Saturday, December 26, 2015

Mario Erasmo's "Strolling Through Rome"

Mario Erasmo is Professor of Classics at the University of Georgia specializing in the Legacy of Classical Antiquity. He is the author of several books, including Death: Antiquity and Its Legacy and Reading Death in Ancient Rome and the volume editor of A Cultural History of Death in Antiquity. His forthcoming Strolling Through Florence: The Definitive Walking Guide to the Renaissance City (IBTauris) offers step-by-step strolls through historic sites and streets in the shadow of Brunelleschi's iconic dome.

Erasmo applied the “Page 99 Test” to his 2015 book, Strolling Through Rome: The Definitive Walking Guide to the Eternal City, and reported the following:
Every step in Rome is a walk through the annals of history. In antiquity, the area around the Theatre of Marcellus between the Capitoline Hill and the Tiber River on Page 99 is no exception. It was the location of the Circus Flaminius where the Triumphal processions of victorious generals set out and it was the focus of the Emperor Augustus' architectural program that elevated his sister Octavia and her son Marcellus to Imperial status. In the Middle Ages, the powerful Orsini family that produced several popes over the centuries turned the area of the theatre into fortifications and in the Renaissance, architect Baldassarre Peruzzi converted it into a palace complex. The Theatre of Marcellus was the second stone theatre in ancient Rome. For the Emperor Augustus who obsessed over his public persona, the opening gala ceremony did not go as planned when his chair broke within view of the assembled guests. The ruins of the monumental entrance to the Porticus of Octavia are now connected to the church of Sant' Angelo in Pescheria named for the former medieval fish market located here. The three columns of the Temple of Apollo Medicus Sosianus were uncovered during intensive excavations of the area in the 1920's when Mussolini sought to liberate ancient ruins from medieval additions as part of his city-wide campaign to cast himself as the emperor Augustus presiding over a modern-day Roman Empire with the restored monuments of ancient Rome at its centre.

Contrasting against Imperial pomp, the ruins around the Theatre of Marcellus are at the edge of the former Jewish Ghetto whose boundaries were first delineated by Pope Paul IV Carafa in 1555 after centuries of migration from the area of modern day Trastevere on the other side of the Tiber River where Jews first settled in the 1st century BCE in the first Jewish Diaspora. The population increased following Vespasian's Jewish campaigns that brought thousands of Jewish slaves to Rome largely used for the construction of Flavian era monuments, including the Colosseum. A funerary monument on the Via Appia Antica of three former Jewish slaves from this period indicates that some gained their freedom. Largo 16 Ottobre 1943 adjacent to the theatre and the Great Synagogue of Rome (Tempio Maggiore) commemorates the location where Nazi trucks parked when Nazis threatened to round up Jews to transport them to concentration camps unless 110 pounds of gold were delivered in 24 hours. Jews and non-Jewish Romans raised the amount but the Nazis returned and took more than 2000 Jews away. The walls of the Ghetto came down at the end of WWII but a section remains a block away from the theatre in Piazza Costaguti that is now at the centre of a thriving Jewish community.
The Page 99 Test: Death: Antiquity and Its Legacy.

Writers Read: Mario Erasmo.

--Marshal Zeringue