American history, Lost and Found, The Bill of Rights, The United States Constitution, Uncategorized, World history

We the People: A brief history of the United States Constitution and its first ten amendments. Part two: “…in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers…”

The Preamble to the Bill of Rights photoshopped

The Preamble to the Bill of Rights

I love history shot
One of the thrills I get when writing and researching for these posts is finding those little pieces of history that aren’t always presented in the regular telling’s. But when added to the narrative gives the stories so much more depth, and a much clearer understanding. However, what it also ends up doing is to completely change the direction of my original idea.

So it was when I was doing research for these posts on the Bill of Rights. I discovered a little piece of  its history that hasn’t always been included in the writings on the first ten amendments. I believe that knowing about, and understanding, what this often left out piece of  the Bill of Rights has to say goes to the very essence of the purpose, and the intent of the framers when they crafted the Bill of Rights. To better present this I felt it needed an entire post of its own. 

I’d now like to address the preamble to the Bill of Rights, which went before the listing of the amendments.

Preambles

Having a preamble added to their documents was of extreme importance to our framers: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights all have one.

So what’s a preamble? Dictionary.com defines a preamble as: “an introductory part of a statute, deed, or the like, stating the reasons and intent of what follows.” The preamble was the beginning statement that set the purpose of the document and what it was set up to do.

Federal Hall New York, the first house of the Congress

Federal Hall in New York City, the first capital of the United States (March 4, 1789- July 1790)

The preambles we know also paint a vast vision with inspiring words, such as these from the preamble of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” and “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” And from the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union… do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The framers did not release an important document without a Preamble. However, its interesting to note that the preamble to the Bill of Rights has been left off most printing, even those published by the government.
One of the books I’ve been using in writing these posts is, “Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of independences” by B.J. Lossing. In his book Lossing includes: the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Each of them includes their preambles, except the Bill of Rights. He only printed the introductive paragraph, leaving out the important following three paragraphs, especially the second paragraph that gives the reasons why these amendment were added in the first place. And this book was first published in 1848.

So why has the preamble to the Bill of Rights so often been left off? I haven’t been able to find the answer to that yet. However there is a preamble, and it’s very important for you to know what it says. And I’m sure you’ll see the Bill of Rights in a different light after you’ve read it.

So here’s the text of the preamble to the Bill of Rights in

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John Adams, Vice President and President of the Senate during the Bill of Rights debate

its entirety:

 

CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES
begun and held at the City of New York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution expressed a desire in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.
RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, two thirds of both the Houses concurring that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of several states as Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all or any of which articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures to be valid to all intents and purposes as part of said Constitution; viz.:
ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Armchair Analyzing the Preamble

In reading the above preamble you see that the first paragraph basically states that these articles are an act of the First Congress under the new Constitution while in session in City of New York. The third paragraph states that two thirds of both the Senate and the House of Representatives are presenting these articles (twelve at that time) to the states for consideration and ratification, and how that’s to be done. The fourth paragraph introduces those following amendments as ratified under Article V of the Constitution.

The real meat to the purpose and intent for these amendments, and to the changes to the Constitution, is clearly addressed in its second paragraph;
The second paragraph begins with: “THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution expressed a desire…” This clearly says why the Congress created these amendments, because several States, and other groups within those States, had BIG issues with the Constitution as it was presented for the ratification process. The issue of a Bill of Rights, or the lack of one, in the presented Constitution threated its very ratification (I’ll go deeper into that in my next post).

The preamble then goes on to state what these amendments are supposed to accomplish: “…in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers…” The “it” in this line is the Federal Government. These amendments are to keep the Federal government from overstepping its bounds by taking away certain States and the peoples rights, then becoming a monarchy or tyranny.

It then explains how these amendments are going to prevent that possible abuse of power: “… that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added…” This line says that through these governmental restrictions guaranteed by these amendments will stop government infringement on the certain people’s civil liberties as outlined in these amendments.

The paragraph ends with:“…And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution…” This says that with, and through, these amendments that the people will trust the government more, and this will be a benefit for both.

So you see, the Bill of Rights amendments are not to protect the people from foreign governments, but from the government of the United States of America.

Now that you’ve read the Bill of Rights’ preamble, and my own humble analysis, we’re ready to dive into the history of how these ten amendments came about, how did James Madison, the Federalist, came to be the one that spearhead the writing of these amendments. And what did I mean by “twelve” Bill of Rights amendments?

Stay tuned, my next post will be on the crafting of the Bill of Rights.

And please read my post: We the People: A brief history of the United States Constitution and its first ten amendments Part One: …In order to form a more perfect union.

Sources used:

Lossing, B. J. Lives of the Signers of the Declartion of Independence. WallBuilder Press, 2010.
“The Preamble to the Bill of Rights.” Revolutionary War and Beyond, Revolutionary War and Beyond, revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/preamble-bill-of-rights.html.
Martin. “Preamble to the Bill of Rights.” What Would The Founders Think?, What Would The Founders Think?, whatwouldthefoundersthink.com/preamble-to-the-bill-of-rights.
“Preamble to the Bill of Rights.” Office of Government and Community Relations, Drexel University, drexel.edu/ogcr/resources/constitution/amendments/preamble/.
“Preamble to the “Bill of Rights”.” Adask’s Law The Profit of Injustice, Adask’s Law The Profit of Injustice, 17 Apr. 2011, adask.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/preamble-to-th-bill-of-rights/.
National Archives. “The Bill of Rights: A Transcription.” Amercica’s Founding Documents, The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, http://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights-transcript.

 

 

 

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American history, history and travel, History in Time, Still Current, The Articles of Confederation, The Bill of Rights, The United States Constitution, Uncategorized, World history

We the People: A brief history of the United States Constitution and its first ten amendments Part one: …In order to form a more perfect Union

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I love history shotThe Constitution of the United States of America is not just the governing foundation of our nation, but the very essence of us as a people. However, when most Americans think of the U.S. Constitution they’re usually referring to one or more of its first ten amendments. A while ago I was talking to a friend about the political state of our country and he said, “We need to go back to the original constitution as it was written,” I said to him, “You mean before freedom of speech, religion, and the press, or the right to bear arms?” “Oh,” he answered, “that’s right, they’re amendments.”
My original plan for these posts was to just write about the history and background around the first ten amendments, and only using the formation of the constitution as background. But as I researched I came to realize that I too only saw the constitution through those amendments, and was missing the amazing journey our founding fathers took in creating this nation of ours.
What were the needs and desires that took us from thirteen separate colonies and turned us into thirteen United States. And what were the fears and concerns that guided those framers to “form a more perfect union,” one that could adapt and grow with the better understanding that comes over time.
So I begin before a nation was born, as we struggled to gain freedom during our Revisionary War.

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Copy of the Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States.

The Articles of Confederation (1781-1789), the first constitution of the United States
As the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) intensified the Continental Congress saw the urgency to form a stronger union between the states for the purposes of securing loans and other aid from foreign nations.
The first unification proposal was presented by Benjamin Franklin in July of 1775, this was never formally considered. There would be a total of six proposals submitted and rejected. In June of 1776 Pennsylvanian John Dickinson’s proposed Articles were passed on to committee for revisions. The revised Articles were debated by the full Congress, and after a long deliberation were approved and submitted to the thirteen states for ratification on November 15, 1777. On March

John_Hanson_Portrait_17701, 1781 John Hanson, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Articles of Confederation into law, creating the new nation of the United States of America. Since Hanson was the President of the first governing congress of the new nation, technically he would be the first President of the United States.
The relationship between the states was described in Article III of the Articles of Confederation as, “a firm league of friendship… for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare.” The biggest fear from the states was that a strong central government would take away states’ rights, but under these new Articles the states remained sovereign. The new government would: have one house of Congress with its members elected by the state’s legislation, the authority to form international alliances and treaties, make war, maintain an army and navy, coin money, establish a postal service, and manage Indian affairs. What it couldn’t do was to regulate foreign commerce or raise taxes; revenue would come from each state based on the value of its privately own lands. Also there would be no restrictions of trade between states, and each state would honor all judicial rulings of other states.
One major issue addressed in the Articles was western expansion. Under original colonial charters coastal states as Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Rhode Island were confined to a few hundred miles of Atlantic coast while other state’s charters allowed them to expand westward. Thomas Jefferson led the way with Virginia, that set limits to states expanding their boarder westward; this allowed the new lands to the west to become new states. It’s this article that set the guidelines for us to become our 50 States.
However it soon became evident that giving the states so much authority was a major weakness with the Articles of Confederation, as well as the inability of taxation, forced Congress to take another look at the document.
The 1787 Constitution of the United State of America (1889-present)

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The Constitution of the United States of America

With most of the powers of governance in the hands of the states the Articles of Confederation gave the federal government very little authority. This led to much confusion, infighting, and the eventual strain on relationships between the “firm league of friendship” of the states. Also foreign governments were still reluctant to deal with a United States that didn’t seem very united. To try and fix those issues the Continental Congress called a constitutional convention to meet in Philadelphia in May of 1787 with the purpose of revising the Articles.
Convention delegates were sent by each state, and consisted of all sectors of society. So knowledgeable and versed in issues of self-government were these delegates that Thomas Jefferson referred to them as, “an assembly of demigods.”
The delegates’ instructions were to only work on revising the exciting Articles, but as they discussed different options for revision they found it very difficult. After much debate the delegation, led by the 36 year old James Madison from Virginia, decided to scrap the entire Articles of Confederation for a completely new Constitution.

JamesMadisonThose delegates with Madison were generally convinced that an effective central government with a wide range of powers was needed over the weaker Articles of Confederation. Madison, along with fellow Virginians Edmund Randolph and George Mason, presented to the delegation as a whole an outline for a new governmental constitution we now call “the Virginia Plan.” This document would become the bedrock for what would finally be the Constitution of the United States of America that we have today.
It took almost a year for the convention’s delegates to work out the new constitution. When finished it consisted of only seven articles that would give the new federal government limited powers while still protecting states’ rights. With the new constitution: articles I-III laid out the three branches of the government, with their authority and powers: the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. This balance of powers Madison believed would keep the republic from becoming a dictatorship.
Article IV addressed the relationship between the states, jumping ahead, article VI declared that this Constitution was the supreme law of the nation, and article VII described the ratification process. Now back to article V, this article gave the guidelines for amending the Constitution; this article would be used even as the Constitution was undergoing ratification by the states.
However there were still many delegates, members of the continental congress, and state legislatures that feared that a strong and powerful central government would infringe on states’ and individuals rights. They had just finished a long and terrible revolutionary war where a strong powerful nation had taken away their basic rights as Englishmen. What the British had done to them during the war was crystal clear in their minds (I’ll be addressing those atrocities in my posts on the first ten amendments). They didn’t want to trade one oppressive government for another.
Soon two groups formed: the Federalists, who supported a new stronger central government, and the Anti-Federalists, that were opposed. James Madison, along with fellow Federalists Alexander Hamilton and John Jay published what is known as the Federalist Papers that defended the proposed constitution as what would be best for the country. They saw that their constitution still protected the states as well as individual citizens. The Anti-Federalists, with such revolutionary heroes as Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, and Richard Henry Lee, didn’t see it that way and began demanding that a “Bill of Rights” be added. They feared that without a guarantee of individuals’ rights that the strong national government could suppress the people, leading to the president to become a king.
At first James Madison still believed that his “balance of power” concept would protect the people, and a Bill of Rights wasn’t needed. But after Thomas Jefferson and George Washington wrote to him that some form of a bill of individuals’ rights be included, and that some of the states would refuse ratification without it, Madison and his Federalist finally vowed to create and include a Bill of Rights.
As Madison and the other delegates began deliberating on the addition of individual rights to the constitution the Continental Congress decided to begin the state ratification process without it. But they promised the states that the new Congress, under the new Constitution, would make changes under its Article V.
On September 13, 1788 in New York the Continental Congress, with the required minimum of eleven state ratification under Article VII, began transferring to the new Constitutional government. On March 4, 1889 the new government began operation under the new Constitution of the United States of American, and on April 30 George Washington was inaugurated as the first President under this Constitution.
As promised the new Congress began debate on amending the Constitution with a Bill of Rights.

My upcoming posts
I’ll be exploring what could have been the reasoning for, what resources used, and what caused James Madison and the other framers to select those individual rights to protect in the first ten amendments. I’ll also give the history of how those amendments are looked at today.
Resources:
Wikipedia. “United States Constitution.” Wikipedia, 24 May 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Consitiution.
Researchers. “Primary Documents in American History.” The Articles of Confederation, Library of Congress, 25 Apr. 2017, http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/articles.html.
“James Madison.” Bill of Rights Institute , Bill of Rights Institute, 2018, http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org.
“Bill of Rights Institute.” Bill of Rights, Bill of Rights Institute, 2018, http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org.

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Ancient Roman, Greek history, history and travel, History in Time, In the footsteps of the Ceasers, Italy, Lost and Found, Palaces, Roman History, Sites to see in the world, Still Current, The Caesars, The Isle of Capri, Travel, Uncategorized, World history

The Isle of Capri: Resort of the Caesars

 

A view of the harbor

Marina Grande, the main harbor of the Isle of Capri

 

 

Ron Current

Ron Current

Part of our tour was a daytrip to the magical and romantic Isle of Capri, which is only a short forty minute ferry ride from Sorrento. Capri is one of three islands located just outside the Bay of Naples: the others are Ischia and Procida. But the most famous of them all is Capri. As we cruise there I’ll give you a brief history of the Isle of Capri.

Although it’s known that Capri was settled by Bronze Age Greeks it is now thought that the island was inhabited at a much earlier time. The first record of this comes from when the Emperor Augustus was excavating for his villa where large bones and stone weapons were unearthed. Modern archaeologists now believe that the island was indeed inhabited during the Neolithic period, from 10,200 BC till around 2,500 BC.
However the most famous settlers of the island were the Romans, and two of their emperors. As I mentioned above the first emperor to build a villa on Capri was Augustus. Augustus needed a place to get away from the heat and crowds of Rome, he chose Capri for its mild climate, remoteness and its rocky cliffs that offered him protection from would be assassins. But it would be his successor Tiberius that would out do him in the scale, grandeur and numbers of villas built on the island. Tiberius constructed twelve palaces on Capri, the largest being Villa Jovis.

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Bust of Tiberius Caesar, the Romisch-Germanisches Museum in Cologne

During his rule Tiberius began spending more and more time at Villa Jovis than he did in Rome. Fear of assassination became such a paranoia for him that he self-exiled himself to Capri were his personal security was much better than in Rome. It was at Jovis that he spent the rest of his life until his death in 37 AD.
Villa Jovis sits atop Monte Tiberio, the islands second highest peak. The palace covers almost 1.7 acres and was built at different levels. Water was an issue for such a large complex, with all the servants and solders serving and protecting the emperor. To solve that problem four huge barrel roofed cisterns were built to collect and store water, providing more than enough even for hot baths.

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The ruins of Villa Jovis

Today only eight levels remain of the Villa Jovis complex, but it does give visitors a feeling of what it must have looked like when Tiberius Caesar ruled from there. Sadly, since this was just a day trip there wasn’t time to visit the site.

Our ferry docked at the port of Marina Grande on the island’s north side. As you disembark you’ll notice that the harbor is a mixture of small colorful fishing boats, day cruisers and multi-million dollar yachts. Unlike many other island ports Marina Grande isn’t the main town, it’s Capri sitting 800 feet above the harbor.

The port of Marina Grande

The harbor of Marina Grande

To get to the town of Capri you can: walk, take a bike, take a taxi, or the funicular. We decided on the funicular. Capri’s funicular is a cable car that holds 70 passengers and pulls itself up a steep incline to the town. As you’re riding up you get a great view of the harbor and its surrounding cliffs with white washed houses clinging to their sides.
The funicular station lets you off on the Piazzetta, the center of town. If you are a people watcher Capri is the place to be, for this is the place where the who’s who of Europe come to stay and shop, and if you’re a shopper Capri has the largest selection of exclusive brand name shops in one location.

 

 

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Street in Capri

 

Our next stop was a little higher up the mountain, the town of Anacapri. We choose one of the island’s buses to get us there. The buses on Capri are not like the buses we think of, they’re more like minivans. I have been on many thrill rides but nothing compared to this bus ride. The road up to Anacapri is very, very narrow and full of traffic going up and down. Add to that they all drive at Italian speed. Our seat was near the front and all we could see were cars, motor scooters and buses coming right at us. It was surprising that we weren’t involved in a head-on collision. Finally arriving at Anacapri we quickly got off, and I found a shop where I could sample another Limoncello.

Narrow road

close call on the road to Anacapri

Anacapri is a little less fancy and more laidback that Capri, and the shops are not as high end as in Capri. Things to see in Anacapri: the small church of Chiesa di San Michele with its eighteenth-century majolica floor, which is a form of painted ceramic. Also there’s the Villa San Michele built by the Swedish doctor Axel Munthe. If you like antiques this is the place to visit.
Just a little past the Villa San Michele is what is known as the La Scala Fenicia or Phoenician Steps. This steep rock stairway was the only way to get from Marina Grande, Capri and Anacapri for centuries. Although called the Phoenician Steps they were most likely constructed by the ancient Greek colonist.

The ancient stairs

the top of the Phoenician Steps

Another popular thing to do while in Anacapri is go to the top of Mount Solaro, the island’s highest peak. From up there they say the view is spectacular. However there’s only two ways to get to the top: walk or take the chair left. And when I say a chair lift, I mean a chair. It’s a single seat chair that hangs on a cable with your legs dangling in the air.

the Chairlift to the top

The chair lift to Mount Solaro

 

I wish that we had time to see the other sites that Capri had to offer, especially the world famous Grotta Azzurra or Blue Grotto. But it gives us something to go back for.

 

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Ancient Roman, history and travel, History in Time, Italy, Killer Volcanos of the World, Lost and Found, Mount Vesuvius, Myths and Legends, Pampeii, Roman History, Sites to see in the world, Still Current, The Roman Republic, Travel, Uncategorized, Volcanos, World history

Pompeii: A City Frozen in Time

“Broad sheets of flame were lighting up many parts of Vesuvius; their light and brightness were the more vivid for the darkness of the night… it was daylight now elsewhere in the world, but there the darkness was darker and thicker than any night.”
“I cannot give you a more exact description of its appearance than by comparing to a pine tree; for it shot up to a great height in the form of a tall trunk, which spread out at the top as though into branches. …Occasionally it was brighter, occasionally darker and spotted, as it was either more or less filled with earth and cinders.”
Pliny the Younger, August 79 AD

Ron Current

was Ron Current

These are the writings of the young Roman Pliny the Younger as he described the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the destruction of the City of Pompeii as he watched from across the Bay of Naples. Pliny’s is the only recorded account of what occurred during those 24 hours of horror and suffering by the citizens of Pompeii and Herculaneum in August of 79 AD.

Welcome to my first posting of 2018, with this post I’ll return to our 2015 trip to Italy.
When my wife and I were planning this trip visiting Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius was a must for me. Vesuvius and Pompeii had been on my bucket list ever since I saw the 1959 movie “The Last Days of Pompeii.” It was also that movie that gave me the deep interest in volcanos. Now, as our tour bus left Rome, I was excited that soon another one of my life’s dreams would be fulfilled. So as we motor down to one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites I’ll give you a brief history of Pompeii, and the Volcano that froze it in time.

A church setting above Pompeii

The church at the top of the photo is at ground level. This gives you an idea as how deep Pompeii was buried.

The Eruption
The story of Pompeii’s eventual fate actually began seventeen years before the 79 AD eruption. On February 5, 62 AD a massive earthquake struck the region around the Bay of Naples, where Pompeii and Herculaneum were located. This earthquake caused severe damage in both cities. What the citizens didn’t know was that the earthquake was caused by magma moving up deep inside of Mt. Vesuvius. Earthquakes were fairly common in Italy, and the large gray Mt. Vesuvius seemed to be nothing more than just another mountain. Since Vesuvius hadn’t erupted in centuries most had forgotten that it was a volcano. They also didn’t know that the low hills that ringed Vesuvius were the remains of a much larger prehistoric volcano, and that the 4,000 foot Vesuvius was actually a new cone that had built up in its caldera.

Street of Pomeii

Street in Pompeii

On the hot afternoon of August 24, 79 AD the citizens felt continued earthquakes and heard loud rumblings coming from the mountain. This was followed by flames leaping out of its summit craters, Vesuvius had two. Soon a large column of thick black smoke shot up, to what is believed to have been 20 miles into the stratosphere. This column of smoke had a particular shape described by Pliny the Younger as, ““I cannot give you a more exact description of its appearance than by comparing to a (Mediterranean) pine tree.” Today volcanologists refer to these types of eruptions as “Plinian,” after Pliny.
The citizens watched the mountain in amazement, but soon it began to rain down ash and pumice onto the city. At that point some decided to leave, but sadly many chose to stay and ride it out.

The Theater of Pompeii

The main 5,000 seat theater of Pompeii that is still used today for plays and concerts.

As the day wore on the eruptive blasts became more and more intense, and more and more ash rained down causing those that stayed to panic. They began collecting their belongings to leave, but for many it was too late. The heavy ash had now gotten so deep that the roofs of some of the homes began to collapse, and it was now so thick that it was hard to see and to breathe.
At around midnight the amount of materials, called tephra, within the bellowing cloud caused it to collapse releasing the first of the pyroclastic surges. Pyroclastic surges are a ground hugging fluidized mass of gas and rock that travels down the sides of  volcanos at several hundred miles per hour, and with temperatures of nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Via Stabiana of Pompeii

The Via Stabiana

The first surge engulfed the city of Herculaneum, but Pompeii didn’t stay lucky for long. Throughout the night new columns of tephra would shoot up out of the craters, and then collapse into another pyroclastic surge. Scientists estimate that there may have been as many as six pyroclastic surges that horrible night. Now Pompeii was also encased in super-heated mud and gases. This is what killed those that stayed too long, no one could have survived.

An unfortunate Roman of Vesuvius' wrath

The cast of a poor victim of Vesuvius’ wrath.

The Aftermath
As morning came Vesuvius had quieted, leaving behind an unearthly smoldering gray landscape. All traces of Pompeii and Herculaneum had been erased under one and a half millions tons of volcanic material. Although no one knows for sure how many were killed in the eruption it is believed to have been around 2,000, or 13% of the city’s population. Herculaneum suffered fewer losses due to its lesser population, and that most had left when the eruption started.
Over the weeks that followed some came back looking for family members to no avail. In most cases when a disaster hits people soon come back and rebuild, but not so with Pompeii and Herculaneum. So traumatic was this event, and the fact that the cities were buried under 14 to 17 feet of ash and pumice, Pompeii and Herculaneum were never rebuilt, and were soon forgotten.

The exercise yard of the Stabian Bath

The exercise yard of the Stabian Baths

Rediscovered
The popular story is that Pompeii lay hidden and unknown until the 18th century, however this is incorrect. Archaeologists have found signs of looters digging tunnels into the buried houses looking for buried riches. Officially Pompeii was lost for 1,500 years when it was rediscovered in 1599. But it wasn’t until 150 years later that any serious excavations began. This was done by the Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre in 1748. Herculaneum was rediscovered in 1738.

The courtyard garden at the House of Memander

The courtyard garden of the House of Menander.

We arrive
Arriving at the archaeological site we exited our bus and followed our guide into the unearthed Roman city. As we entered I looked up to see houses sitting above us, this gave me a good perspective as to how deep Pompeii had been buried.

It still works! 2,000 year old drinking fountain

One of the 2,000 year old drinking fountains that still works.

As you walk amongst the ruins you get a true snapshot into the lives of first century Romans. As you walk along the streets you can see the worn groves made by chariots and wagons, take a drink from a Roman fountain, and see the temples where Romans worshiped their gods. Inside the houses are colorful frescos and walls paintings. This was the life of people in a great city more than 2,000 years ago.

The portrait of a poet on the House of Menander

The fresco of a seated poet in the House of Menander.

Protecting Pompeii
For over the 250 years Pompeii has been a major tourist destination of Italy. It is estimated that over 2.6 million visitors per year visit this ancient city. This has caused many problems connected to large volumes of tourists crowded  into such a fragile site. Hoping to reduce the number of visitors to Pompeii the governing body has expanded the use of entry tickets to include Herculaneum and the town of Stabiae, and Villa Poppaesa, which were also buried in the 79 AD eruption.
The masses of tourists is but one of the problems facing Pompeii’s future. For 2,000 years the volcanic materials of Mt. Vesuvius had protected the building and art of this ancient city from the elements. Sealing out air and moisture let its buried objects remain preserved. But once exposed they now became subject to wind, rain, light exposure, erosion, plants, and animals that’s been causing rapidly deterioration.

Supporting the walls

Supports holding up buildings walls

Many of the building at Pompeii have started to fall apart, or even collapse. I could see the efforts of trying to preserve this treasure, with houses and temples closed, and supports holding up walls. We can only hope that Pompeii can be saved.
All funding today is directed at trying to preserving this site. But it’s estimated that over 355 million US dollars is needed to just stabilize the two-thirds of the city that’s already been excavated. UNESCO in 2013 declared that if preservation work had not progressed Pompeii would be listed as in danger.

Me at the Forum of Pompeii with the Mountain in the background.

Standing in the Forum of Pompeii with “the Mountain” in the distance.

The Sleeping Giant
As I stood in the Forum of Pompeii looking at Vesuvius 5 miles in the distance I couldn’t help but think that modern Italians have fallen into the same complacent bliss with this fire mountain as did the ancient Romans of Pompeii. There are over 3 million people living within 20 miles of the mountain, and all are in danger from another eruption as big as the one in 79 AD. Volcanologists say that it’s not if, but when she awakes.
But because Vesuvius hasn’t stirred in recent history (the last eruption was in 1944) they don’t seem to fear her.  However Mt. Vesuvius is a proven killer, but yet she’s is a beautiful killer.

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The Roman Forum: Searching for Caesar’s Grave

 

Ron Current

Ron Current

The assassination of Julius Caesar was only the beginnings of this historic story of ancient Roman intrigue, what came next was his funeral and cremation. For this story we’ll return to the Roman Forum, and my surprising find.
As I stated in my last post (The Roman Forum: Searching for the site of Julius Caesar’s assassination) I expected to find where he was murdered in the Forum, and although I didn’t find the site of his assassination there I did find something even more amazing- his grave!
But before I describe what I found I’d like to again go back in time to 44 BC, and the aftermath of Caesar’s assassination.

 
The Funeral of Julius Caesar
There are no firsthand accounts as what took place at Caesar’s funeral and cremation. What we know comes from two sources: the Greek historian Appian of Alexandria (c. 95-c.165), in his Roman history writings History of the Civil Wars, and the Roman scholar Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (c.71-c.135), in his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, both written decades after Caesar’s funeral. From these two accounts we get a picture as to what may have taken place in 44 BC.

the-rostra-platform

The reconstructed Rostra in the Roman Forum today

A few days after Caesar’s assassination his body, still in the cloths he wore when murdered, was taken on a bier of ivory and placed on the Rostra in the Roman Forum. In the Forum today is the reconstructed rostra that sits on that site near the Temple of Saturn and the Arch of Serverus. The condition of Caesar’s body couldn’t have been very good after days in the heat of Rome, embalming hadn’t been invented in 44 BC. This would have added to the horror of the event. Also on the Rostra, next to the body, was a torso of Caesar made of wax, which revolved mechanically, showing the 23 stab wounds.
The large crowd that had gathered for the funeral was becoming more and more agitated as time went on, and there was great wailing and moaning coming from them. Armed men were placed in front of the Rostra to hold back the crowd as Caesar’s friend and Consul Marc Antony took to the platform to give the funeral oration.
Friends, Romans and countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
Act III, Scene II of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

 

 

funeral-of-julius-caesar-44-bc-photo-researchers

Marc Antony giving his address at Caesar’s funeral

These opening lines by Marc Antony in Julius Caesar at Caesars funeral are perhaps the most recognized and well known lines in all of Shakespeare’s works, however Appian presents another version of Antony’s opening words, “It is not right, my fellow-citizens, for the funeral oration in praise of so great a man be delivered by me, a single individual, instead of by his whole country…” Although a word-for-word record of what Antony actually said hasn’t been found both Appian and Tranquillius state that what he said denounced the conspirators for their ghastly act and turned the crowd of mourners into an enraged mob.

 

 

After Antony’s speech the mob rushed the Rostra, pushing passed the guards, seizing the bier with Caesar’s body, and carried it down the Via Sacra to the Forum’s square, between the Basilica Julia and the Temple of Caster and Polllux. There they sat it down, covering it with wood, clothes, furniture, anything that would burn, and set it ablaze. It was said that fire was so large and out of control that several of the building in the Forum were damaged.
After the funeral pyre had burned out the crowed, still enraged, went through the city burning the houses of the conspirators. This caused many of the them to flee the city. Both Antony and Octavian used this anger to their own political ends, getting rid of the senate conspirators and to form their own seat of power in Rome.
One year later, in 42 BC they, along with Marcus Lepidus, formed yet another three person ruling partnership called the Second Triumvirate. Also they got the new puppet senate to formally deify Caesar, making him the first Roman to be named a god. In addition Octavian pushed the senate to name him “Divi filius,” or Son of god, giving him more power than Antony and Lepidus.
Finally after years of another civil war and his political gamesmanship Octavian had killed all of Caesar’s murders and Marc Antony, and exiled Lepidus, leaving him in absolute power of Rome. This culminated with the senate titling him with the name “Augustus,” in Latin meaning “the illustrious one.” This title was more of a religious title of authority than a political one that would allow Augustus Caesar to maneuver his way into becoming Rome’s first emperor, and ending the Roman Republic era.
The Temple of Divus Caesar
Caesar’s ashes had been collected and later placed in the base of the Alter the Rome Senate had erected on the site of his cremation. In 31 BC Octavian began the construction of a temple to honor his adopted father also at that site. In 29 BC, two years later, the temple was dedicated to “Divus Julius,” the Deified Caesar.

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This is what the Temple of Caesar may have looked like. Note the recess with the Alter at the center front

One of the most unique aspects of the Temple of Caesar was the recess built into its front to accommodate the senate’s Alter holding Caesar’s ashes. Around this recess was constructed a raised orators platform designed to be the new rostra for public speeches. This platform was adorned with the bronze rams taken from the ships of Antony and Cleopatra at the battle of Actium. The temple was flanked by two arches, one for the Battle of Actium and the other to celebrate Augustus’ returning the Legionary Standards after the battle of Carrhae. Inside the temple was a large statue of Julius Caesar, which included a star on his head and bearing the augural staff in its right hand. This statue could be seen from the Forum outside when the temple’s doors were open.
It’s recorded that the Temple of Caesar remained mostly intact until the late 15th century, after which it was stripped of its marble and stone.
The Temple of the Deified Caesar today
To find the Temple of Caesar in the Roman Forum when going through the Arch of Constantine entrance you walk down the still unexcavated hill toward the center of the Forum. As you pass the Temple of Antonius and Faustina on the Via Sacra, and behind the columns of the Temple of Vesta and those of the Temple of Castor and Pollus, you’ll see what looks like a small roof covering something; this is what remains of the Temple of Caesar.

 

 

The Temple of Caesar

The remains of the Temple of Caesar in the Forum today

As you walk around to its front all you’ll see are just parts of the temple’s cement core. These were the base which supported the orators’ platform and temple building, and is all that remains of the temple itself. There are segments of the temple’s decorations around the site and also in the Forum Museum but that all. What really amazed and thrilled me is what I found the roof protecting.
As you walk under the roof and around the cement wall of the old temple you’ll see what looks like a pile of gray dirt. This is what’s left of the Alter that the Roman Senate erected over 2,000 years ago, the Alter holding the ashes of Julius Caesar. It’s then that it hits you, you are looking at the grave and final resting place of the most famous Roman in history, Julius Caesar.

The Altar in the Temple of Caesar, which is said to have held Julius Caesars ashes

The remains of the senate’s Alter with Caesar’s ashes

Still today people of Rome, and visitors, pay homage to this great man by offering coins and flowers on his grave, and for me it was a fabulous, and unexpected discovery.

 

 

 

 

This ends my seven part series on the Roman Forums. I hope you’ll read, or re-read them all:
The Roman Forum: Part I, the center of an empire
The Roman Forum: Part II, a walking exploration
The Imperial Fora of Rome: Julius and Augustus Caesar
The Imperial Fora of Rome: Emperors Vespasian and Nerva
The Imperial Fora of Rome: Forum of Trajan
The Roman Forum: Searching for the site of Julius Caesar’s assassination

 

 

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The Roman Forum: Searching for the site of Julius Caesar’s assassination.

 

Ron Current

Ron Current

Perhaps there isn’t a more famous and well known ancient Roman than Julius Caesar. This is due in part to William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar and the many movies and television programs done on him. However, many of us only know  this man from just these plays and movies, which aren’t necessarily historically factual.
On my list of sites to see while at the Roman Forum was where Julius Caesar was murdered. From what little I knew, again from the fore mentioned sources, he was murdered on the steps of the Roman Senate by his enemies on March 15th 44 BC, the Ides of March. I figured since the Roman Senate met in the Roman Forum that’s where I’d find where it happened, but I was wrong. Caesar, I found, wasn’t assassinated in the Forum but at another location. Although he wasn’t murdered in the Forum I did find something there on Caesar that was totally unexpected and much more amazing, but that’s for another post.
Hail Caesar!
Before I take you on my journey of discovery I feel I should give a little background on the man we’re searching for.
Gaius Julius Caesar was born on July 13 in 100 BC to a well to do Roman political family. Caesar believed that his political ambitions would be realized through a successful military career. Caesar advanced thru the ranks quickly becoming General of the legendary 13th Legion.

Julius Caesar, the Tusculum bust, the only known sculpture during his life

The Tusclum bust of Julius Caesar, the only one known to have been done while he was alive.

His fame grew when he expanded the Roman Empire into Europe and Britain. This gave Caesar immense military and popular power that he used to his advantage.
In 60 BC Caesar formed a political alliance with two of his rivals, Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey “the Great,” against the wishes of the Roman Senate. This alliance ended in 53 BC with the death of Crassus. Pompey feeling threated by Caesar’s popularity, switched this alliance to the Senate.
The Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his command, which he refused to do. Instead on January 10 in 49 BC Caesar broke Roman law by leading his army across the Rubicon River, the northern border of ancient Roman Italy, starting a civil war.
The Great Roman Civil War lasted four years, ending with Pompey’s murder and those that opposed Caesar being overthrown in 46 BC. Caesar now had full say over the Senate, who named him dictator for life; however there were still those in the Senate that opposed Caesar.
With his complete control of the government he began instituting programs of social and governmental reform. He also began major building projects in the Forum.
As I had presented in my previous posts (the Roman Forum, Part II- A walking exploration and the Imperial Fora of Rome: Julius and Augustus Caesar) Julius Caesar began major reconstruction projects including building his Curia Julia. On March 15, 44 BC Caesar’s Curia wasn’t finished and the old Curia had been torn down forcing the Senate to meet in another location. That’s what threw me off as to where the assassination took place.

“Beware the Ides of March”
While the new Curia was being finished the Senate had moved their meetings to the Curia Pompey, part of the magnificent Theater of Pompey located in the Campus Martius, the new section of Rome north of the Forum.

 

1412px-Vincenzo_Camuccini_-_La_morte_di_Cesare

The assassination of Julius Caesar by Vincenzo Camuccini

At first Caesar refused to meet with the Senate, after being warned by his wife and a soothsayer that told him, “Beware the Ides of March.” But after the conspirators convinced him of the importance of the meeting Caesar changed his mind. Legend has it that as Caesar was on his way to the meeting he again met the seer and joked, “The Ides of March has come,” to which the seer replied solemnly, “Aye, Caesar, but not gone.”
It was a little more than a mile from his house on Forum to Campus Martius where he would meet with the Senate in the Curia of Pompey. I would imagine that even after having seen Pompey’s Theater many times it still amazed him.

The Theater of Pompey
Pompey had been inspired by the Greek theater at Mytilene and chose to build one even more magnificent and larger in Rome. Pompey used his own money for its construction, but had to build it outside of the old city because of a law prohibiting the construction of permanent theaters within the city.

The Theater of Pompey

The Theater of Pompey, the Curia of Pompey is at the center above the garden area.

Construction of his theater began in around 61 BC, taking seven years to complete. It was dedicated in 52 BC. When finished the theater’s back curved wall stood 115 feet above the street and stretched 500 feet across. At the center of its back wall was the temple to Venus Victrix which rose high above the theater’s roof.  The stage is thought to have been 95 feet wide. Writings at the time said the theater held 17,500 patrons.
Behind the stage was a long landscaped garden with flowers and fountains in which patrons could walk during intermissions. This garden was surrounded by a columned portico that held statues and paintings by popular Roman artists.

At the opposite end of the garden stood the Curia of Pompey, with its almost temple like design. Pompey had built his theater behind four earlier temples; the entrance to the Curia was opposite the circular columned temple to Aedes Lutatius Catulus, “Luck of the Current Day.”

The Curia of Pompey

 

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The Curia of Pompey as it would have looked from the garden of the Theater of Pompey in 44 BC. By A derivative work of a 3D model by Lasha Tskhondia 

The Curia of Pompey held meeting rooms and featured a large statue of Pompey himself at its entrance. It was here that the Roman Senate was meeting on that fateful day. Some stories of Julius Caesar’s murder has it happening on the steps as he walked into the building, while others say he was inside sitting in front of the Senators. What is known is that Caser was attacked by sixty conspirators who stabbed him twenty-three times.
The conspirators believed that Caesar’s death would be welcomed among the people, but they vastly underestimated his popularity.

 

Following the assassination Caesar’s adopted son Gaius Octavius quickly took power and killed all the conspirators. Octavius would change his name to Augustus and become what many consider the first Roman Emperor.
It is also believed that Augustus marked the site of his father’s murder with a concert memorial, 10 feet wide by 6 feet high. As for the Curia itself it is said that after the murder it was closed and walled up. After a fire destroyed the structure a latrine was put in its place.

What’s left of the Theater of Pompey and its Curia today?
Except for the Curia the rest of the Theater and its complex remained in use long after Julius Caesar’s murder. The emperors that followed continued to maintain and to restore the complex throughout the decades that followed. Records show that the theater was still in use after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, and did so until around 554 AD when the population of Rome declined to the point that it wasn’t used anymore. As with the other buildings of ancient Rome the Theater of Pompey’s structural materials were striped and used for other building.

699px-MapTheatreofPompey two

The Theater of Pompey overlaying the streets today. Notice the round diagram center right (the Temple of Aedes Lutatius Catulus), just to the left of it was the Curia of Pompey.

Today there isn’t much visible of this amazing structure, and its historic Curia, to be seen. Some of its walls have been enveloped into newer buildings; its foundations now support many of the buildings in the Campo de’ Fiori and Largo di Torre Argentina sections of the city, or used as wine cellars for hotels and restaurants in that part of the city.
You can however still see the curved outline of the theater in the street as you walk east from the Campo de’ Fiori through the Palazzo Orsini Pio Righetti, and the Via di Grotta Pinta roughly follows the line of its stage. But for the most part this grand structure, Theater of Pompey and the site of were Caesar met his fate, has been buried and lost, their remains covered over and lying under the city square of Largo di Torre Argentina.
In 1927 during demolition work in the square a large marble head and arms were uncovered; this began an archaeological dig which unearthed four Republican era temples. These temples were the ones located at the back of the theaters garden and opposite its Curia.
Using the locations of these temples in 2012 a group of Spanish archaeologists believe they have discovered the location of Augustus’ concert memorial over the site of Caesars murders. However there is still much debate on this finding. What we do know is that the Curia of Pompey stills rests beneath the street, bus and streetcar stop on the Largo di Torre Argentina.

Largo di Torre Argentina, Rome Italy where Ceaser was murdered

Largo di Torre Argentina as seen today. The Curia of Pompey is thought to be under the street behind the tree next to the circle temple.

When you go to Rome make sure you visit Largo di Torre Argentina, and look past the ruins of the circular temple to the area that goes under the street, and you’ll be looking at were Julius Caesar fell at the hands of his enemies.

So now that we’ve found were Caesar was murdered what happened to his body? For that we’ll go back to the Roman Forum and I’ll show you what I found there in my next post.

 

 

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The Imperial Fora of Rome: The Forum of Trajan

 

The Imperal Forums.docx

The Roman Imperial Forums at the height of the Empire. Art from Wikipedia.

 

 

Ron Current

Ron Current

As I walked along the Via dei Fori Imperiali past what remains of the Forums of Augustus and Nerva toward the Piazza Venezia I see more ruins: a space littered with broken and fallen columns, a curved high wall, and a tall Imperial column. This is all that’s left of the last and most immense complex of all the Imperial Forums to be built by any of the ancient Roman emperors, the Forum of Trajan.
The history of this forum begins not with the Emperor Trajan but with one of his predecessors, Domitian. At that time in Rome a new city center was growing north of the Forum at the Campus Marius. Domitian saw that his forum could be the connector to this new center and the old. The most logical site to build his forum to complete his purpose was the vacant land between the Capitoline and Quirinal Hills. The problem was that there was a small saddle hill between these two hills that needed to be leveled. To accomplish this project it would require moving more earth than what Julius Caesar had to move when building his forum.
So extensive was this leveling that it hadn’t been finished at the time Domitian was murdered in 96 AD. This undertaking was so difficult that Domitian’s successor Nerva abandoned the site, selecting the already level street between the forums of Augustus and Vespasian for his forum (see my post on the Forum of Neva). It would be the more ambitious Emperor Trajan who would finish the leveling and to build his forum on this site.

The Imperial Forum of Trajan

The ruins of what remains of Trajan’s Forum today. Photo from Wikipedia

Trajan began construction on his forum in around 112 AD, using the spoils he had acquired from his conquest of Dacia (todays Romania). Trajan commissioned his favored architect, Apollodorus of Damascus, to do the design and building. Apollodorus had also built two triumphal arches for Trajan and is credited as being the finishing architect on the Pantheon, the one we see today.

 

Trajan's Market

The supporting wall today known as Trajan’s Market. Photo from Wikipedia.

When removing the saddle hill Apollodorus found that the eastern side of the forum ran right up to the high rock face created when they cut into the Quirinal Hill. This unstable face was three stores high and needed to be reinforced. Apollodours solved this issue by including the cliff side into his design. He built an enormous hemicycle brick-faced complex up against the cliff side that completely covered and supported the hills from collapsing. This structure held offices, halls and other commercial usages. There were two wide hallways that ran between the complex against the cliff and the main forum buildings. Today this wall complex is referred to as Trajan’s Markets, however archaeological evidence does not support that this was ever used as a traditional marketplace.
As with all Roman forum designs the main area of Trajan’s Forum consisted of an enormous open interior square that at its center stood a large equestrian statue of the Emperor. This square was surrounded by columned porticoes, with the western and eastern sides being curved. The porticos on the long side featured statues and reliefs of Trajan’s conquests as well as portraits of previous emperors and Trajan’s family.
On the north side of the square stood the Basilica Ulpia. Ancient Roman basilicas were not used for religious purposes, as later Christian basilicas. Roman basilicas were places that housed the offices for the administration of justice, commerce, and also where the Emperors conducted their business.

The ruins of the Forum of

What remains of the columns of the Basilica Ulpia. The base of Trajan’s Column is in the right foreground. Photo by the author.

 

 

Trajan’s basilica was the largest ever built in ancient Roman, measuring 385 feet by 182 feet. Its columns and walls where made of marble and measured 164 feet high, and its roof was made of gilded bronze tiles. As you entered the basilica from the forum’s great square you’d come into its center great nave surround by four columned aisles. On each of the basilica’s sides were libraries, one in Greek and the other in Latin. Those entering or leaving the forum by its main entrance on the north side would have been greeted by the magnificent Column of Trajan.

Trajan's Column

Trajan’s Column today. Photo by the author

Trajan’s Column is the best preserved of the ancient Roman victory columns. It was inaugurated at the same time as Trajan’s Forum in 113 AD. Including its base the column stands 115 feet high. The column is constructed by a series of twenty Carrara marble drums 12.1 feet in diameter and weighing 32 tons. The columns famous frieze, depicting the Roman’s battle with the Dacian’s, wraps up and around the total height of the column, it would measure 620 feet long if stretched out. The columns capital block weights 53.3 tons and had to be lifted the 112 feet to its top, no simple feat for the ancient Roman builders. When it was inaugurated the column was crowned with a statue of Trajan, but this statue vanished sometime in the middle ages. Today a statue of St. Peter sits atop the column, placed there by Pope Sixtus V in 1587.
Here are a couple of facts you may not know about Trajan’s Column: the column is hallow and features a 182 step spiral staircase going up to a viewing platform at the top. Ancient Romans could get a tremendous view of the city and its forums from there. Access to the stairs was through a door in its base. The climb was illuminated by forty window slits along its height that provided sunlight for those climbing up. Also Trajan’s Column was the first ever recorded usage of a spiral staircase. This was a fact that I didn’t know when I visited. I have a passion for these staircases, so without knowing I was looking at the very first spiral staircase in the world.

 

 

The base of Trajan's column

The base of Trajan’s Column which it is said to have held the emperors ashes. The door leading to the spiral stairs are on the opposite side. Photo by the author.

Also after Trajan died, and was deified by the Roman Senate, his ashes were place in a gold urn and entombed in the columns base.
The magnificence of Trajan’s Forum lasted long after the empire had divided. In 352 Ad, on his first visit to Rome, Eastern Roman Emperor Constantius II remarked of the beauty of equestrian statue of Trajan in the center of the forum. he said that he would like one like that made of him. With him on this visit was the Persian prince Hormisdas, who quipped, “But first, my lord, you have to build a stable to match this, if you can.”
Again, Mussolini’s Via dei Fori Imperiali has paved over most of Trajan’s, and Apollodorus of Damascmus, magnificent accomplishments.

 

 

The Forum of Trajan with todays streets

Where Trajan’s Forum stood with todays streets. Art from Wikipedia

 

I’ve included a drawing from Wikipedia showing the streets of Rome with what was Trajan’s Forum overlaid on it. Today you can still see Trajan’s Column, Basilica columns and the wall of Trajan’s Market, but not the sight that Constantius and Hormisdas witnessed.

 

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The author standing on the closed Via dei For a Imperiali near the Colosseum.

Besides having covered much of the Imperial Fora with the busy four-lane Via dei Fori Imperiali the heavy trucks, their vibrations, and exhaust fumes continue to threaten what is left of the glory of Rome. However there are groups of citizens, archeologist and scientists who are trying to convince Rome’s city government to undo what Mussolini did and remove the road. And although nothing major has happened to correct these problems Mayor Ignazio Marino of Roma did close the southern section of this road by the Colosseum to motor vehicles in 2013.

 
This ends by posts of the Imperial Forums, but not the Roman Forum itself. My next post will be, Where was Julius Caesar murdered?

 

 

 

 

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