My two-week family holiday in Italy is at an end, and I am now back in London, slightly cold and pining for the heat, the cooking, the fresh fruit, the culture of Rome and the mountains and lakes of Abruzzo province. All holidays must come to an end, however, and as I reacquaint myself with my home, and my friends, and try to focus once more on Guantánamo and the parlous state of British politics, and look forward to cycling in search of new and unexplored parts of London as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, I will also be posting more photos of Rome and of our travels in Abruzzo province.
I have already posted four sets of photos of Rome (here, here, here and here), and this fifth set takes up where the last one left off — with a visit to the Roman Forum, on August 15, followed by a visit to the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill on August 16. These three sites — the heart of Ancient Rome, and consisting of its civic and religious centre, the hill on which several emperors made their home, and the colossal blood-stained amphitheatre where murder was turned into sport — offer an unparalleled insight into Ancient Rome, and for visitors, from the UK at least, the fact that access to all three sites is open for two days and costs just 12 Euros is a bonus, as my wife and I joked that in the UK each site would probably cost £27.90, with a ticket for all three offered at “just” £75.
The cultural wealth of these three sites is truly extraordinary, as layer upon layer of history unfolds in the Forum, whose ruins rest on even more ancient ruins, and, in some cases, monuments were taken over by Christianity. Up on the Palatine Hill, the tree cover is welcome in the summer heat, and the sense of history is also palpable, as this is the most central of Rome’s seven hills. It was also the home of the Emperors Augustus, Tiberius and Domitian, and, according to Roman mythology, was, moreover, the location of the cave where Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome, were found by the she-wolf that raised them.
However, for the most vivid demonstration of power on a gigantic scale, the Colosseum is unrivalled. The largest amphitheatre in the Roman world, it was the home of bloody gladiatorial contests, executions and staged killings for many centuries, a grim example of a compact between the inhabitants of Rome, who loved the deadly shows, and the rulers who encouraged them. It remains a powerful symbol of the kind of bloodlust that I hope we are still moving to eliminate from the human experience, and I was rather touched to note, while researching its modern history, that it has, on occasion, been the venue for demonstrations by opponents of the death penalty, and is illuminated with golden lights every time a death sentence is commuted anywhere in the world, or countries ban the use of the death penalty (see Amnesty International’s list here for details of which countries have abolished the death penalty)
In two final sets of photos from Rome, I will be posting photos of a tiny fraction of the treasures accrued over the years by the Catholic Church, as crammed into the Vatican Museum, and a last set of photos of various sights in Rome, including the cold majesty of St. Peter’s, but for now I hope you enjoy this tour throughout the ruins of Ancient Rome, an era whose influence continues to resonate down the years.
Please note: There are 40 photos in total in the set, “Echoes of Ancient Rome: The Roman Forum, the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill,” although only the first 24 are shown above in thumbnails.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Jennah Solace wrote:
Nice pics Fascinating how civilizations come and go… I wonder what they’ll be saying about us in a few thousand years… will there be any us’s around?
Jaq White wrote:
I wasn’t aware of how the colosseum is lit with golden lights when a death sentence is commuted – how lovely! It must change the whole vibe of the place. Having never visited, I always wondered how it would feel to walk inside. The Tower of London is bad enough for me! Wouldn’t stop me visiting though; hope to get to Rome sooner rather than later and your recent trip can act as a guide!
Darrel Vandeveld wrote:
God save the Queen and her fascist regime!
Hi Jennah, Jaq and Darrel. Great to hear from you all. Jennah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? I’m not sure we could even guarantee that much of our civilisation will still be around in 2000 years, can we? A few years ago, I saw a programme about what material remains would survive if humanity disappeared tomorrow, and it turned out that everything would be swallowed up within less than a century. The last thing to go would apparently be the Hoover Dam!
Jaq, you’ve reminded me that I haven’t visited the blood-saoked Tower of London since I was eight years old! Glad my photos may be something of a guide. A visit to Rome really is worth it, even if its demonstrations of power – both Ancient and Papal – have the power to genuinely disturb.
And Darrel, how lovely to hear from you after so long – and for you to be quoting from “God Save the Queen” by the Sex Pistols. I trust all is well with you.
Darrel Vandeveld wrote:
All is well, Andy. Recalled to active duty (“Just when you think you’re out, they pull you right back in!”) to defend SGT John Rusell in a death penalty case. Illustrates the effects of repeated deployments and a host of other issues it would be unwise of me to discuss here. Glad you’re doing well and I look forward to more of your informed and fresh reporting.
David J. Clarke wrote:
Love the history, the vistas but the tourists I can always do without – is there an off season in Rome?
Thanks, Darrel. Glad to hear all is well with you, and thanks for the encouraging words, as ever.
And David, I have no idea whether Rome ever empties of tourists. In August, most of the Romans aren’t there, so the city as a whole is quieter than usual, but I guess that also makes the tourists even more visible. I’m told that spring and autumn are the freshest times to visit, which I can well believe, but I doubt that the tourists ever take a break!
Jennah Solace wrote, in response to 4, above:
Lol! You always make me laugh, Andy So our legacy will be a dam? Maybe we’ll be thought of as beavers (with very strong teeth!)
He he! I can’t recall exactly which programme I saw, but it might be this one, Jennah. Very interesting.
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