The Ages of the Eternal City

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The Ages of the Eternal City Powered By Docstoc
					          AGES OF THE
This year, Italy celebrates the 150th anniversary of its unification, and the spotlight is on
Rome—the eternal city,' which is changing faster than ever before. Modern constructions
  such as the MAXXI museum and La Nuvola, a futuristic convention centre, signify
   Rome's transfiguration from a city steeped in antiquity into a postmodern capital.
       Presenting a tour through 2,800 years of Roman history in seven tableaux.

                                                By Tom Nagy (photos) and Ariel H a u p t m e i e r (text)
      6th to 1st CENTURY BC


Once a desolate and barren
marshland, then the dazzling
centrepiece of a magnificent empire,
now a ruined skeleton.
   In those days, all roads led to
Rome—and ended at the Millarium
Aureum or Golden Milestone in the
Roman Forum, next to the Temple
of Saturn, eight of whose columns
are still standing today. The Roman
Forum remained intact even after the
empire collapsed—at least, until the
popes of the day decided to use it as
a stone quarry for the rebuilding of
St Peters Basilica.
   What had taken generations to
create was stripped and demolished
in a flash, and soon cows were grazing
amid the abandoned ruins.
       1st to 4th CENTURY AD


An       extravagant,      vainglorious
behemoth, the Colosseum was built by
the avaricious Emperor Vespasian, who
even levied a tax on the use of public
toilets. It originally had a 545m-wide
perimeter and an exterior wall 48m
tall. It is among the most infamous
monuments of the ancient world:
approximately 300,000 prisoners, slaves
and gladiators died here in bloodthirsty
frenzies of epic proportions, all played
out to audiences as large as 50,000.
    In those times, some believed
that the blood of gladiators could
cure illnesses such as epilepsy, so
they drank it or rubbed it on their
bodies. Vespasian died in 79 AD—
a year before his murderous legacy
was completed.
        6th to 15th CENTURY


At the beginning of the 11th century,
about 20,000 people lived in the
remnants of the ancient city Rome
was gradually falling under the
control of the bishops, who wanted
to be addressed as 'Father,' 'Papa' or
'Pope.' Their seat of power was Castel
Sant'Angelo, originally a mausoleum
for Emperor Hadrian, later a fortress
that loomed menacingly over Rome.
    The popes kept a tight rein on the
city from this ancient castle. This was
where the so-called 'heretics' were
tortured. Pope Benedict VI was also
imprisoned and later murdered here,
allegedly by his rival and successor, the
antipope Boniface VII. A Roman mob
tried to breach the fortress in 1376,
but in vain.

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       17th to 18th CENTURY


The chaotic upheavals of the Papal
Schism ended in 1417 and the
Renaissance thereafter ushered in
a building boom that lasted several
centuries. For the second time in
history, Rome was transformed into
the world's most magnificent city.
     As the greatest artists of the day
vied with each other, an enchanted
capital of churches, squares, fountains
and palaces blossomed. The largest
of the latter, the flamboyant Trevi
Fountain, was officially completed
in 1762, an extravagant marriage of
Baroque sculpture and architecture.
Centuries later, millions of visitors
still toss in coins for good luck—to
the tune of about half a million euros
a year. The money is donated to
Catholic charities.
           18th CENTURY


The 138 steps sweep gently down a
steep hill, descending from the Trinità
dei Monti church to Piazza di Spagna
below. The stairway curves in and flares
out like an amphora, with 11 flights of
12 steps each and an additional four
at the bottom, the entire structure as
lavish and grandiose as an opera house.
     To walk down the Spanish Steps
is to feel transported to a large stage
set. For decades, the French army and
the popes argued over what should
be placed at the top of the stairway—
an equestrian statue of Louis XIV or
an obelisk in honour of the Catholic
Church? Years passed with no
agreement. Then, in 1789, revolution
broke out in France and the popes
seized the opportunity to install the
coveted obelisk.
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             FORO ITALICO

    Mussolini, Il Duce, the leader, also
    overhauled and rebuilt parts of Rome.
    Many buildings were demolished
    and grand ones erected in their place
    in attempts to revive the glories of
    the empire.
        Almost the entire city resembled
    a construction site during II Duces
    reign: new boulevards to St Peter's
    Basilica and the Colosseum were
    carved out; a huge university complex,
    the Cinecittà film studios and a gigantic
|   sports stadium, Foro Mussolini, were
    built. "Fascists are Romans," II Duce
    thundered, aspiring to reawaken the
    martial spirit of yore through this
    stadium of marble inspired by the
    arenas of antiquity. The madness
    ended in 1945. The street called Viale
    Adolf Hitler was swiftly renamed after
    the Second World War, as was the Foro
    Mussolini—to Foro Italico.
           P R E S E N T DAY


From the outside, the building appears
modest and restrained. But inside is
a different story. The walls and floors
undulate, tubes bend and intersect,
rooms sweep and whirl, ceilings
soar to great heights, then shrink to
under 2.5m, turning visitors from
dwarfs to giants. Designed by Zaha
Hadid, the Museo Nazionale delle
Arti del XXI Secolo, otherwise known
as MAXXI opened in 2010. It has
another local nickname: 'Tagliatelle.'
      It is an exhibition space of a new
age. Museums were once used to classify
and systemise objects, but MAXXI
dismisses such regulated orderliness.
It is a free-standing sculpture that can
be walked through—art in motion.
It celebrates the freedom of an era in
which the mainstream has broken
into innumerable dazzling pieces.
T h e f i l m La Dolce Vita p l a y e d a l a r g e role in c r e a t i n g Rome's r e p u t a t i o n as a d e c a d e n t city.

Shaping a City
Rome is a city that has been relatively slow to change—at least at its centre. A synopsis of the most
significant events since the Italian wars of unification ended in 1870.

20 SEPTEMBER 1870                                         11 FEBRUARY 1929                                            Vita presented a decadent vision of life of
SINCE THE S I N CENTURY,      the city on the             FOR DECADES,     successive popes had                      Rome—though the sweet life'remained
Tiber had been ruled, almost without                      railed against the new centralised state,                  a distant dream for most. At the end of
break, by the popes. But on this day,                     excommunicated the king and even                           the war, immigrants flocked to the capital
the Swiss Guards fought a losing battle:                  banned Catholics from participating                        from impoverished regions in southern
within just a few hours, Italian troops                   in elections. Finally II Duce, Benito                      Italy. Satellite towns with hundreds of
breached the city walls near the Porta                    Mussolini, managed to strike a deal with                   thousands of illegal tenements rapidly
Pia gate and took control of Rome. When                   the Holy See. The pope would settle for                    mushroomed, many living without water
Italy had first established itself as a nation            independent sovereignty over the tiny                      or electricity. But despite the bleakness,
in 1861, it was rumoured that Florence                    state of Vatican City and, in return, the                  the myth of the exhilarating ebullience
would become the capital. Now, though,                    Lateran Pacts signed by Mussolini would                    of Rome continues to thrive.
King Vittorio Emanuele II moved into                      establish Catholicism as the state religion
the papal palace on Rome's Quirinal Hill,                 and grant reparations to the Vatican.                     16 MARCH 1978
The new rulers built imposing ministries                                                                            FER MEZZA: When his party colleague
and laid broad avenues through the                        FEBRUARY 1960                                             Aldo Moro was kidnapped by a terrorist
old city. An entire neighbourhood                         A BEAUTIFUL BLONDE       splashed in the                  unit of the Red Brigade, Prime Minister
near Piazza Venezia was devoted to the                    waters of the Trevi Fountain on a moonlit                 Andreotti prescribed a response of
altar of the fatherland': a monument to                   night, capturing the hearts of millions of                'uncompromising firmness.' The capital
Vittorio Emanuele II.                                     cinemagoers. Federico Fellini's La Dolce                  became the site of perhaps the worst
tragedy in Italy's post-war history. Aldo     from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel,         beggars, pickpockets and thieves. In
Moro was an ex-prime minister and the         followed by the ringing of church               recent years, this prejudice against
leader of the Christian Democrats, who        bells. Habemus Papam: "We have a                the 'nomads,' as they are disparagingly
had been in power since 1946.                 Pope!" The 115 members of the papal             called, has been inflated by reports of
    The Communists had been gaining           conclave had been surprisingly quick in         violent crimes blamed on the gypsies.
ground, and though this changed little        selecting Joseph Ratzinger, the 78-year-        In October 2007, a naval officer's wife
in everyday life, it destabilised the         old German cardinal, as the new head            was raped and killed in Rome, and it
country's political status quo. Aldo          of the Roman Catholic Church and                was widely believed that the culprit was
Moro had been considering a 'historic         the bishop of Rome. Over time, the              from one of the gypsy camps. In his 2008
compromise' with the Communists,              city's residents—98 per cent of whom            election campaign, Alemanno promised
even thinking—much to the alarm of            are Catholics—have come to respect              to drive all the Roma from the illegal
right-wing politicians—of allowing            'Benedetto.' Yet, even today, years after       settlements, a commitment that played
them to participate in government. The        the succession, his predecessor John            a major role in helping this Berlusconi
disappearance of the party leader would       Paul II remains omnipresent—on the              ally defeat the 15-year-old left-liberal city
not have been entirely unwelcome for          postcards, snow globes and rosaries of          government and win the town hall for the
these people. During his captivity,           souvenir stands.                                right-wing party.
Moro wrote innumerable letters to his
colleagues, pleading at first and then        NOVEMBER 2007                                   2011 AND 2012
bitter when the government refused to         ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDS           are nothing      AS R O M E C E L E B R A T E S Italy's 150th
negotiate. Many Italians still believe he     new for Romans, but Professor Andrea            birthday in 2011, it is also rejuvenating
was sacrificed by the uncompromising          Carandini's announcement still created          itself underground: the first section of the
stand of his Christian Democrat               a sensation across the city. Scientists,        metro's Line C is to become operational
colleagues. On 9 May, his body was            he said, were "reasonably certain" of           by 2012, which is expected to ease
found in downtown Rome in the trunk           having discovered the cave of Lupercal          traffic congestion. The infernal noise of
of a car parked midway between the            beneath the Palatine Hill—the cave              engines, monuments blackened with
party headquarters of the Christian           in which, according to myth, a she-             soot and exhaust emissions beyond all
Democrats and the Communists.                 wolf suckled the city's twin founders,          recommended levels have made traffic
                                              Romulus and Remus. The city of Rome             a major election issue. So far, the metro
1995                                          is a vast archaeological site, yet it is also   'system' consists of just two lines over
AFTER    13 YEARS of marriage, Mayor          a millions-strong metropolis in urgent          38km of track. To ensure that work on
Francesco Rutelli and his wife renewed        need of modern infrastructure. Large            Line C is not stopped on account of
their vows in church. Rome's first 'green'    construction projects are often scuttled        archaeological finds, the new tunnels are
mayor, he had once been a fierce critic of    by the objections of archaeologists. But        being drilled at depths of over 25m.
the Vatican. But that was all in the past.    the discovery of the 'founding cave' of
Now, it was time to start preparing for the   Rome was, even by Roman standards,              THE FUTURE
greatest church celebration of all time:      the find of the century—were it not for         TWO MODERN      buildings give Rome a
the Great Jubilee of 2000, for which the      the doubts soon expressed by the experts.       contemporary new look: the MAXXI,
eternal city expected to receive 30 million   It was quite possible the cave was merely       which opened in 2010, and a convention
pilgrims. Rutelli announced the 'Roma         an imperial dining room, but most               centre known as La Nuvola, 'the
Capitale campaign—palaces were to be          Romans refused to be swayed from their          cloud,' designed by eminent architect
restored, monuments spruced up, long-         conviction that the cave was the nursery        Massimiliano Fuksas and due to open in
closed museums reopened. Not all of the       of Romulus and Remus, the nucleus of            2013. MAXXI, designed by Zaha Hadid,
projects were completed on time, and          Roman civilisation.                             stands in stark contrast to its environment,
many were abandoned altogether. But                                                           surrounded by the shabby tenements of
the chaos that many Romans had feared         FEBRUARY 2010                                   Flaminio. Local visitors may find the floor
did not materialise. Mayor Rutelli could                         a blot not only on
                                              " W E HAVE E R A S E D                          plan of the museum—which resembles
afford to smile with satisfaction into the    Rome, but on all of Italy," said Mayor          an X with bent limbs—somewhat
television cameras—side by the side with      Gianni Alemanno as he closed down               vexing. But this postmodern creation is
the "wonderful Pope John Paul II."            Casilino 900, where thousands of                a sign that their ancient city—the 'largest
                                              Romany people lived in slum-like                open-air museum in the world'—is now
19 APRIL 2005                                 conditions on the outskirts of the city.        transforming into a visionary metropolis.
AS E V E N I N G   FELL,   white smoke rose   Many Italians dismiss the Roma as               Susmita Arp

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