Magnificent Rome — The Ancient Port of Ostia Antica

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I walked on streets where crowds bustled nineteen centuries ago. Living, breathing people worked at the docks,  ate and drank with friends, enjoyed the theater, fell in love.

Mosaic found in Ostia Antica

They are long gone, but their city, which had been buried in river mud and silt, remains. About half has been uncovered.

Ostia Antica, a commuter train ride from Rome, was a port at the mouth of the Tiber River.  The larger ships could not make it up the river to Rome, so workers unloaded cargo here into warehouses.

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A synagogue built almost two thousand years ago, with a Star of David still on the outside. A bakery where several workers stood and ground grain with pestles near a stone oven where bread baked before people purchased loaves there. Another oven is at a café where people ate at tables and chairs in a courtyard with a fountain. I think I remember a fountain, but I do remember I was struck that they enjoyed a meal outside on a fine day, just as we do.

Theater at Ostia AnticaTheater at Ostia Antica

Here is the exterior and interior of the theater. Teens hammed it up from what is left of the stage. After shouting to three in French, they all hopped at the same time.

Maybe 50,000 to 75,000 people lived here at one time. Archeologists have found hotels, apartment buildings a few stories high, bars, brothels, houses of worship, community baths, homes, and hundreds of shops.

Magnificent Rome

I feel very fortunate to have visited Italy recently, and I am pre-empting my regular past-and-present period to move back two thousand years.

I had no idea many of the great sights of ancient Rome are right next to each other.  I was able to reach these on foot from my hotel in a beautiful neighborhood, Aventino, with lovely apartments with red-tile roofs and inviting terraces, and tall trees lining the hilly streets.  This is one of the seven hills of Rome.

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Between this Aventine Hill and the Palatine Hill is the Circus Maximus.  A sign posted there stated Romans raced chariots drawn by teams of four or six horses.  The races took place for NINE HUNDRED years.

There  was once a stadium here that seated 150,000 people.  Today, the track remains.

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The ruins on the other side of the Circus Maximus, shown in the upper right of the photo in the link above,  are the ruins on the Palatino, the Palatine Hill.  “Palatino” for “palace,”  and there are great, long arched walls of an ancient palace and other buildings.

This hill was the birthplace of Rome, both according to legend (Romulus and Remus were supposedly raised by a wolf here), and history. Archeologists determined people lived on this hill 3,000 years ago, about 2,000 B.C. (BCE).

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The Palatine Hill overlooks the Roman Forum.

This video shows the Roman Forum, the few acres that were the center of Western civilization, of worship and government, for centuries.

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Visitors to the forum can enter the ancient Senate, where Roman citizens governed until the emperors became more powerful. I was awed to stand here.

Roman Senate

In ancient times, there were a number of arches in Rome commemorating military victories.  There’s one beside the Roman Forum, and a larger one, the Arch of Constantine, across the street from the Forum and the Palatine Hill, beside the Colisseum.  As I said, it’s amazing how close everything is.  Here’s the Arch of Constantine, built in 315.

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That’s the Coliseum on the right.  After viewing the Coliseum, we walked past monuments, including a square designed by Michelangelo, on the way back to the hotel.  What a day.  What a walk.

Magnificent Rome — Vatican City

Normally, I write about the late 1800s, the early 1900s, and the present, but I was very fortunate to visit Italy a few weeks ago, and this is truly a city of the past and present. The Eternal City.

I was astounded the first morning when we took a short ride on a public bus.  I saw, spanning the Tiber River, a beautiful bridge with several statues, and it was instantly familiar, probably from photos and movies.  On the other side stands an ancient castle.  The bus crossed the bridge, and the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica came into view.  I was thrilled to see these monuments so close together.  My mouth might have dropped open, but the other people on the bus were just going to work that morning.

To enter St. Peter’s Basilica, you wait in a long line in one of the most famous squares in the world.

There is a post office in the square, where you can buy postcards and mail them home with the postmark of the Vatican, which, you’ll recall, is a separate country from Italy.

Here’s the interior of  St. Peter’s Basilica, probably the largest church in Christendom.

The baldacchino, the bronze canopy-like structure, was designed by the Bernini and stands over the altar, which was built over the tomb of St. Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus.

Men and women of the cloth pass the throngs of sightseers and go about their business.  From a chapel at the side, open only to those who wish to pray, a couple people emerged looking sad.  I imagine they pray at St. Peter’s for their desperately ill loved ones.

Two Swiss Guards are stationed at a private entrance for cars.  Although visitors took photos, his expression was almost fierce, letting everyone know he was truly guarding the Vatican.

The Vatican Museum, in a separate building, contains treasures of ancient Rome and the Renaissance.

The walls of the room above are covered with frescoes of maps.

Four rooms in the Vatican Museum were decorated by Raphael.

These rooms include Raphael’s “School of Athens,” below, featuring famous Greek philosophers.

The Sistine Chapel, with the ceiling and the altar wall by Michelangelo, is the most famous room in the Vatican Museum.

I’ll post more photos of magnificent Rome.