After living in Rome for three days with no direction, the professors finally came together and oriented us! The day ran as all similar orientation days go, except we were walking around Rome so we didn’t care much that it was basically the same spiel. After the morning meeting we went on neighborhood walk around Trastevere with our main advisers. It was around two hours and very pleasant, we got to walk through areas of the park that I hadn’t explored yet along with the practical tips like where is cheapest to buy fruit and when the markets close.
I found out that the park which we’ve been enjoying is actually the largest park in Rome! Here’s an inscription put up from when Paul V repaired this aqueduct which was put in by Trajan. In the first line, Paul tags on the superlative “Optimus” onto his title as Pontifex Maximus (basically stating that he’s the best ever pope) which we all thought was pretty entertaining.
That second picture is of the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola built between 1585-8. The first time I saw it was on my second night in Rome when we went out, but we seem to have walked past it a million times already. And every single time be it day or night the smooth waters tempt me and I just want to jump in! (Un)Fortunately, there always seems to be a military Jeep parked nearby like the guards just know. [Edit: Apparently people jumping in was such an issue that they issued a military edict in 1707 specifically to stop that!]
Anyway, this is another example of work commissioned under Paul V. The fountain was supposed to be in celebration of his repairs on the Aqueduct Traiana that I mentioned earlier. It marks the end of the Acqua Paola. Before it reached this far, the poor residents of the Janiculum Hill would have to get their drinking water from the Tiber (believe me, you don’t want to go there). To raise money he imposed a tax on wine which made the people pretty angry. Which, I mean wine is good, but I’m sure the Tiber was just that much grosser back in the day so I don’t think they had their priorities straight. Here you can see the numerous renderings of the Borghese crest-eagles on top of dragons supported by angels!
(I don’t know why the first image is all drowned out and the second is all blue and yay…strange)
This is the view from just beyond the fountain (even better at night):
That evening we went out on a group excursion. We all went to the Basilica di San Clemente which was ridiculously amazing. It has three distinct layers of buildings within the same site all open at once.
The lowest open layer was a utilitarian building which they assume was a mint for coins because textual sources say there was one in the area during that period (1st century CE) and because there’s an actual stream running under the building! Next door was built a multilevel domus (house). In the domus there is a speleum for the cult of Mithras which still includes the altar!!! (We couldn’t take pictures so these are all from wikipedia). (That tiny white figurine creeping over the altar is a statue of Saint Peter found in the speleum and unrelated to Mithras).
Sometime in the fourth century after the Act of Tolerance, the lower level was filled in and the second story converted into the church. Inside this church is an interesting mix of pagan and Christian themes.
In the right hand of the picture, you can see a spinning slab. On one side is an older Roman inscription and the other side was reused as a Christian burial stone. The first side was all neatly done and the second scrawled on there.
In the eleventh century, the current church was erected and it wasn’t until quite recently that these excavations were carried out.
The top level of the church is simply fantastic.
And of course we just casually waited for our bus right next to the Colosseum. No big deal. This is my life right now.