Sunday, 13 April 2008

Forum Romanum (The Roman Forum)

The Forum was the center of the ancient city, a place to see and to be seen, to catch up on the latest news and gossip, do some shopping, business and even to be entertained. Nowadays all we see are ruins, mostly due to the plundering which took place in the Middle Ages as the great monuments were ravaged and had their marble and other elements stripped off them for the building of the Vatican and other Papal palaces and churches. Despite this it is still the best example of an open-air museum, offering the visitor a chance to go back in time somewhat and walk in the footsteps of the ancient Romans.

Over the centuries the Forum has gone through many changes. After a big fire in AD 283 it was already 1,000 years old and had been remodelled several times. The Forum started life as a marshy area, a meeting place for the early inhabitants of the surrounding hills. By the 5th century BC it had evolved into Rome's city-centre, a place for political assemblies, riots, demonstrations, trials, gladiatorial shows and various public festivities. The marshy ground had been drained, the Cloaca Maxima had been created and one could see lofty patrician houses amidst the hustle and bustle of a market filled with food stalls, various imported and local goods and even cattle in the area closer to the river (Forum Boarium). Plautus gives us an interesting description of the kinds of people lurking around the Forum:

"For perjurers, try the Comitium. Liars and braggarts hang around the Shrine of Cloacina: rich, married ne'er do-wells by the Basilica. Packs of prostitutes there too - but rather clapped-out ones. In the Fish-Market, members of the dining clubs. In the lower Forum respectable, well-to-do citizens out for a stroll; in the Middle Forum, flashier types along the canal. By the Lacus Curtius you will find bold fellows with a tongue in their head and a bad intent in their mind - great slanderers of others and very vulnerable to it themselves. By the old shops, the money-lenders - they will make or take a loan. Behind the Temple of Castor there are men to whom you wouldn't entrust yourself. In the Vicus Tuscus are men who sell themselves. In the Velabrum you will find a baker or a butcher or a fortune-teller, or men who will do a turn for you or get you to do a turn for them." [Plautus, Curculio 470-82]

As time went by the are transformed yet again into a showcase of Roman power, reminders of triumphs celebrated by victorious generals, the conquests of the empire, and elaborate temples and various public buildings built with the booty and slaves Rome had acquired.

Today it is interesting to see, as indeed one of my pictures above shows, that the alleged site of Julius Caesar's funeral pyre at the Ara di Cesare (Temple of Divus Julius) is still honoured by people who deposit flowers at the spot anonymously.


peacay said...

Well, the 2 year wait was worth it. Lovely pics! Taa.

Pioneering Over Four Epochs said...

I just saw the Peter O'Toole(Old Augustus) TV and film version of "Augustus"(2003). I then wrote the following prose-poem. I'd be interested in your comment on both the film and my poem.-Ron Price, Tasmania

After watching the two part series “Augustus” on SBS TV(17 and 24 June 2008--11:40 p.m. to 1:15 a.m.) in the last two weeks as another academic year was coming to an end in school systems across the northern hemisphere; after teaching Roman history at a post-secondary technical college in Western Australia in the late 1980s and early 1990s; after studying Roman history in high school as part of the grade eleven curriculum in Ontario in 1960-1961 and in the first year of my liberal arts degree in university in 1963-1964 forty-five years ago; after taking an interest in the field of classical studies since those 1960s, albeit a peripheral one among the many subjects that were part of the general and interdisciplinary studies I taught and the general studies in the social sciences and humanities that I read—after all this, in the early evening of my life, as the years of my late adulthood crept along incrementally more quickly, it seemed, with every passing year, I felt like writing this prose-poem. I wanted to try to fit Augustus, Octavian as he was also known, the first Roman Emperor, into a historical context relevant to today, at least relevant to how I had come to see the comparisons and contrasts between Augustus and his time as well as my time, my age and my life. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 27 June 2008.

Rome had conquered the world,
well, a big chunk of it in the middle
East, north Africa and what is now
Europe, in the quarter millennium
from 250 BC to the time of Christ.

Was it a set-up? Setting the world
up for the periodic intervention of
the divine into human affairs, giving
a stage for the spread of the message
that would and did change that mise
en scene forever. And are we being
set up again, in our age and time in
the midst, now, of this greatest of
spiritual dramas in the world’s history,
so very unbeknownst to the generality
of men, creeping, as it now is, along
the edges of society as that message
did 2000 years ago before it captured
western civilization for a 1000 years?

The most precious Being ever to appear
in the world of creation appears from time
to time and the light of the Unseen shines
above the horizon of celestial might only
to be denied, opposed and disputed with
in vain words to try to invalidate His claim.1

1 Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Iqan, Wilmette, 1950(1931), p.5.

Ron Price
27 June 2008
End of Story...Ron