Last Friday, I went to Hadrian’s Villa through Temple Rome. Professor Huber lead the trip, which finished with a visit to the town of Tivoli east of Rome. On the way there, and while walking, Professor Huber told us about the history and stories behind what we were going to see.
Hadrrian’s Villa is where the Emperor Hadrian preferred to spend his time and rule the empire. He didn’t get along well with the Senate because he had leading Senators assassinated so he could come into power. Instead, Hadrian constructed this elaborate complex outside of Rome where he could escape from the pressures of the city. The villa was filled with gardens, walkways, fountains, a theater, and banquet halls. It was located in an area that was lush with forests and wildlife. His villa was close enough to Rome that he could have easy correspondence with the capital, but far enough that he could feel more comfortable there.
The trip through Temple University was an excelelnt way to see something that I might not have seen otherwise. More students should sign up for the trips through Temple University, so that Temple will have enough people to pay for the buses. The trip to Viterbo this week was cancelled due to lack of enrolment, which made me sad because I had wanted to go. Luckily, I have friends from Temple here who found a train we can take to see some of the things that were part of the trip. Aparently more students study abroad here in the Spring rather than the Fall. Unfortuneately, this means that some events that required a minimum number of participants haven’t been able to happen.
This past Sunday, I invited friends to join me at the Baths of Caracalla, where I did homework for my Advanced Drawing class at Temple. These are the remains of an ancient roman public bath complex. You really have to stand there and see these huge walls and pilasters, but even they are just a part of what the whole structure once was. It once had a gigantic dome that dwarfed the Pantheon. Now, just the lower structures are left standing. In some parts, the mosaic floor is perfectly preserved. Chunks of floor depict black and white mosaics of fish, gods, and sea monsters.
I was thinking as I was looking at these ruins, that there must have been a very first day that a huge chunk of the dome fell down. When the Roman Empire collapsed, these huge structures including the Colosseum and the Roman Forum were simply no longer maintained. They became abandoned buildings, like any abandoned hotel or warehouse in North Philadelphia. They were open to vandals, kids, shepherds, and climbers. And one day, a huge chunk of this great massive dome must have fallen. Perhaps half the dome fell all at one from stress and fracturing, or maybe the majority of it. Maybe someone was nearby when it happened. I imagine that there was a time when older citizens remembered when the baths were used, but the younger generation did not have any memory of this. Because these structures were not maintained, the debris of time such as dirt and leaves collected in them and built up. Slowly, the ground level rose around these structures and buried them. The current ruins of the Roman Forum were once a level sheep and cow pasture. Now, these structures have been excavated from the ground that rose around them like water, and people pay euros to see them.