The first step in the Caesar Shuffle is the Colosseum. I had seen pictures of the site on TV as early as February and I was not expecting to be “Wowed”. I figured the pictures and guide books only showed the good side and the rest would be tumbled down. I was mistaken and I couldn’t be more delighted to be wrong. The arches high overhead that mark the entrances to the building were magnificent. They really give you a sense of how 50,000 people could be moved in and out for an afternoon of games and entertainment. You can see how designs of current sports arenas were influenced by Roman ingenuity.
Step two is Palatine Hill. The birthplace of Rome tells the tale of Romulus and Remus of Augustus and Julius. Part of the House of Augustus tour gives you access to three rooms that have been restored with the original frescoes uncovered. The artwork is a vibrant red with tall columns and haunting figures of Romans with only sketches to define their forms. One was rumored to be Augustus’ study. What decisions were made where I am standing that affected 2,000 years of civilization? We stop and ponder over a picnic of olives, cheese and fruit that we brought on our trek.
Step three is the Forum. The layers of history are evident. When we think of history we think in terms of 18th century or in some cases 20th century. Here we are talking about 100 years BC or 2,100 years ago when 1,000,000 Romans inhabited the space where we stood. As facades were built around old temples and Roman architecture others were buried by years of neglect and “progress”. The result is a jumble of ancient sites that overwhelm the senses with a swirl of marble and brick. One particularly poignant site was the Temple of Caesar. A stream of people stopped to pay their respects to a man that crossed a river, ended a republic and altered the face of the Western World.
We had a fantastic time doing the shuffle with Julius and the crew. My impression of how ancient Roman men and women lived has changed. I thought they were simple people who were led around by whatever idol was handy and ritual was popular. I found that they were as vicious as any present day politician and I would not want to meet them in a dark alley.
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