Jeff's Blog - Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - Museums

Today I went to three great museums while it never rained, then spent the late afternoon and evening outside and it still didn't rain. The first two museums were part of the National Museum of Rome. The first was located at the Baths of Diocletian. When I visited here two years ago, a lot of the sections of the museum were closed, but today everything was open, and half of the large swimming pool in the baths has just recently been restored and opened to the public, so I had a lot of cool stuff to see here. Beside the baths themselves and the half of the building that housed them, this museum specializes in roman inscriptions and funerary items. The second museum, at the Palazzo Massimo is just a block away, right next to the train station. I loved it a year ago when I first went, and I loved it again on this second go-round. Tremendous museum of sculptures, and walls and mosaics from places here in Rome that have been found while excavating for public works, like the train station. An amazing room of sculptures was runner-up for today's photo. But the next stop, the Ara Pacis museum, wins on historical counts. The Ara Pacis, or Altar of Peace, was built by Augustus as a propaganda tool symbolizing the peace he had brought to Rome after the Civil Wars which began when Caesar was assassinated and the Roman Republic crashed in the rubble. It was a sacrificial altar enclosed in a building with friezes all around that represented the history (even then) of Rome, and Augustus and his family. The ceremonial front of the building is shown below; the steps lead inside to the sacrificial altar. The tiny black slits to the left and right of the top of the stairs are drains for the blood. Awesome. Well OK, for rain too, but that's a lot less picturesque. The frieze at upper-right shows Aeneas, ancestor of Romulus and Remus, who fled Troy it was sacked by the Greeks, sacrificing a pig to Juno when he first arrived in Italy, as told in book VIII of Virgil's Aeneid. After this museum I went to the nearby Spanish Steps and saw a few fountains, another of the "talking sculptures", are supper, and a climbed to the hill at the top of the steps after dark for photos overlooking Rome. I walked along the edge of that hill, past the Villa Medici fountain that Respighi wrote such a peaceful movement about in his Roman Trilogy, to a spot at the top of Piazza Popolo for another incredible view of Rome at night, before the easy walk down to a metro station and back to my hotel. Tomorrow is the Vatican Museum and some sights near there, and maybe a cruise on the Tiber to see the historical bridges of Rome and relax for a while, if there's time.

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