accord with the inscription, if you can read it. In fact, Agrippa did, probably, build the first Pantheon, but Hadrian rebuilt it entirely. Hadrian, modest, by Roman standards, never had his name inscribed on any of his buildings. He honored Agrippa's fame by repeating the original inscription on the new structure.
The interior measures 43,40 meters in diameter, and the same in height. Light and air still enter through the opening at the top (a circle of 8m. 92cms in diameter). In 609 the Pantheon was the first pagan temple to be inaugurated as a Katholic church: The Sta Maria ad Martyrs, dedicated to all the martyrs killed by Roman hands.
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