Monday, January 18, 2016

First Day in Rome

While walking through the Palatine in Rome today Lynn informed us that the Romans enjoyed the ability to have a lot of water and controlling it since it portrayed their power. I'm sure all of us would agree that we wish we could have controlled water like the Romans a few nights ago. However, we have continued our course to Rome and today spent our first day exploring the forum and the monument of Victor Emanuel. 

Our first stop was the Forum of Nerva. What sets this ancient structure apart from the others is the fact that only women are depicted on it. This began the theme of women in the Ancient Roman world that developed throughout the day as we saw more of the Roman forum. On the forum of Nerva the women were shown performing the acts a Roman woman was excepted to carry out such as sewing and weaving. This column illustrated what it meant to be a woman in Ancient Rome. Women in Rome became a very important theme throughout the day. Rome is often imagined to be a woman which could symbolize either the prosperity or the decline of the empire (something we see more of in the forum). This was discussed in more detail later.  

We continued to an iconic tourist site in Rome, the Colosseum. The Colosseum is an amphitheater that held gory gladiator and animal fights. The construction of the amphitheater by Emperor Vespasian was a way of displaying power and entertaining citizens. The emperors believed that if people were fed and entertained that they wouldn't revolt (bread and circus phenomenon). A parallel can definitely be drawn to modern times as NFL playoffs begin in the United States and our Sunday nights are consumed by football. Go Panthers!

After the Colosseum we quickly stopped by the Arch of Constantine before making our way to the Palatine. The Palatine was the imperial residence and it is the origin of the word palace. Here we could gaze at engineering marvels such as the aqueduct and observe where impressive water features once stood. Another display of power by the Romans at the Palatine was the proximity to an ancient hut village. It is believed that this village is the origin of Rome built by Ramulus and Remus. Overall the Palatine was a large and impressive area that is yet another example of the power of the Roman Empire. 

After leaving the Palatine we took a short walk to the Roman forum. A forum is the gathering place and the heart of a city. We saw the Curia (senate building), temple of Saturn, and the palace of the Vestal Virgins. The Vestal Virgins were women who tended to the ancient fire and became symbols of the city. If one of the Vestals lost their virginity it was considered to symbolize the downfall of Rome. Although women appeared to be respected since they symbolized Rome, it was common for people to think that women were men who exited the womb too soon. Basically, women were almost good enough to be men, but not quite. Feminism wasn't happening in the forum. 

Our last stop for the day was the Victor Emanuel Monument (also known as the wedding cake) and the Risorgimento Museum that instigated the discussion of nationalism in Italy. Although the incorporation of Rome into Italy didn't occur until 1870, the people needed something more to feel like a unified nation. This monument includes 12 statues that symbolize 12 regions of Italy coming together. It was here that we were able to witness attempts to create nationalism as a secular religion in Italy. By personifying the many groups of people in Italy on one monument along with the creation of the Italian flag, citizens were presented with a physical symbol of their new national identity. 

This jam packed day was just a taste of Rome and I think we're all excited to see what the rest of this amazing city has to offer (including the tiramisu). 


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