memories from the past

The Colosseum is known for the spectacular and bloody fights of gladiators and wild animals, but when the ancient times ended, silence fell upon the forgotten ruins and a new life for the monument started. Actually many different lives.

The building, symbol of a pagan authority that persecuted the Christians, was looted for centuries and cursed with dark legends. Only in 1750 the pope ruling Rome decided to rededicate the monument and free it from the bad presences that haunted it. This pope was Benedict XIV who raised a cross in the center of the Arena field and 14 altars to commemorate the passion of Christ in preparation for Easter.

The pagan monument became a center of pilgrimage and the stage where every Holy Friday the “Walk of Christ” (Via Crucis) was performed. With the archeological excavations these traces of a Catholic use have been canceled, but the procession still takes place. For 2017 the superintendence of Rome has decided to restore and rebuild one of the 14 altars that will be unveiled for the procession of April, 14.

A great occasion to see something old and new, pagan and Christian at the same time, that truly symbolises the spirit of this city and its never-ending, beautiful contradictions.

the ides of march

The ides of March represent a turning point in Roman history, marking the transition to the Roman Empire. Caesar had defeated and pardoned many of his enemies, concentrated in his hands an absolute power seeking to became a king in Rome, and a god after his death.
Deceived old friends who had expected to get more from him and old enemies who dreamt to save the Republic had one last chance of achieving their project in this fatal day, dedicated to Anna Perenna, a goddess of the year (Latin annus) whose festival originally concluded the ceremonies of the new year (in the primitive Roman calendar March was the first month). Three days later Caesar would have gone East to conquer the rest of the world.

The conspirators staged a game of gladiatorial combats at Pompey’s theatre, by the temporary seat of the Senate. Caesar had a nightmare that night and some time before a seer had prevented him of a danger at the ides of March. On his way to the Senate he met the seer once again, and when he claimed that that day had come with no harm, he was answered that the day was not over yet.

When he stepped in, he was approached by a senator pretending to beg for the return of his exiled brother: that was the signal – the conspirators crowded all around him and senator Casca gave the first strike. Caesar hit him with his stylus but when he realized he was surrounded he simply wrapped his head and pulled down his mantel to cover the feet in order to fall with dignity. 23 times he was stabbed but only one was the mortal touch that cut his aorta in the chest. Everybody run away, and dead Caesar was left alone for hours, until three slaves came to get his body. Silence was all around as the citizen locked themselves at home as the news spread. Anthony was spared because the conspirators had decided that the death of a single tyrant would be more symbolically effective than a massacre.

You can live back this day with the historical commemoration that takes place every year, March 15th at Largo Argentina, the archeological area where this enormous fact happened. Every other day of the year you can visit the GNAM if you wish to see the beautiful painting inspired by Caesar’s assassination, together with many other masterpieces in Italy’s largest collection of modern and contemporary art.

toss the coin in the fountain… as the ancient romans did!

Nowdays the most famous fountain in the world is the Trevi Fountain, where the popular tradition requires the visitor who wishes to come back to throw a coin in the water basin.

Well even the ancient Romans had a founatin connected with a similar tradition: it was the spring of Anna Perenna. The legend tells that she was Dido’s unhappy sister, escaped from Carthage and welcomed by the hero Aeneas in Latium. Aeneas’ wife got jealous of Anna so she went away and was abducted by the river Numicius who fell in love with her turning the girl into a goddess.

The cult of Anna Perenna was connected to the renovation of the year and springtime, and during her day (March, 15th) people used to reach the natural spring consacrated to her, get drunk, dance and… you can imagine the rest! It was one of the happiest celebrations in Rome, but all year long people used to throw coins in the fountain to get some good luck. Anna’s cult was also connected with magic and people used to cast objects engraved with “defixiones” (curses) and some of them are really peculiar. Want to see it?

The archeological findings, coins and anathemas are exhibited at the National Museums of the Baths, while the archeological site needs a special reservation.

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