I think you get the idea that I love ruins (Wow Places #7, #9, #23, #29, #39, #57, #82, #96, #144). Most of the time, the site of the ruins is isolated somewhere outside of town. In other words, you have to make an effort to go out and see them. The Roman Forum is something different: it’s smack in the middle of town! In fact, that’s my favorite thing about the Italian capital. No matter where you turn, you stumble upon ancient sites. I suppose it makes sense in Rome. This was the center of an empire, after all. The sheer amount of stone temples and administrative buildings in the time of Julius Caesar must have been staggering. It stands to reason that not all of them would have fallen down, and that the modern city would build around these buildings, rather than raze the ruins to the ground.
Walking through the Roman Forum is much like wandering through Ephesus in Turkey, with stone columns and architectural elements everywhere you look. Somehow, the Forum is even more evocative than Ephesus. Perhaps it’s because there’s a clear, longitudinal walkway to follow. Perhaps it’s because the height of ancient Rome is more recent than the heyday of ancient Greece, hence the ruins are more plentiful and in better shape. Maybe it’s because we know so much more about the Romans. As I amble through the Forum, I can almost imagine Caesar or Mark Antony striding along beside me. How about Caligula, Claudius and Nero? Trajan? Hadrian? They might all have come here: to shop, to pray, to orate. It’s not a great leap of imagination to envision some of the greatest men and women in western history, going about their business on these very streets.
I like, as well, that you can see the modern city of Rome all around you. The Forum is like Central Park in New York City, in that the main area is like an oasis surrounded by skyscrapers. The Roman Forum is a fascinating anomaly; the old and the new co-existing in one reality. Wow.
(Have you ever been to a high school or college reunion? Your old self and your current self merge, like the collision of universes. One second, you’re acting silly with you friends, the way you did back in school, at other times you’re back in your current body, drawing on your wisdom and your emotional intelligence. We all have these Roman Forum anomaly moments, when we’re two places at once. Seek them out and notice what you learn about yourself.)