September 1-4, 1999:
Rome blew our minds and humbled our egos.
We Americans often think those ancient people were somehow inferior to us modern know-it-alls. But the scope and grandeur of Ancient Rome destroys that misconception.
If the Romans had electricity, they'd have been just like us.
It's even more amazing when we realize less than 10% of Ancient Rome is still around. For centuries people plundered the marble, ripping it off the brick that still remains and burning it for lime to make concrete.
Everywhere fragments of this civilization that lasted 1,000 years stick up out of the ground. Restaurants have chips of marble with inscriptions two millennia old hanging on their bathroom walls.
Our first experience of Ancient Rome was the Coliseum.
Here the Romans had enough entrances for 50,000 people to get in and out in 10 minutes. Everyone had a stone ticket with four numbers, entrance, tier, row, and seat. Except the women, who all had to stand in the slave seats at the top.
Kathleen's mother Roberta joined us in Rome. We had lunch our first day in front of Trajan's column. It's the best preserved monument in Rome (from the second century AD). Rolling around the side like a barber's pole is a relief recounting how Emperor Trajan conquered Dacia (present day Romania).
Supposedly, the Romanians still wear the costumes depicted here. We'll find out in a few months.
To the south of the Palatine hill are the vast remains of the Roman Circus. This is where Ben Hur raced his chariot.
On top of the Palatine hill are the remains of the Emperor's homes. This was like the Beverly Hills of Rome, with the 800BC remains of Etruscan huts buried beneath the opulent mansions of the Imperial Rome emperors such as Augustus, Tiberius and Nero.
As consummate 'I Claudius' fans, Livia's home was a special treat.
The enormous baths of Caracalla were a place where our imagination failed us. It was hard to imagine these huge arches all covered in Marble and Mosaic.
But it's nice imagining a world where everyone mingles together in huge indoor baths.
The Pantheon (completed 125AD) remains the best preserved ancient building in Rome (thanks to being adopted as a Christian church in the seventh century).
This building is so fine it served as inspiration for Michelangelo in designing Saint Peters, fifteen hundred years later. He made the dome of St. Peters ten feet smaller than the Pantheon out of respect for it.
The Romans loved Greek arts. In the Pantheon, what you see are Greek architectural elements imitated by the Romans. To the right here you see one of the Laocoon, a 1st century BC Greek statue preserved in Nero's palace.
Michelangelo is said to have spent hours studying this in awe.
A half hour southwest of Rome is the ancient port city for Rome, Ostia Antica. What Newark is to New York.
Here it's as if the sands of time froze for two millennia.
Apartment basements have grain pots waiting for the week's groceries.
The theatre is waiting for actors.
The stalls at the Corporate Forum are waiting for business to begin.
The roads are waiting for the civil corps to come fix the chariot ruts.
Guess some things never change.
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