An Afternoon at the Roman Ruins

Guest post by Cannon Roe, a Foster junior focusing in Finance and Marketing, who participated in the Foster Rome Core Abroad program during Summer A-Term. Cannon was a recipient of a Global Business Center Study Abroad scholarship. 

One afternoon, everyone in the program trekked across Rome on one of the hottest afternoons yet to walk through the Roman Forum & Ruins, and the Coliseum. Despite the heat and sun, it was spectacular. We had a guided tour of the Forum, conducted by an Italian archeologist, which I loved – I feel like the experience is much more enriching and impactful when you understand the history. Plus, it’s fun to interact with locals in exchanges that don’t involve me trying to purchase something or ask for directions.

The Forum was the center of Roman life during the empire, 2000 years ago. There were several temples dedicated to gods and goddesses, and some of the temples had been converted to churches during the wave of Christianity and Catholicism. It was an interesting mix of time frames and influences, all clearly distinct, yet blended together into architecture that is – amazingly – still in tact today.

Rome has a fierce history, and ancient Romans were intensely competitive and prideful, which shows in their architecture and designs. My favorite pieces of architecture were the outline of the Vestal Virgins home, who would serve for 30 years to ensure the vestal flame was never extinguished or else Rome would perish, and the Arch of Titus, which is one of the oldest structures at the Forum that is still in tact. There are 2 arches at the Forum, and chariots would ride through them on victory tours to celebrate the strength and successes of Rome.

After the tour, we climbed to the top of the Palatine Hill and had a wide panoramic view of Rome. It was very surreal to be overlooking all of the ruins, and see the rest of the modern city of Rome right outside of the ruin’s walls. Rome is a city full of paradoxes: the cars drive fast and the people work slow, the sun is hot yet locals wear pants, the ruins still stand while modern busses and Vespas zoom by. It was pretty incredible to see it all from the top of this gorgeous hill, and to know that I was walking ancient paved streets that great emperors and Romans walked themselves.

The Coliseum is right next to the Forum, so it was a short walk from one major historical landmark to the next. It’s hard to get a sense of how large it is until you’re actually standing in front of it, seeing the stark contrast of the grey crumbling stone against the cloudless blue sky (I think Rome has the bluest sky I’ve ever seen – it’s piercing and vibrant and just radiates heat). We walked around the 3rd level and the main floor, and I was surprised to see that the main floor looked like a maze – I had imagined it to be a flat surface. Standing in there was a little spooky, thinking about how everyone in the city got enjoyment from watching people fight and be killed.

I feel like I said this every time I saw a major landmark, but every time I did, the fact that I was in Rome felt a little bit more real. It didn’t take long for this strange city to start to feel more known and comfortable, but then I would go and do something extraordinary like this and be reminded that everything was new and exciting.