Visiting Ancient Roman Landmarks

By Diliff – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2067974

As you can imagine, the city of Rome is the site of several extant landmarks that date back to the ancient Roman Empire. As one of the oldest settled places in the world, Rome has seen the coming and going of several different civilisations. These ancient and varied architectural and cultural influences are what make Rome a place that you truly need to see with your own eyes.

Image credit: By Roberta Dragan – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1597477

My first stop: The Pantheon, one of the most popular ancient Roman landmarks. Now a Roman Catholic Church, I can see why this former Roman temple to the ancient gods is considered by experts to be an impressive feat of engineering. The 142-foot tall structure is made of Roman concrete and features a sophisticated dome construction that allows it to bear its own massive weight without collapsing throughout the centuries.

Image credit: By Rennett Stowe from USA – Roman Forum, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26302242

After my visit to The Pantheon, I took a 30-minute walk to the nearby site of The Roman Forum, the former centre of Rome’s glorious imperial rule. This complex of ancient structures features intact Roman archways and columns, ornately designed floors and walls, the scattered ruins of temples, and former Roman homes and government buildings. It’s a somewhat strange feeling – walking around what used to be the bustling business centre of an ancient civilisation, now a quiet place more suited for meditation.

Image credit: By Sixtus – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=707711

I wanted to see some of Rome’s underground world, so I then went to the San Clemente Church. This area is actually four structures built on top of one another throughout several centuries. At the top is the Basilica of San Clemente, which is only a couple of centuries old. Right underneath it is another Christian basilica with a highly intricate and impressive interior, this time from the 4th century. From there I took another flight of stairs down to the 1st century home of a Roman noble. And in the basement of that home, I stood in a quiet and well-preserved mithraeum, a place of ritual and worship for the mysterious and ancient Roman Cult of Mithras. The Atlas Obscura has the full story on this nesting egg of churches. It’s a must-see site for lovers of both art and archaeology.

Image credit: By Jerzy Strzelecki – Own work,Jerzy Strzelecki; adjusted from original, see below by User:Amandajm., CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3233581

One place where I was told I could see both above-ground and underground Roman ruins is the world-famous Colosseum. Walking along its paths on the surface is one thing, exploring its underground rooms is another. I could almost hear the gladiators, sharpening their blades and asking aid from the gods. One of them is the iconic gladiator and rebel leader Spartacus, instructing a fellow gladiator on the weaknesses of the average Roman soldier. The slave leader’s rebellions throughout Rome have inspired everything from literature, to television, to even the world of online browser games. There’s the highly rated and acclaimed Starz series Spartacus, which tells the story of how the rebellion began. Foxy Casino’s Spartacus slot game is based on the gladiator from ancient Thrace – now part of modern-day Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece – who was sold into slavery and became one of the greatest rebels in history. It also depicts Spartacus as he was known through historical records: muscle-bound, wearing a plumed helmet, and armed with sword and shield. Meanwhile, the first season of the aforementioned series called Spartacus: Blood and Sand expands on the warrior’s story by depicting his rise to glory in the pits as the “Champion of Capua”. The series, which premiered in 2013, is still inspiring fan fiction written in a variety of languages today. So although his rebellions were ultimately crushed, they left an indelible mark in history, one that can still be seen all the way to modern fan fiction and video games.

For more tales about exploring the little-known gems of the world, check out An Unadventurous Adventure – just one of the stories you can read at my blog.