Our four-hour walking seminar through the Palatine Hill, Forum, and Colosseum takes us to the archaeological core of the city. Rich with history, we could spend years exploring every facet of these infamous monuments. Our docent, normally a scholar of antiquities, archaeology, or architecture, will use our time to weave an in-depth narrative on the glory of ancient Rome, painting a picture of the emperors, philosophers, and commoners who brought these spaces to life.
The Archaeology of the Palatine Hill and Imperial Fora. Our time begins on the Palatine Hill, where, according to legend, Romulus founded the city in 753 B.C. (on April 21, to be exact). After covering the founding myths and anthropological record of the Palatine, we explore the imperial palaces that eventually covered the hill, usually stopping in the Palatine museum for a lecture on Roman statuary and occasionally making a special visit to one of the archaeological sites normally closed to visitors. We will linger among the ruins for a while on the Palatine, as from here one gets a very good introduction to archaeological technique, Roman architecture and construction technologies, and Roman political and social structure.
We will explore the remnants of the acqueduct of Claudius and take in vistas of the Roman Forum that illustrate the palimpsest nature of the city.After our course on the Palatine we descend into the Forum for a series of lectures and seminar-style discussions that carry us down the Via Sacra (the main street of ancient Rome), past the major sites that crowded the city center, including the Curia (senate house) and the temples, triumphal arches, and basilicas around the Forum Square. Depending on the specialization of your docent, we may linger in front of the House of the Vestal Virgins, or the Basilica of Maxentius, or the gameboards etched into the steps of the Basilica Giulia. There are tens of thousands of fascinating details to focus upon in the Forum; and based on how our conversation has developed to that point our docent will pick apart a few salient ones to help the group get a perspective on the history of this area.
Public spectacle at the Colosseum. From the Roman Forum we exit by the Mamertine Prison and take in the Imperial Fora, a series of interlocking public spaces constructed during Rome's "Imperial Era," perhaps as a way of remaking the old, republican city into a new Emperor-ruled theocratic state. Finally, we stroll down the Fascist-era Via Fori Imperiali to the Colosseum where, inside, we finish our seminar with a discussion of Roman public spectacle and decadence. Also known as the Flavian Amphitheater, the Colosseum is a marvel of ancient engineering and construction. Gladiatorial fights, wild beast hunts, and mock sea battles all contributed to the public spectacle that played an important role in the social life of ancient Rome. We will explore these themes during our time here, separating fact from fiction in one of the most visited sites in Rome.
At the end of our time, we will have a deeper knowledge of ancient Rome—its emperors, its history, and its feats of engineering. The archaeology of the Palatine, Forum, and Colosseum only serves to whet the appetite for the feast of monuments that awaits us throughout the city.