60 Years Ago Today

Thursday, 26 June 1952:

Only about one-third of the Roman Coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre, still remained. Emperor Vespasian, founder of the Flavian Dynasty, started construction of the Coliseum in 72 a.d. It was completed in 80 a.d. the year after Vespasian’s death, and later furnished by Titus, the next emperor. Titus had been put in charge of the Jewish war by Vespasian. He later destroyed Jerusalem and dispersed the Jews in 70 a.d. The Coliseum, an elliptical amphitheatre in the center of the city of Rome, was the largest building ever built in the Roman Empire. It was considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. Hebrew prisoners were employed in its construction.

The Colossus of Nero, an enormous bronze statue, was erected by the Emperor Nero after himself. It was in the vicinity and later torn down so they would have room to build. In the beginning of the 12th century it was used as a stone quarry and then was left. Benedictus in the 14th century consecrated it as a Christian edifice.

And a naval battle was staged here. Also when it was dedicated there were approximately 9,000 animals killed during the 100 days of the festival. Constantine tried to stop the bloody battles. A monk, Saint Telemachus, placed himself between two gladiators that were fighting and he was stoned to death by the crowd. The Christian Emperor Honorius, however, was impressed by the monk’s martyrdom and it spurred him to issue an edict banning gladiator fights. The last known gladiator fight in Rome was on January 1, 404 a.d.

Hey Lois, somebody already put your name on the Coliseum! We walked around where Christians walked to their deaths over 2000 years ago. It cost 20 lire to go into the Coliseum.

It seemed that a church marked every corner. And there was a man holding a pan of bread on his head while riding a bike. I caught sight of the Trajan’s Column and Forum which commemorates the Roman Emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars.

Next we discovered the Arch of Constantine, a triumphal arch in Rome, situated between the Coliseum and the Palatine Hill. The arch was constructed to commemorate victory in 312 a.d. I stood on its original pavement.

Next we saw the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine. The building’s northern aisle was all that remained and was started by Morentius. This building was one of the first Christian churches and had a rectangular building with curved ends. Titus came in on a chariot that fulfilled the prophecy of Palestine. Augustus formed an imperial residence here and other emperors followed.

We saw an old hearse with black and gold as we read street signs on the way over to the forum. The street was built of big stones. We identified Saint Peter in Chains Church. It contained what they believed to be the chains which held St. Peter in prison. In order to show us the chains, a priest opened the sliding doors of the shrine at the front of the chapel.

Inside there was also a famous statue of Moses with a long flowing beard by Michelangelo. Hebrews didn’t have vowels, so horn and light were written the same. Michelangelo misunderstood it and put horns on the statue of Moses. It was the apex of sculpturing with Rachel and Leah on each side of Moses. I noticed an iron gate along the front of the building.

Soon after we discovered the Temple of Venus and of Rome which was near the Coliseum. Then the Arch of Titus, which was built for Emperor Titus in 70-81 a.d., stood in a slightly elevated position at the entrance to the Roman Forum. Its religious significance lay in its depiction of Titus’ victories which included the sacking of Jerusalem. Three young priests told us about Circus Maximus which was the largest stadium in ancient Rome and like a modern racetrack. At one point the Circus could seat 300,000 people. As I spotted a red robed priest from Germany the marble path was caved in and crumbling. Next was the Temple of Romulus which still had its original door. It was green, made of bronze, and still had its original lock.

Then we reached the white marble Arch of Septimius Severus at the northeast end of the Roman Forum, a triumphal arch dedicated in 203 a.d. to commemorate the Parthian victories of Emperor Septimius Severus and his two sons. Mamertine Prison, state prison of ancient Rome, was located on the northeastern slope of the Capitoline Hill, where St. Paul and Peter were imprisoned. There were two upper cells but the lower cell was probably the most ancient prison in Rome. The church of San Giuseppe dei Falegnami now stands above the Mamertine Prison.

At the Tombs of Romulus there were pansies growing all over the grassy area. Later there was a large platform called the rostrum that was built facing the Senate building. It was where people would stand and make their proclamations. SPQR was from a Latin phrase, Senatus Populusque Romanus which means Senate and People of Rome, referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic.

Next on the tour was the Basilica Ulpia which was an ancient Roman civic building located in the Forum of Trajan. Ulpia was the name of Empress of Trajan. There was this most unique Ulpia Restaurant in Rome. Antiquities were in the basement and the manager was Senore Conti. There was a statue of Nero. In 1840 the basement was excavated and cleaned out and fixed up in 1870. Another statue of Nero was in the Vatican by a bar on an old Roman street. It was dedicated as a place to burn incense before going out into the forum.

As we moved on there was an obelisk at the end of the Trajan’s Forum which the obelisk in Paris was copied from. Next we saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a national monument in Italy. Before entering through the doors there were round circular stone stairs. This same pattern was repeated in four or five areas on surrounding buildings for emphasis.

Then we journeyed to the Pantheon which was a temple to all the gods of ancient Rome, the glory of the Eternal City. It was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa on this sight as a temple and rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian in about 126 a.d. The Pantheon used to be the national church of all Italians. The bronze was taken from here to construct the altar at St. Peters. Also, the dome at the Pantheon was a model for St. Peter’s Basilica dome and a dome in Florence. The Pantheon was preserved because it was changed into a Christian Church. It was the largest pagan church still standing with the original bronze door with autographs on the doors.

At the Pantheon was the tomb of Victoire Emmanuel II. He became the second father of the Fatherhood and assumed the title King of Italy to become the first king of a united Italy. An artist Raphael was buried at the Pantheon also. A round hole in the top always represented the open tomb of Raphael. One of his pupils created a statute of Raphael with a dove. Margherita was a promised wife for Raphael.

I bartered for a souvenir picture of Rome for 1400 lire with a few postcards thrown in. Then we walked past the National Parliament that was in session. The actress, Ingrid Bergman, was at every newsstand. She had had twins on June 18, 1952. Carol and I stopped at a book shop, because we were still trying to find a tour guide of Europe. We then lost the group and found our way to American Express. After finding it I got a letter from Mom. We had pizza pie on the way back to the hotel. Then we walked around and window shopped.

I was excited because the opera was tonight. I read the story of La Traviata to the kids. We left early so Carol and Alene could get tickets. As we went we stopped in a Pasticceria for a little Italian pastry. I got one soaked in rum or something similar.

At 8:30 p.m. the rope was still across the entrance to the opera. I climbed over and sat on the stairs to write letters. Eventually at 9 p.m. they let us in. It was not elaborate. However, I enjoyed the opera although the tenor had his eyes glued on his hands. The soprano carried the show.

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