What if we saw the cities in the world as human characters? A lady who can lead anyone around by the nose while secretly keeping a sparkling sensitivity and brilliance inside – we could call her Paris. London may be an easygoing gentleman who can respond to anything from the vulgar to the lofty. And then, Rome may be possibly regarded as a warm old man who displays the rich experiences of his life in every wrinkle. The stories that this old man tells you, as if talking to himself, are pregnant, fuzzy and hazy like the mist that wraps the Palatine Hill on a cold morning.
Rome, with its modest origins as a small settlement, rapidly became a world empire that dominated the Mediterranean and beyond. However, in the 4th century, the capital status was transferred to Constantinople, and the city of Rome was reduced to a settlement with only some tens of thousands of residents. Even so, the city, the greatest destinations for Roman Catholics, attracted countless numbers of pilgrims from all over Europe. The glories of the ancients were told, and in the era of the Renaissance and Baroque, mansions and churches were built across the city, reviving the glorious days of the past. As the capital of Italy, and as the capital of eternity, today’s Rome still gives you a mysterious feeling of existence. The old man, Rome, who had experienced a bellyful of changes between prosperity and fall, seems today as if he were living on his pension.
If you feel like viewing beauty of Rome from above, I would recommend climbing up to Janiculum or Monte Mario, both located south of the Vatican. From Janiculum, you can view the round roofs of the Pantheon and Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. From Monte Mario, you will be able to see the meandering course of the Tevere River and the green of the Villa Borghese so closely that you will feel as if you could touch them. Presently, it is difficult to distinguish each of the hills in Rome – the origin of the famous designation of “The Capitol of Seven Hills,” but at the very least, you should see the plain land that continues from the hilly area in the southeast where Lake Albano is located, to the decline at the right, in front of the Tevere River, as if it were trying to fit with the surface of the current.
Tevere River divides the valley that is wedged between Monte Mario and Janiculum in the west, and by the seven hills in the east, flowing from north to south, in the form of a backwards “S”. In the southern part of the river, surrounded by the arch of the current, there is a place called Campo Marzio on the left. The place rapidly grew and became an urban area in the 1st century, B.C. What was once a newly developed city is now known as an old town that has inherited the relics of the ancients. In the middle of Campo Marzio, there is the Pantheon and its plaza. The Pantheon, which was originally built in the beginning of the 2nd century by the Emperor Hadrianus, has since been re-dedicated to the multitude of early Christians who had been martyred by the Roman Empire. It has been preserved almost perfectly through this modern age. The columns made of granite stones brought from the upstream of the Nile River decorate the main entrance, and a circle of walls with a diameter of 42.8m has been built within it. The advanced construction technique using concrete materials is clearly amazing but what is most remarkable is the depth of the dry moat located on both sides of the Pantheon’s main stairway. At the bottom of the moat, you will see the surface of the land from this ancient era. The surface is located about 3 meters lower than the stone pavement of the plaza. This has resulted from the repeated flooding of the Tevere River, which has increased the height of the surrounding land.
Very close to the Pantheon plaza is the Piazza Navona. This public space, which is crowded every December with booths offering up Christmas goods, such as Presepe, and with street performers, still retains the traces of the ancient Hippodrome.
Going south from Piazza Navona, there is the Corso Vittorio Emanuele. When you walk eastward along this street, you will see the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II – the building nicknamed “The Wedding Cake” by locals. It is built into the northern slope of a hill, Capitolino, which used to provide spiritual assistance to the ancient Romans. To the south of the hill is Foro Romano, the forum that was considered the center of the Roman empire. It is here where Caesar, Marcus Antonius and Augustus addressed the Roman citizens.
A 20-minute walk southeast from Foro Romano, there is a park with greens and pine trees. When you look at the south side of the park, you will see a large brick wall. This wall surrounds Le Terme di Caracalla. Even now, you can still imagine the original appearance of the Roman Empire’s largest public baths with its capacity of 2,000. As you calm down after the excitement of seeing the huge baths and go further south, you will arrive at Porta di San Sebastiano, which is where Via Appia starts. The street that was once the busiest street in Rome now looks like it is calmly resting after having completed its role.
The city of Rome exists upon the mixture of the past, present and the future while constantly overlapping memory, recollection, remembrance and anamnesis. And Hashigraphy, with its theme of Rome in this series, captures the existence of the mysterious forms of time along with the space and the time that only Rome holds. There is a magical element of time in Hashigraphy. - - Masanori Aoyagi, Ph. D., Direcor of the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, Japan; Archaeologist of Ancient Greece and Rome