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Roma Day VIII: Ancient Rome with Dr. Darius Arya

Jun 02 2015

By Rosemary Rae

This morning we visited the Trajan Column and explored the Forum with Dr. Darius Arya, an archaeologist who resides here in Rome. In addition to the factual information he shared about all the sites, he also told anecdotes about the ascent and demise, often gruesomely, of Rome’s grand emperors, politicians and kings. Augustus, Nero, Caesar and many others all had their prominent roles in creating one of the most important archeological sites in the world.

Dr. Arya graphically described ancient Rome as a thriving place — full of markets, pedestrians, oxen and carts. Locals could not sleep because carts were not allowed on the roads until sunset, when they would noisily transport the marble and wood to build these structures. It was also fascinating to learn about the layers of the ruins, and how each layer reveals a rich history.

We began at the Trajan Column, built in honor of Emperor Trajan and featuring the relief of 2500 carved figures. Then we walked to the Forum, which is the site of archaeological excavations, which Dr Arya has initiated and been apart of. Here we explored the ruins of The Temple of Vesta, with its Corinthian columns, Arch of Septimius Severus, an arch raised on a travertine base, the Temple of Caesar, Temple of Castor and Pollux, The Column of Phocas, the Vestal Virgins and the grounds behind the Museo Palatino. We ended our tour with a view of the Colosseum, but not before a fly over from the ­­Frecce Tricolori – the Italian Air Force’s Blue Angels. It gave me goosebumps.

My favorite ruin was the Temple of Saturn. Gazing up at those eight columns in the hot sun, I read the inscription on the surviving portico, “Senatus Populusque Romanus incendio consumptum restituit“, meaning “The Senate and People of Rome have restored what fire consumed.” I’ve seen this temple illustrated on a vintage travel poster and to me it is the epitome of the magnificence of Rome.

Photographs by Rosemary Rae