ROME — August 12 was truly a hurried and busy day. While in the catacombs that morning the temperatures were cool and comfortable, and everyone enjoyed the humble sacredness of the site. Leaving the catacombs and heading to the Colosseum, we felt the late morning sun’s warmth. Our time at the Colosseum was rushed and crowded. In the short 90-minute tour mentioned in last week’s article, we glimpsed the early architectural Roman empire wonder. Afterwards, we found a near-by restaurant before beginning another quick 45-minute afternoon trek through the remaining portion of the “Parco Archeologico de Colosseo” (Archaeological Park of the Colosseum).
Entering the western portion of the “Parco Archaeological de Colosseo,” one passes through the “Arch of Titus.”
The amazing arch was dedicated by the Roman Senate to Emperor Titus after his death in 81 A.D. It was a structure depicting the Emperor’s victory after he defeated and looted Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The inner arch’s etchings show the riches and Titus brought aloft by an eagle with a triumphal procession. The two sides depict two phases of his victory. One, Titus being crowned and two, showing an Imperial entourage making its way through the entry of “Porta Triumphalis” (an arch through which a victor passed after a success in battle).
The base of this spectacular arch is made of travertine, with its inner core constructed of concrete. The arch was incorporated into the Frangipane Family fortress when they were Roman Patricians who governed Rome from 1107-1108 AD. They were also able to hold the Colosseum as their personal fortress up until 1130 AD. Later, the arch was embedded within the buildings of the Santa Francesca Romana (Santa Maria) Convent.
It was in 1706 that the last of three major earthquakes hit the area. There was much damage done to the arch as well as other structures in the many Roman Forums themselves. Previous to these earthquakes, there had been much destruction in the Middle Ages (476-1453 AD) when damage was done by the Goths, Vandals, Saracenes, Normans, and the Lansquenetes.
Initiated by the Vatican Papal Authority in 1812, a restoration project was begun and successfully completed in 1824. However, it wasn’t until 1901-02 that the arch’s foundation was revealed during a project when the present street was being lowered. To have survived and been restored so many years ago, is indeed amazing.
Due to time constraints, we were unable to see very much of this archaeological park’s phenomenon. The major thrust was to walk through parts of the park where we saw some of the more prominent features.
The park itself is comprised of the following: Colosseum, Square of the Colosseum, Forum of Caesar, Forum of Augusta, Forum of Peace, Forum of Nerva, Forum of Trajan, Trajan‘s Market, Roman Forum, and Campidoglio (the place that was the heart of politics). As we exited the park, we had a chance to view the backside of the Forum of Peace.
One of the first sites we saw as we entered the Roman Forum area, was various ruins of assorted buildings.
Walking down the entrance path of the Roman Forum, we saw the amazing, “Temple of Romulus.” This temple was dedicated in 309 A.D. to Romulus, the son of Emperor Maxentius. His son had died at a very early age and this temple stood as a monument to his memory. It stands in the southeast corner of the Forum of Peace and has impressive columns that prominently stand in front. These columns were taken from another building and placed there strictly for show. The pillars at the entrance of the temple are built of red porphyry and stand beside a bronze door that is almost 1700 years old—the lock still works today. We did not have time to go inside, but research showed it was a fascinating temple.
The continuation of the walk through the “Parco de Archaeologico Colosseo” will continue in next week’s article.