07 July 2011

Not Prague, Part 2: Roman Forum

More than two millenniums ago, Rome was the center of the universe -- and the Roman Forum was the center of Rome. It was the home of commerce, triumphal ceremonies, sacrifices, games, religious ceremonies, trials and Senatorial debates. It's where the Vestal Virgins (more than 16, I'm guessing) watched over a sacred flame that was not allowed to burn out. It was the home of important speeches, including Mark Antony's eulogy of Julius Caesar. And it's where Marcus Cicero delivered powerful oratories, served as a lawyer for high-profile trials and, after pissing off those in power for the last time, had his hands and head displayed on the Rostra after he was executed.

The Forum was my favorite part of Rome, where I spent three hot and humid days. In a city bursting with history, with gorgeous plazas and fountains at what seemed like every other block, no other place could touch the Forum's history, even if at first glance it just looks like a bunch of ruins.

The Forum's current state cannot be explained fully in a tidy paragraph -- if you're into Roman history or are planning a visit, this book will help. There are too many reconstructions and excavations to keep track of. Suffice it to say that if it mattered in Rome back in the day, it happened at the Forum. I got a sense of that when I read Imperium by Robert Harris at the urging of the Guvnor (who also ordered -- not suggested -- me to hit Rome when I was done in Prague; color me grateful). As I walked around without a guide, I just allowed myself to stop and imagine citizens selling their wares, listening to speeches or roaring in approval during the latest triumph.

The Rostra, site of many important speeches
If you haven't clicked on the link to my photo album already, you can do so here. Still to come: the Colosseum, the Vatican, other Roman sites, Florence, Munich and Berlin.

Self-serving blog note: If you haven't participated in the poll, you have until Monday, noon EDT. Baldy looks forward to more people voting for him.

Your tour guide to Old Town Square, Mala Strana and the night club scene.

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