The Retirees Go Abroad – the Colosseum and Palatine Hill


Our goal that day had been to visit the Colosseum and Palatine Hill so after some uncertainty about where to catch the “yellow bus” and brushing off numerous street vendors, we found our way to what I think is seen as the embodiment of Rome, the Colosseum. Colosseo to the Romans this enormous stone structure can be found between Via Claudia, Via S Gregorio, Via Labicana, and Via Fori Imperiall. This was an extremely hot day and in the low season so we were not prepared for a queue 200 metres long (once you get inside to buy your tickets the queue breaks from two into 8 and is another 100 metres long). This is where you appreciates the queue jumping ability given to Omnia pass holders. Even so by the time you get inside you want to pee and there is a queue into the portable dunnies which have a smell as long as the queues. Fellas it’s like the football you have to fight off the women to get to sit on the pot because they all want to use our pans.

Once you have finished the call of nature you go to get your audio guide. Don’t bother! The audio guide spots are poorly marked on your guide map and once you do find them on your stroll around you usually have gone the wrong way because there is no guidance as to the direction to follow. Anyway this does not detract from the breathtaking engineering used by the Romans at a time before hydraulic cranes and computer design. Unfortunately the Popes saw fit to raid this monument for stone to build their own monuments so the southern wall is a mixture of building materials and all the wooden seats have long since disappeared but even the ruin is remarkable.

“The Colosseum is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in 70 AD, and was completed in 80 AD under his successor and heir Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Domitian (81–96). These three emperors are known as the Flavian dynasty, and the amphitheatre was named in Latin for its association with their family name (Flavius).” (Wikipedia)

The construction was financed by booty from the invasion of Judea. The structure is 50 metres tall and capable of holding 75,000 people. I had seen an article on the plane from Brisbane and had quite a lot of knowledge about the way the arena operated (National Geographic) and some of the controversy about the sails that were operated by a garrison of sailors to provide shade over the patrons. So seeing the myriad of corridors underneath the floor of the arena only brought questions as to the truth of how the staging operated. Whatever is the truth, either story is miraculous for 2,000 year old technology. By the way, the arena was covered in sand and the latin for sand is arena. The Online Etymology Dictionary says “from Latin harena “place of combat,” originally “sand, sandy place,” perhaps from Etruscan”.

We found a place in the shade and pulled out the bits from the breakfast table to substitute for lunch.

We then moved across to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. Here are the ruins of Rome from the times of Vespasian and Flavius.

The Palatine Hill is one of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. According to Roman mythology, the Palatine Hill was the location of the cave, where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf that kept them alive. Later they killed their great-uncle (who had seized the throne from their grandfather), and they both decided to build a new city of their own on the banks of the River Tiber. However, they had a violent argument with each other and in the end Romulus killed his twin brother Remus. This is how “Rome” got its name – from Romulus.

You get some great views from the Colosseum particularly of the triumphal arch which formed part of the Roman road to the forum. Your Omnia pass gets you in here ahead of the queues also. Once inside the first thing you encounter is the arch of Titus a 1st-century honorific arch. It was constructed in c. 82 AD by the Roman Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus’ victories, including the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. You can imagine the cohorts of Legionnaires marching through these arches to the raucous applause of the citizens of Rome.

You then follow a bit of a rough trail down to the Forum passing the Basilica of Maxentius, the Temple of Romulus, the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina and the ancient cemetery, another basilica and another temple until you reach the forum. There is not a lot to see and you need to exercise your imagination to envisage a community meeting place that changed regularly with changes in Rome itself. At this point the sun, the rough path underfoot and the fact we were largely looking at piles of stones took its toll on Kerry. From here on I was travelling solo.

I continued along the path shown as the “visitor’s route” to the Curia and the Arch of Septimius Severus. The white marble Arch at the northwest end of the Roman Forum is a triumphal arch dedicated in AD 203 to commemorate victories of Emperor Septimius Severus and his two sons, in the two campaigns against the Parthians of 194/195 and 197-199. These arches have weathered time very well. Moving around the visitor’s route I then passed the ruins of the Temple of Saturn and the Capitoline Hill. Behind these ruins were further ruins of Temples from different eras. One of the largest footprints was the Basilica of Julia initially dedicated in 46 BC by Julius Caesar, with building costs paid from the spoils of the Gallic War, and was completed by Augustus, who named the building after his adoptive father.

Standing in the distance I could see three columns with everything around them in rubble. These are the remnants of the Temple of Vesta (vestal virgins) and behind that the gardens of the House of Vestals.

I caught up with Kerry and we moved back to the Arch of Titus and climbed Palatine Hill to Domus Flavia, also known as The Flavian Palace. This is a part of the vast residential complex of the Roman Emperors on the Palatine Hill in Rome. It was completed in 92 AD in the reign of Titus Flavius Domitianus, more commonly known as the Emperor Domitian. The Flavian Palace was more commonly used for purposes of state, while the Domus Augustana, an enormous, lavishly ornamented palace south of the Flavian Palace, was the Emperor’s primary residence. Vast is an understatement. This residence once covered the entire hill top. The site is so big that any photo would only give you a small view of ruins making up the whole.

The sun had beaten both of us so we called it quits to head home on the yellow bus. It was after 6.00pm so the yellow bus was not operating. We set off on foot to find our Metro home. In doing so we crossed paths with an unknown church but we were struck by the size of it. It must have once been a significant part of the community but its condition shows what being just one of many churches leads to. Then we passed Vittoriano, a monument to the Unknown Soldier. It is very Roman in its design. It also serves as a museum. We put this on our list to revisit.

That night Kerry was stricken with a violent headache – probably sunstroke – went to bed as soon as we got home. Here is my photo record of the Colosseum.



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Retired Australian Lawyer having worked representing the innocent and the not so innocent in Australia and some of the remote parts of the world and having travelled widely through Europe, Western Russia, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Thailand Malaysia Solomon Islands northern China, Hong Kong and the UAE So now that I have the time I am writing about my travels present and past. Hope you enjoy exploring off the beaten track.