Jeff's Blog - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - Roman Forum

Gonna experiment with PARAGRAPHS today, since these Daily Digests are getting longer.....

Well, it's getting hotter! From today on, it's a very uncomfortable-for-a-fat-guy low 80s and sunny and still very humid, as it always has been here in Rome. Jeez, I wish for some clouds to block that furnace. Anyhow, enough of the human-discomfort aspect. Today was a GREAT day.

I spent the morning in the Roman Forum and saw some sights that are really historically meaningful, and not in the guidebooks. The first was the Domus Publica, which is where the Pontifex Maximus lived during Republican times (before 44 BC). The Pontifex Maximus was the ceremonial priest in charge of the Vestal Virgins, whose job was to guard the sacred fire of Rome so no disasters would happen, maintaining their virginity for 40 years as they did so. Well, Julius Caesar was Pontifex Maximus so this was HIS HOUSE! There's not much left at all, it's a nearly unrecognizable ruin, but there are a few clues remaining, and I saw them. It can only be seen by climbing behind some stones and bushes, but I saw what's left of that house. It's the place he left from on the Ides of March, 44 BC, to go to the auditorium at Pompey's Theater, subject of the Daily Digest photo about a week ago, for those of you keeping score at home.

But today's photo is from the night before, which would be March 14th, 44 BC. Next door to the Domus Publica was the Regia, the much older temple of the Kings of Rome, from about 700 BC. Again, this is only ruins, mainly just foundations of a few walls, but if you know what to look for it's still barely there. One room of the Regia was the Temple of Mars, where the sacred spears were housed upright against a round wall. Before going to war, the general leading the army would go into the Temple of Mars and shake the spears, saying "Mars Awaken" (except not in English), which would cause the god Mars to lead the Romans to victory. But if the sacred spears ever shook on their own, it was a very bad omen for Rome and the attack ought to be postponed.

The photo below shows, for eye candy, the Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina (his wife). It's the 6-column temple with the steps in the front, with the lower half of a statue of Faustina right under the main door. The medieval church behind it is the only reason those columns and the pediment at the top were saved from looting. But wait, that temple is 200 years too late! Look at the small mound in the foreground, within the foundation walls of the Regia. That small mound, marked by the morning shadows, is the hearth in the Temple of Mars which the spears were set against. On the night of the 14th of March, 44 BC, the spears shook from a thunderstorm, and the rest, as they say, is history. Caesar was assassinated in the morning, the Roman Republic fell due to a power vacuum, and Augustus rose to power, changing Rome from a democratic republic into an Imperium, dictated by one man, for the next 400 years.

After a few hours in the Forum I was drenched with sweat, so I went back to my hotel room, a block away, and showered for the second time today. I picked up a sandwich for lunch on the way and ate it in the barely-air-conditioning of my room. Then I set off again, this time for the hopefully cool Central Montemartini Museum, a branch of the Capitoline Museum, of Marforio fame a few Daily Digests ago for those of you still awake. Loved it. It's a power plant from the 1930s, with all the huge machinery engines that turned coal into electricity, and Roman marble statues from antiquity in front of them. It's about 5 metro stops away from the city center, so never very crowded. About 5 other people and me enjoyed the juxtaposition of old white sculptures and newer black semi-modern machinery; someday soon I'll post today's photos to my web site, wife permitting.

After a few hours in the cool non-Central Montemartini Museum, I rode back to the Colosseum metro stop and saw a church that's in the back half of the Temple of Romulus in the Roman Forum. The church is only visitable from outside the Forum. It was OK, but nothing spectacular. But it's near an entrance to the Forum, which was on my way back to my hotel, so I tried to get back in with my ticket. The place is like a Jeff-magnet. I was told my ticket was only good for one entry, but I told them I had only seen the things on the far side of the Forum, not this side near the Colosseum. They took mercy on me and let me in, wagging their finger at me and telling me to be sure to see _everything_ before leaving again. I really just wanted to see a couple sites again with the sun at my back instead of in my face, and also to cut through the Forum as a shortcut to my hotel. cut through the Roman Forum, my gosh I can't believe this...

After drying off in the room for a while, I've gone out to supper, where I usually write my Daily Digest, and from here I'll ride the metro and hike back up the Aventine Hill to see the Aventine Keyhole again. It seems that this senile sweaty old guy forgot to bring his camera tripod last night, and the hand-held photos through the keyhole were awful. But tonight I have my tripod in my backpack.... wait... yes, it's in there, so I'll give it a try again.

Tomorrow is a walk through the Campus Martius, the part of Ancient Rome north of the Forum area where the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, a couple museums, and other sights are located along my walking path. I'll need to get beyond this uncomfortable drenched stuff and just suck up to the fact that I'll be wet and smelly all day tomorrow. Supper should be interesting....

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