Ancient Rome

If there is one thing that Rome is known for, it has to be the amazing architecture of its historic buildings. They are not all done in the same mode either, but display a wide variety of styles.

Romans were great at building walls as well, and doing so without any waste! If you tour some of the ruins, you'll see various compositions in the layers, inner and outer, but one of their mainstays was always rubble —either the remains of things that had been torn down, or the bits and pieces left over from buildings that had been erected. Thrifty masons used them as filler, often putting brick or other stone on the outside, and sometimes a stucco surface.

People planning a trip to Rome, especially those with an interest in history, should sit down with a guidebook, or browse the Net to organize their sightseeing through some of the most fascinating ruins of civilization to be found anywhere in the world. You may find yourself with time restraints, and having to pick and choose from among such wonders as the following:

Circus Maximus

Today it is an empty depression in between major areas of the city, with crumbling masonry where once stood stadium seating for a quarter of a million people.

However, if you listen carefully, you can still hear the thunder of hooves, as charioteers careened around the track, with four horses hitched across, standing on the axle of a chariot so flimsy it often disintegrated during crashes with other participants.

When it was first created in the sixth century BC, the Circus Maximus was basically just a track marked in the grass of a shallow valley between a couple of Rome's many hills.

But the entertainment proved so popular, that by the rule of Augustus, there was a well-defined arena with walls, stone bleachers, starting gates, and markers around the track to count off the laps. You can find a wonderfully detailed history of the Circus on the internet.

Colosseum

Is there any building in Rome, more recognizable at a single glance, than the Colosseum?

The ColosseumBuilt circa 80 AD, the first permanent amphitheatre in Rome was the largest structure of its type at 160' high and a base that covered six acres.

Its majestic construction includes an arcade around each of the three levels, which have different columns: Doric on the ground floor, Ionic on the second, and Corinthian on the top level.

The bowl, or entertainment area, was originally a deep pit filled with water where naval battles were staged, until it was discovered that the water was damaging the foundations.

A wooden floor was then installed, covering a honeycomb of rooms and passages below the arena, where the day's entertainers, animal and human alike, were kept.

The Colosseum had 80 arched entrances, 76 for funnelling in the crowd, two for the Emperor, and two for gladiators.

The spectacles offered here, often involved competition or fighting to the death, for animals and men. There is however, no solid proof that Christians were made the regular diet for lions, although it would have been in keeping with the Roman lust for blood sports.

Pantheon

Once glimpsed by Michelangelo in the 1500s, and declared to be of "angelic and not human design", this very impressive structure is deserving of a spot on your "must see" list.

The PantheonThere is much argument about when the first Pantheon was erected, although it is acknowledged that human hands built it.

Oral histories stated that a pantheon was erected on the site where Romulus, founder of Rome, ascended to heaven around 750 BC.

However, the first real firm evidence of a pantheon at the site is 27 BC when Agrippa designed a structure featuring 16 granite columns, in a rectangular shape. Sometime between 117 and 125 AD, the Emperor Hadrian built a second structure behind the first, utilizing Agrippa's creation as a kind of "lobby", and dedicating the whole as a temple to the gods.

Having learned the intricacies of using cement, and moulding domed shapes, the Romans built the roof on the ground and hoisted it into place.

There is an opening in the centre of the dome, and the floor beneath was scooped to form a bowl shape, with a drain in the centre, for inclement weather. Amazingly enough, the building that Michelangelo saw 500 years ago still stands today, as a complete structure.

Roman Forum

While not the only "structure" of its type, the Roman Forum is perhaps the best known.

A "forum" was actually the open space surrounded by associated buildings and markets, where government business was carried out. It often had speakers' platforms, and was a popular place to pass the time of day and get all the gossip.

For many centuries, the most important public buildings were located around the Roman Forum. As Rome grew in importance and size, its government outgrew the Roman Forum, and Caesar erected the Imperial Forum.

Over successive periods, most emperors also built their own forums, including the massive 25-acre government seat erected by Trajan.

The Roman Forum, however, remains as the place to visit for a taste of the city's past grandeur.