Happy Birthday, Rome!

On Friday, Rome celebrated it’s 2,770th birthday! The official founding date of Rome is April 21st, 753 B.C. All weekend there were historical re-enactments culminating in a huge parade reminding me that the Roman people truly cherish and take pride in the rich history of the city they call home.

The Most Brief History of Rome You’ll Ever Read

Legend has it that twins, Romulus and Remus, were raised by a she-wolf. Eventually Romulus killed his brother and became the founder which is why we call the city Rome, not Reme.

Romulus became the first of the seven kings of Rome. However, the people weren’t happy with the monarchy (a preference that would come back to haunt Juilus Caesar later) and decided make a change. Fun way to remember a nice Jeopardy worthy trivia fact – the the last king Tarquinius Superbus, who was driven out of Rome.

Then came the Roman Republic [510-23 B.C.] where the ruling class, the Patricians, were the elite, wealthy, men of Rome. Every year the senate elected two consuls to lead them. Rome then began to wage war and expand its territory. One of the most notable, the Punic Wars, included three wars between Rome and Carthage, involved elephants, and ultimately resulted in Rome destroying Carthage and expanding into North Africa.

Mean Girls Roman history referemce

Occasionally the senate would appoint an emergency dictator who held imperium, complete power, until the issue, usually a war, was resolved. Best example of someone weilding imperiumCincinnatus. Worst example: Julius Caesar, who declared himself dictator for life which was too close to a king for the people’s liking. A group of senators plotted together and just totally stabbed Caesar 33 times during a senate meeting, and effectively sped up the transition from the Republic into the one man rule of the Empire that the senate was trying to avoid in the first place.

Augustus, Caesar’s adopted heir, avenged his predecessor’s murder and eased his way into becoming the first emperor of Rome. From then on, until around the 5th century B.C, the Roman Empire stood under the rule of emperors.

And there you have an incredibly brief, basic overview of Ancient Rome.

Natale di Roma

So, yesterday I got to go to a parade! It started at the Circus Maximus, the race track of ancient Rome. At one end of the track dozens of legions of Roman soldiers, groups of gladiators, preiestesses, and Vestal Virgins were lined up. Two commentators were speaking which probably really added to the experience, but my limited Italian vocabulary meant I understood numbers, happy birthday, and random words here and there.

Vestal Virgin torch lighting ceremony

Before the parade, the standard bearer of every legion lit a torch in a ceremony with the Vestal Virgins. The Vestal Virgins were a group of female priestesses who were in charge of tending the eternal flame of Rome. If the flame went out, bad things would happen. So, the flame was an important symbol and superstition in ancient Rome.

After the opening ceremony, the parade began. There were dancing priestesses, soldiers showing off their testudo battle formation, and emperors with their wives.

Overall, it was a fun weekend in Rome with so much to see and remind you of how important the long history of this city is to its people.

Thanks for reading,
Erin

Euroadventure 1

Hey all! About last week, my fellow blogger and friend Leslie Kempers and I collaborated and wrote a blog on our adventures during the Vienna Summer School! If you want to read it (which I suggest you do!) here is the link! CLICK HERE!! The program has two sessions, May Term and June Term. Leslie was there for just the May Term, but I was there for both! So what I’m going to do is split it up into a two-part series, Euroadventure 1, 2, & 3! Here is the first part! I hope you enjoy it!

EUROADVENTURE 1: ROMA, ITALIA

After the May Term session ended, students staying for both sessions had a free weekend. So, what do you do in Europe with a free weekend? TRAVEL. My best bud Joey and myself had planned a trip to Rome for that free weekend in MARCH. Crazy to think we planned that far ahead! But, another companion joined us for an adventure of a lifetime, our very own MEG! So, the day after everyone flew back home, we headed to the airport and were ROMA bound. What a crazy long day it was. After the arriving at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, we took a lengthy bus ride to the Roma Termini station where we got on the line A metro to our “hotel.” I put hotel in quotes because it really was a camping village of sorts, but it was SO COOL! We had our own bungalow, with a fully functioning bathroom and beds. It was neat! After arriving, it was very late, so we just crashed.

We woke up early because we knew it would be a long long day. After getting ready, it was time to explore Rome. This day was perfect weather. The weather was supposed to be awful with thunderstorms, but it worked out in our favor. We literally visited as many monuments and landmarks as possible. Here is a list of what we did/saw!

  • Coliseum
  • Roman Forum
  • Palatine Hill
  • Spanish Steps
  • Piazza Navona
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Vatican City

After our long day, we headed back to our bungalow to just debrief on our day and our adventures, and just hung out which was so fun. The best thing about our adventures was that we didn’t do everything in a particular order. If anything, we LITERALLY meandered the city and ended up at these places. We headed to bed after our long day because our trip back to Vienna was extensive. We took a taxi to Ciampino Airport (Rome’s Regional Airport) and flew to Bratislava, Slovakia. From there, we took a train to Vienna.

If you ever get the chance to go to Rome, do it. There is just so much history and culture to learn. Oh, and the pasta and food are out of this world. Here are some of our pictures from our trip. Look forward for the next part of the series coming soon! Thanks for reading!

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I like the View (from Rome & Florence)

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As the semester comes
to a close, my time in Europe dwindles. Naturally, I had to visit Italy and what better city to start with than
the capital? It goes without
saying that we ate like emperors. Among other dishes that I am unable to translate (recommended by
servers), I had lasagna, ravioli, mussel and clam pasta, and of course, pizza
(which was in my biased opinion, inferior to that of Chicago). My only disappointment was that chicken
parmesan eluded me, and take my word when I say that I scoured every menu. I
apologize for the absence of food pictures, but am certainly not sorry. In my opinion, food should be consumed
and enjoyed, but not glorified (Instagram stinger).

Sightseeing in Rome is
literally impossible to avoid, as seemingly every street has some ode to the
Roman Empire, whether it be a temple, fountain plaza, statue or historic
building. But we were certainly
not avoiding sightseeing.  On the
contrary, we embraced it. As much
as I despise being pegged as a tourist, I had zero shame strolling through the
streets of Rome with a dropped jaw and a camera dangling from my wrist.

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We visited Vatican
City, the world’s smallest sovereign state, and the offical residence of the Pope. Despite its dimunitive size, it manages to house St. Peter’s
Basilica, the Vatican museums, and of course, the Sistine Chapel. Of the three, I enjoyed the wide spectrum of artwork of the museums the most.  There were tapestries, mosaics, sculptures, graven depictions, and of course, countless paintings.  

All three attractions housed absurd decadence and wealth. It was easy to see why many scowl at the hoarding of wealth by the Catholic church.

On Saturday, the four of us friends escaped via a high-speed train to Florence. While it would have been very possible to remain in Rome for all three days, we wanted to get a sampling of another city.  

Arriving at 8:46 a.m., we were able to explore the city, visit the Duomo, and get duped by a novice trumpeter. I can see why Florence was the workshop for so many great artisans.  ts winding streets, charming homes, and bustling population reminded me a great deal of our beloved Sevilla.  

Florence also is home
to San Museo, the largest Renaissance museum and the home of David, sculpted by
Michelangelo himself. He stands a
daunting 5.17 meters high (17 feet) and has zero blemishes, according to my
untrained eye for Renaissance period sculptures. Photos weren’t allowed, but I really
believed my readers deserved a glimpse!

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Our last day in Rome, I visited the Coliseum and was absolutely blown away. I should prelude this by noting that I watched the scenes of the Coliseum in Gladiator before arriving to get amped. Despite daydreaming of heroism in the ring for much of my visit, I managed to learn a few interesting facts:

1. In addition to gladiator spectacles, the Coliseum also hosted other exhibitions, including circuses, musical/drama performances, the hunting of exotic animals, and my personal favorite, naval battle re-enactments, which were achieved by flooding the ring and the two basement levels below.

2. The editor was responsible for booking and organizing the spectacles. Considering it was common for the current emperor to attend, I’d imagine this was a bit more stressful than our current editor profession (although newspapers, magazines and books are important too).

3. Upon death, the animals would be transported to the lower levels to be butchered on the spot and the edible parts would be distributed to those in attendance as concessions, free of charge.  Hail Caesar!

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There was much, much
more to our Italian experience but I’m afraid I have to begin studying for
exams (gag). Feel free to contact
me via twitter @hopesteven14 with questions or comments

¡Ciao!

-Steven

Stay tuned for my
coming Swiss adventure next weekend!