Palatine Hill Would be a Good Name for a Rock Band
We slowly made our way to Palatine Hill after leaving the Colosseum. The Colosseum is at the base of the hill. It’s a leisurely stroll through history once you’re on the path. Kinda sorta.
The fact the word “hill” was in the title should have tipped me off that there would potentially be a considerable expenditure of energy. At least on the uphill leg.
The tour would be more work than I anticipated.
Palatine Hill is so named because in 27 B.C. Augustus built his palace here and the site served as the residence for a number of Roman emperors.
On one side of the hill was the Colosseum. On the other was the Circus Maximus. It appears the palace was centrally located for the emperor’s convenience to the carnage and mayhem which passed for entertainment at the time .
Ruins with a View
The ruins are extensive and the sheer scope of the site and what remains is impressive. Much of the structure acts as retaining walls to contain the slope.
It would appear they function in the same manner as pants and a belt do for me. However, Roman engineering has been much more successful than myself in respect to “slope containment.”
No matter. This is just brick foundation. My imagination runs riot at the concept of “excess” in ancient times when these buildings were covered in the finest marble.
Marbling Doesn’t Have Me Thinking of Steak for a Change
The Palace of Flavia is now little more than a marble floor outline on the ground. However, the the intricacy and aesthetic qualities of the marble craft are still here despite 2,000 years of weathering.
I read a plaque that says Emperor Domitian had the walls constructed of pink and white marble. It had a courtyard pool with an octagonal island and a sculptural fountain.
Domitian, ever fearful of assassination, had the marble walls polished like a mirror to reflect what was happening behind his back. Did it work?
Nope. As it so happened, Domitian was stabbed in the groin while signing papers at his desk in 96 A.D. Oooch! That didn’t kill him so the plotters stabbed him several more times.
Instead of polished marble walls he should have perhaps invested in a marble cup and jockstrap. That might have at least left him the will to fight back after the initial stab. Moving on quickly now!
The House of Romulus
At one point in our journey we came upon the Casa Romuli. Romulus was one of the founders of Rome and not an enemy of the United Federation of Planets as the producers of Star Trek would lead you to believe.
Apparently it was originally a mud hut with a straw roof but now on the site are iron age hut foundations from 700 B.C. Before I had this information I thought I’d wandered into where they manufactured cinder blocks, or baked bread or something.
Flavia tells us Romans throughout history have attempted to maintain this site as it’s been destroyed numerous times by fire. The last recorded fire on site was was apparently set by some crows which dropped pieces of burning meat, snatched from an altar, onto the thatched roof.
I hate when that happens to me. I’m on the deck grilling lunch for the family and I go inside for a second to grab the BBQ sauce and crows have snatched burgers off the grill and now there are fires all over the neighborhood.
I think historians need dig a bit deeper than that flimsy story.
Some of These Things are Not Like the Others
We’re walking through the ruins of Domitian’s palace and arrive at the emperor’s private stadium. It’s particularly interesting because there was a building that looked completely out of place.
It looked like a picture from a children’s book with illustrations by Picasso. Apparently there was an art exhibit taking place on Palatine Hill while we were there. I’ve just got to say the pieces were beyond ugly and did nothing for the historic ambience. They were going for Dali but got Daffy Duck instead.
The city had set up a number of art installations. Not knowing the situation, it was quite jarring to wander among structures that are two millenia old, turn a corner and see a life size, paper mache (or is it papier-mache? Does it really matter) Soyuz/Apollo linkup.
The Romans were more ambitious than I’d been led to believe. I hadn’t an inkling the Romans even HAD a space program, no less landed successfully on Palatine Hill. Eventually we arrived at Circus Maximus.
Circus Minimus Nowadays
The awe inspiring Circus Maximus we’ve seen in so many movies is now just an outline and a traffic… oval. I daresay it was much safer when it was used for chariot race given what I’ve seen of contemporary Italian road safety. After taking some pictures we depart.
We make our way back down the hill to the car. As we drive through the busier sections of Rome my eyes are screwed tightly shut and I clutch at Jo’s arm. I detect no bumps which would indicate we’ve hit pedestrians and managed to rack up points in Death Race Roma 2017. Bonus!
Cruisin Through Rome
I open my eyes to discover we’ve left the area around the ancient city and are driving through more contemporary areas of Rome. We pass through Rome’s Chinatown and I wonder if there’s a Little Italy in Beijing.
There are two things I hadn’t anticipated prior to visiting Rome. The high numbers of tactically armed police and obelisks. What’s an obelisk? The Washington Monument is the most famous example. Anyway, Egypt is all over the place in Rome.
Why, Rome even has its own Egyptian pyramid built in 12 B.C. as a tomb for some guy named Gaius Cestius. At one point it became noticeable that there are gigantic phallic symbols all over the place, almost as though Rome itself were compensating for something. Truth be told, I think Rome is envious of Paris and maybe Berlin too, if you know what I mean.
It’s also a little unnerving to see so many police tactically armed with assault weapons. The only place I can recall this heavy an armed presence publicly on this trip was in Berlin. But that’s a post for another time.
Wasted Away Again in Mussolini-ville
My apologies to Jimmy Buffet for that subtitle. Can I plead stream of consciousness? Margaritaville… Mussoliniville… same number of syllables.
Stefania drives us to an area called the Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR) which was designed and rebuilt by the fascists under Mussolini. You don’t often see this much white concrete outside of a dystopian sci fi movie.
Stefania wanted us to see Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana as she had mentioned it earlier in the day at a display on the Colosseum’s architectural influence.
It’s still a concrete box, but then this would appear a to be the most popular form of fascist architecture.
There was one more place of interest to visit before calling it a day. We stopped for a quick lunch at a nearby restaurant and recharge before heading to the Catacombs of San Sebastiano.
Last Time on TTWTH: Ready to Rome-ble at the Colosseum