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Rome never ceases to capture the imagination, and this week we explored in diverse ways how the city still exerts a pull on a global audience.  

During our October 25th fundraiser new and long-term supporters from around the world joined us for a triumphant look at Rome through the ages, as well as some unique views of its most mysterious underground sites. These included the Mithraeum of the Circus Maximus to the underground basilica of Porta Maggiore, discussing the fact that its exact purpose is still unknown. We enjoyed pleasant walks through the Forum Boarium and Caelian neighborhoods, accompanied by a look at ongoing conservation and excavation projects like the Mausoleum of Augustus and the Via Alessandrina dig that finally unites the area of the Markets of Trajan and the Forum of Trajan. 

For our most recent Ancient Rome Live online seminar we addressed “How Rome Conquered Italy”. We examined the many foes of Rome, to understand how the Republic took over the entire peninsula in 200+ years.   Of course, the compelling factor of the Romans’ efforts was their genial ability to defeat, compromise with, and ultimately engage a broad cultural array of people (Etruscan, Latin, Faliscan, Volscian, Greek, Samnite, and more) on multiple fronts, often with multi-year wars. 

It’s also this week that we look back at the famous date of October 28, AD 312, when Constantine’s forces defeated Maxentius’ at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. Not only did it usher in the official recognition of Christianity over the Roman gods of old, but it also underlines that Rome – previously marginalized for generations by new capital cities like Milan and Trier – still mattered and was a true seat of power to be maintained. You can learn more about the importance of Constantine as the first Christian ruler by looking at our video collaboration with Andrew M. Henry, a religious historian who has an incredible following on YouTube.  

The recently restored 16th century fresco by Giulio Romano, depicting the the Battle of Milvian Bridge, housed in the Apostolic Palace, Vatican City

Finally, modern Rome recently saw the kick-off of the “Torlonia Marbles: Collecting Masterpieces” exhibition this month at the Capitoline Museums, and Darius was on the scene to share it with the world. Why has the wait for this show been so hotly anticipated? It’s the largest still private collection of antiquities, with 620 pieces, and has been virtually unseen for 50+ years.  The collection, largely composed of the Torlonia finds from excavations on their properties (like Portus) as well as famous collections e.g., Giustiniani, Cavaceppi studio, Villa Albani, and various pieces from other family collections.  We were particularly pleased to finally see the Torlonia relief, which might have been part of a temple decoration, depicting a wondrous polychromy painted scene of Portus – pictured below. The harbor town, with its stunning Pharos (lighthouse), arches, ships, and scenes of life at Rome’s illustrious harbor, is still located next to Rome’s Fiumicino airport – a reminder of just how today’s Rome remains forever entrenched and connected to its past!