Roman Culture and the Aeneid

753 BC: Traditional date for the founding of Rome (just before Greek colonies).
ca. 500 BC: Expulsion of Kings from Rome.
509-264 BC: Early Roman Republic.
264-134 BC: Middle Republic; wars of conquest; senatorial government.
134-27 BC: Late Republic; breakdown of republican government.
27 BC-AD 235: Early Empire (Principate) [Virgil 70-19 BC].
Roman culture differs from the Greek in many ways: the Romans prided themselves on their practicality and traditional morality, and on their military, organizational, and engineering skills. In what we call "culture", the Romans often seem derivative: their art, philosophy, literature, and in many respects religion all look as if they were borrowed from the Greeks. Yet appearances can be deceiving. Take the matter of religion, for example. Though the Romans borrowed some deities from the Greeks (Apollo) and grafted the personalities of others onto already existing Italic deities (Zeus became Jove, Hera became Juno, Hermes became Mercury, Aphrodite became Venus, etc.), the Romans retained their own particular beliefs, especially those centered around the household gods and the family hearth. Each household had its own, rather vague, protective deities of the hearth, called Lares and Penates. Edith Hamilton writes: Every Roman family had a Lar, who was the spirit of an ancestor, and several Penates, gods of the hearth and guardians of the storehouse. They were the family's own gods, belonging only to it, really the most important part of it, protectors and defenders of the entire household. They were never worshipped in temples, but only in the home, where some of the food of each meal was offered to them. There were also public Lares and Penates, who did for the city what the others did for the family. (64)Notice how Virgil stresses these gods in Book II of the Aeneid: Priam is killed in front of his son and household gods (51-52); and, just as Panthus, priest of Apollo, tries to save the city of Troy's gods (44-45), so does Aeneas carry his father and "hearthgods, our Penatës" (58) out of the burning city.

Notice, too, that is the father, the head of the family (paterfamilias), who has charge of these gods. The Romans believed that a father's authority came from what they called his genius, or guiding spirit and wisdom. This genius was handed down from father to son (women need not apply) and assured that the head of the family would exercise his power wisely and well. In later times, pious Romans often carried masks or busts of fathers and grandfathers at funerals and other religious ceremonies. Thus when Aeneas has a vision of his father on page 151, he is receiving guidance from the family genius. When directly after this vision, he makes a small offering to the "Lar of Troy," we see that Aeneas is responsible not only for his own household, but for all past Trojan households and all future Roman ones as well. Aeneas is on a mission (from the gods) to found the greatest empire in the world: that's why his epithet is pius ("pious") and not polymetis ("resourceful"), like Odysseus. For a Roman, piety means responsibility towards the ancestors, towards one's extended family, and towards generations of unborn descendants. Aeneas is responsible for an entire empire of descendants, so he must stick to his mission and not get sidetracked by North African queens like Dido. (Besides, he needs an Italian wife to marry the genius of Troy to native Italian stock.)

Despite their later reputation for decadence and every sort of sybaritic indulgence, the Romans in general liked to think of themselves as extremely moral people. Not unlike Americans, they thought of their way of life as just, moral, upright, honest, and suitable for others to adopt. The Roman Empire was founded by Augustus (reigned 27 BC-AD 14), the title of a fellow named Octavian. This Octavian was the adopted son of Julius Caesar (murdered 44 BC), and he proved to be quite adept at power politics. Augustus (Octavian) became sole ruler of Rome by defeating Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius) in 31 BC at the battle of Actium, off the western coast of Greece. (Aeneas passes through the area on p. 75.) As head of state, Augustus (which means "revered and majestic one") was head of the Roman "family," and genius for the entire Roman people. In other words, he was big daddy dictator. He ordered Virgil to write a poem glorifying himself and the Roman state. Virgil produced the Aeneid, which in some ways fills the bill. At other times (especially at the end of Books 6 and 12), Virgil seems to hint that peace obtained at the price of a despotic, militaristic empire may not be the best peace.

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Pyramid of Cestius, Rome

Pyramid of Cestius history

The massive monument that is Pyramid of Cestius has a rich history. The pyramid was built on request by Gaius Cestius Epulo; a rich magistrate, praetor and a member of one of the four great religious corporations at Rome. It is believed to have been built around year 15 BC as an extraordinary tomb.

A Roman pyramid

One might think it is strange to find an old pyramid in the center of Rome and in a sense – it is. However, after the Roman conquest of Egypt in year 30 BC, Rome was going through a fad for all things Egyptian. Several obelisks were taken from Egypt and placed at Circuses and Forums all around Rome. There was also another pyramid raised in Rome, the pyramid of Romulus, which was demolished in the 16th century.

Nubian inspiration

Despite the Egyptian craze and in contrast to popular belief, the Pyramid of Cestius is not based upon the famous pyramids in Giza. If you think about it, the Giza pyramids are all much shallower than this rather steep pyramid.

The Pyramid of Cestius is instead believed to have been based upon the more pointy Nubian pyramids. One Nubian kingdom was attacked shortly before the construction of this pyramid, which suggests that Gaius Cestius possibly served in that campaign and became inspired. Historians suggest the purpose of the tomb’s pyramid-shape was to serve as a commemoration to the Roman victories in Africa.

A marble marvel

The Pyramid of Cestius stands an impressive 37 meters high and almost 30 meters wide. It was built using concrete and brick on a travertine foundation and covered with marble blocks. Today, the pyramid is located in the city but during the time of its construction, it stood in open countryside. During this period, large tombs were not allowed within the city walls.


However, Rome grew at a rapid and by the 3rd century, The Pyramid of Cestius had been surrounded by buildings and thus it became a part of the city. The pyramid was even incorporated into the city wall during the construction of the Aurelian Walls towards the end of the 3rd century.

The inclusion of the pyramid into the wall is the main reason why it is so well preserved. The inclusion made it hard to demolish the Pyramid of Cestius without also destroying the Aurelian Wall.

Why visit Pyramid of Cestius ?

The Pyramid of Cestius is a beautiful site. Anyone looking closely at the outer walls of the pyramid should be able to spot inscriptions. There inscriptions dedicate the pyramid to Cestius. They read;

C · CESTIVS · L · F · POB · EPULO · PR · TR · PL






These inscriptions says;

“Gaius Cestius Epulo, son of Lucius, praetor, tribune of the plebs, septemvir epulonum “ – with the latter referring to his religious group. “The work was completed, in accordance with the will, in 330 days, by the decision of the heir Pontus Mela, son of Publius of the Claudia and Pothus, freedman”

There is also an additional inscription on the east side, added in the 17th century. This inscription commemorates the excavation and restoration work carried during the time on orders of Pope Alexander the 7th.

The burial chamber

The tomb of Gaius Cestius was located inside the pyramid within a small burial chamber. The chamber was rediscovered in year 1660, during the pope’s restoration. They discovered that the small room was decorated with several detailed wall paintings - so called frescoes.

The wall painitings were however in bad condition and only parts of them remain today. These paintings are some of the first examples in Rome of the so called Third Style Roman painting.

A family tomb

They found no traces of any other contents in the tomb, as it most likely had been plundered in the past. During the excavations, they also found traces of several columns and statues outside the pyramid – remains which today can be found at Musei Capitolini. Inscriptions on the bases of the statues imply that the burial chamber, despite its small size, served as a family tomb for several members of Cestius’s family.

An appreciated pyramid

The pyramid has been much admired by architects throughout history and it became the primary model for pyramids built in the West during the 18th and 19th century. Today, it is the only ancient roman pyramid standing in Rome, making it a truly unique sight. It is also one of the very best preserved ancient buildings in Rome.

Pyramid of Cestius location

The Pyramid of Cestius is located in Rome, Italy. The cemetery is situated in southern parts of the city, next to the Aurelian Wall and the Pyramid of Cestius. For the exact location of the Pyramid of Cestius, check out the location map to the right.

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Published in art & culture
Thursday, 07 June 2012 09:55

The Story about the Temple of Saturn

Temple of Saturn

Walking Tour of Rome Forum

The Temple of Saturn can't be missed in a walking tour of the Roman Forum mostly because of its huge presence. It is one of the first things you will notice as you scan the area of Rome ruins.

The gigantic Greek style columns, from a 4th century restoration following a fire, framed the entrance to the Temple of Saturn.

The eight standing columns face the Curia or Senate House.

Notice the different colors of the columns which shows a wonderful example of spolia, which is the practice of recycling materials or elements from ancient buildings.

Saturn Temple is the Forum's oldest temple dating from 497BC, founded in the early days of the Roman Republic.

The arched openings in the massive foundations housed the treasury of the Roman government.

Legend of Saturn

The most popular god, Saturn, ruled a "golden age" of prosperity, peace and civil freedom. The Romans believed Saturn's kingdom was Capitoline Hill.

According to legend, the rule of Saturn's son, Jupiter, brought this period to an end. Honoring Saturn with a Temple, the Romans hoped for the return to a better era.

In the end of December, a festival was celebrated in honor of Saturn. Friends and family exchanged gifts and his statue was draped and carried in procession through the city.

There is an excellent view of the Roman Forum from this spot.

Check out other ancient Rome attractions and more sightseeing in Rome ideas including Vatican City Rome.

Return to Home from Temple of Saturn
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Published in art & culture
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 09:01

Culture,Traditions and Customs in Rome

100K+ Rentals on Airbnb Worldwide. Rome Places to Stay From $35/Night!

The culture and traditions in Rome reflect its historic past and celebrate the modern world. Rome culture is an eclectic mix of high culture, the arts, fashion and historic architecture. Daily life centers around enduring Rome traditions rich in religion and food. It is this contrast of historic and modern culture and traditions that defines Rome as the Eternal City.

Eclectic Culture

The past and present harmoniously existing within steps of each other best defines Rome culture. For example, structures by 17th-century architect Bernini mingle with modern day architecture. Art created by the masters during the Renaissance and Baroque periods coexists with modern-day pieces in art museums and galleries throughout the city. Modern work buildings are steps away from historic monuments, like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. In short, Rome is an eclectic culture of a busy cosmopolitan city that reveres its past. Much of the Roman culture reflects the diverse people who passed through the city at different points in history. Gladiators, pagan deities, master artists and learned men left an influential footprint on the Eternal City. Tourists flock to the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Palatine and Forum Museum, the Galleria Borghese, the Palazzo Altemps, the Piazza di Spagna and the Domus Aurea to gain an appreciation of the stepping stones of today’s Roman culture.

Food and Festivals

Food is an integral part of the culture in Rome, with dishes that are full of flavor and reflective of old Roman traditions. Fresh vegetables, inexpensive cuts of meats, pasta and cheese are typical ingredients in Roman dishes. Food establishments flourish in Rome, with pizzerias, family-run trattorias and trendy restaurants in full supply. Food is further celebrated with food festivals. They are an important part of the culture scene in Rome and typically usher in a season, celebrate the Roman heritage, or simply carry on an age-old tradition. The Sagra del Csarciofo, for instance, celebrates the artichoke, a staple in Roman cooking. The springtime festival showcases the many ways the artichoke can be cooked.

Holiday Traditions

During the Easter and Christmas holiday seasons, Rome traditions exhibit the strong Christian culture of the Eternal City. One such Rome tradition is to go to St. Peter’s Square on Easter and Christmas to receive a blessing from the Pope. During the Lenten season, Good Friday marks the annual Procession of the Cross from the Roman Colosseum to the Palatine and Forum. On Easter Sunday morning, an outdoor mass takes place in St. Peter’s Square. During the Christmas season, churches in Rome display elaborate nativity scenes, and live music is enjoyed in the piazzas. The traditional midnight mass at the Vatican attracts thousands of locals and international visitors.

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Published in art & culture
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 08:50

Waching Rome from the Top

Explore Rome at your own pace on an extensive hop-on hop-off itinerary through the heart of Rome. The buses are open top which allows you to enjoy full 360 degree panoramic views as you travel along your route. You have the choice of a 24 or 48 hours ticket with which to make use of all the stops in the most beautiful, cultural and evocative areas of the Eternal city. The tour operates 365 days per year.


  • Hop-on hop-off double-decker bus tour of Rome
  • Choice of 24- or 48-hour ticket
  • Get on and off at different stops throughout central Rome
  • Personalized audio commentary and onboard tour escort
  • Option to add a 24-hour hop-on hop-off Rome cruise (April - October)

Recent Photos of this Tour

Browse the gallery of recent Rome Hop-on Hop-off Double Decker Bus Tour photos submitted by actual, honest-to-goodness travelers on Viator.

The buses are equipped with a personalized throwaway audio system which functions in 6 different languages, providing recorded commentary throughout the tour. There is also an English and Italian speaking host onboard each bus to assist with any queries. You will be provided with a set of earphones which you keep and use for the duration of your ticket.

The double decker green bus departs Termini Station every 15 to 20 minutes giving you plenty of opportunities to explore each stop in detail. If you were to stay on the bus for the entire loop, it would take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours.

Seasonal, April to October. If you purchase the 48 hour bus ticket, you also have the option to add a 24 hour hop-on hop-off Rome cruise. It's a great way to enjoy Rome and move effortlessly around the city, especially in high season. The combined ticket offers a perfectly planned route of Rome's major sites coupled with the absolute freedom to alight and re-board the bus or boat as you wish. 24hr-cruise is available for purchase with the 48-hr bus ticket only. Also, if you pre-book this cruise option, the total price represents 10% saving!

Travel Alert
Rome Municipality Authority may impose new regulations and restricted access for all hop-on hop-off tours in the city of Rome without warning. It could impact the number of stops available and/or your journey on this tour. These changes are beyond our control and imposed without notice by the local Rome Municipality Authority, therefore the exact itinerary will be advised on the day of travel.

Tour and Pricing Options

Click the link below to check pricing & availability on your preferred travel date. Our pricing is constantly updated to ensure you always receive the lowest price possible - we 100% guarantee it. Your currency is set to EUR. Click here to change your currency.

Tour options:

48 Hour TicketCode: 48HR
Unlimited use on Rome Hop-on Hop-off Double Decker Bus Tour for 48 hours from time of first useLanguage Options
From €26,00 Pricing details
48 Hour Ticket & CruiseCode: 48HRCR
Unlimited use on Rome Hop-on Hop-off Double Decker Bus Tour for 48 hours from time of first use. Includes 24 hour hop-on hop-off Rome cruiseLanguage Options
From €31,00 Pricing details
24 Hour TicketCode: 24HR
Unlimited use on Rome Hop-on Hop-off Double Decker Bus Tour for 24 hours from time of first useLanguage Options
From €21,00 Pricing details

Additional Information

    • Hop-on hop-off tour
    • Tour escort/hostess
  • Gratuities (optional)
  • Hotel pickup and drop off

Additional Info:

  • Confirmation will be received at time of booking
  • The buses are wheelchair accessible on the lower deck. The easiest boarding point is Termini Station.
  • Hop-on hop-off Rome cruise is not wheelchair accessible.
  • For those passengers who selected the Tiber River Cruise Upgrade: you must exchange the voucher on the hop on hop off bus first and from here can board the cruise. You will also receive all information including timetables and map upon boarding the hop-on hop-off bus tour.

Itinerary: Rome Hop-on Hop-off Stops:

1. TERMINI - Largo di Villa Peretti
3. COLOSSEO - Via di San Gregorio / Sundays and Public Holidays Via Nicola Salvi
4. CIRCO MASSIMO - Opposite Piazzale Ugo La Malfa
5. VIA DEL TEATRO MARCELLO - Opposite Teatro Della Cometa
6. ISOLA TIBERINA - Piazza di Monte Savello ATAC bus stop
7. SAN PIETRO - Via della Conciliazione, Opposite Caff- San Pietro, no. 36 (Vatican City)
8. CASTEL SANT'ANGELO - Lungotevere Tor Di Nona / Piazza Ponte Sant'Angelo.
9. AUGUSTO IMPERATORE - Piazza Augusto Imperatore
10. TREVI - Via del Trittone (This bus top is closed from 2pm on Saturdays and all day on Sundays and Italian public holidays)
11. BARBERINI - Via Barberini

Rome Hop-on Hop-off Tour alters its route every Sunday and selected public holidays (Easter) due to traffic restrictions and road closures imposed by local traffic police. Stops affected frequently include COLOSSEO or CIRCO MASSIMO. All attractions continue to open, however traffic will be restricted. Please note, it is easy to walk to any attractions from alternative Rome Open Top routes. All changes will be identified on the day of travel. Check with the hostess onboard for details.

 Voucher Info: You must present a paper voucher for this tour. We will email a link to access and print your voucher at the Lead Travelers email address. What's this?

Local Operator Information:

Complete Operator information, including local telephone numbers at your destination, are included on your Confirmation Voucher. Our Product Managers select only the most experienced and reliable operators in each destination, removing the guesswork for you, and ensuring your peace of mind.

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Bucatini all’amatriciana: at the Heart of Roman Cuisine

My first mouthful of bucatini all’amatriciana was at a small restaurant tucked away on the cobblestone streets of Trastevere. I was exhausted and drenched from the rain when I spotted a trattoria with cheery little lanterns on every table. On that first cold day of autumn the peppery pasta warmed me through. When well-executed it’s the kind of satisfying dish that makes you want seconds, thirds, even fourths. To my mind, there is no better introduction to Roman cuisine.

Bucatini all’amatriciana is an ode to simplicity – rich smoked pork, sweet tomatoes, heat from chili peppers, and the sharp, salty kick of pecorino cheese. Because amatriciana is a classic dish it has a long history and because it is Italian, this history is controversial and hotly disputed. Most but not all agree that “amatriciana” comes from Amatrice, a tiny town in the mountains bordering Abruzzo about 100 miles from Rome. (Some Romans claim that the dish is truly alla matriciana, developed by Romans and that Amatrice has nothing to do with such culinary bliss). Most agree that the dish descends from gricia, a pasta dish made with pepper, cheese, and smoked pork jowl, also known as guanciale.

Bucatini all’amatriciana has a different flavor profile than most Italian pasta. In its purest, most classic form the sauce has only four ingredients: cured pork, tomatoes, cheese, and hot peppers.  Because of the recipe’s poor origins (this was the dish of shepherds, not statesmen), there is traditionally  no onion, no garlic, no herbs. Because of this it tastes wildly different from the familiar Italian-American tomato sauce served with spaghetti and meatballs. The modern Roman version often adds onions, garlic, or a splash of dry white wine. Best of all it comes with bucatini, a kind of pleasantly plumpened up version of spaghetti that has an irresistible spongy surface to soak up the sauce.

I spent a few weeks playing around with the recipe, throwing in the onion and garlic you see often in the Roman version, substituting pancetta for the classic guanciale. I tried Marcella Hazan‘s version with butter and olive oil but it tasted of northern Italy, not Rome. I tried the recipe from Mario Batali - it was filled with the lively flavors of herbs, carrots and garlic, a scrumptious dish but not the one I was seeking.

In the end I found a recipe summing up the best of amatriciana – simple, just enough contrast between the ingredients to bring out their best. The onion you find in Roman versions is included adding a satisfying textural crunch but the garlic is absent.

Because of amatriciana’s simplicity, making it in Italy is easy. You go to the butcher, ask for un etto (100 grams) of guanciale, buy a few cans of tomatoes and you’re in business. In the States it is a bit more complicated. If you are fortunate enough to live in a large city near a fine Italian or imports grocer, you may be able to find guanciale. It is also available through a number of online vendors, such as AgBASE or Zingerman’s. Cut from the pig’s jowls, guanciale has a high fat content that gives the simple pasta a luxurious depth.

If guanciale is unavailable, pancetta is a fine substitute. However as you can see in the photo above, guanciale (shown bottom) has a significantly higher fat content than pancetta (shown top). If neither guanciale nor pancetta is available in your neighborhood, you can always use a top-quality lean bacon. The ever-knowledgable Patricia Wells suggests blanching bacon for one minute in boiling water to remove some of its smoky flavor. If substituting either pancetta or bacon, I would recommend adding an extra tablespoon of olive oil before sauteeing the onion to compensate for the lower fat content.


  • 8 oz. bucatini or spaghetti
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 100 g or 3.5 oz. guanciale or pancetta (about ¾ cup diced)
  • 100 g grated pecorino romano (about ½ cup)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 14 oz. can Italian plum tomatoes
  • ½ tsp. hot pepper flakes, or more to taste


1. Place a large pot of water to boil. Put in a small handful of large-grain salt.
2. Dice the guanciale into medium pieces, cubes of about 1/2 inch. Be wary of dicing the meat too small, if so it will be easier to overcook and you’re aiming for tender rather than crispy.
3. Sautee the guanciale and hot pepper in the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. As soon as the fat becomes translucent, remove the meat and set to drain on a paper towel.
4. Add onions to the rendered fat and sautee, stirring constantly, until translucent. Add the tomatoes and the guanciale. Simmer on low heat about 5-10 minutes.
5.When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta. Traditionally you use bucatini or spaghetti, though rigatoni is also an excellent partner for amatriciana. Cook the pasta 1 minute less than the package states. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce. Toss with the sauce and add the pecorino romano, stirring constantly so that the melted cheese coats the pasta. Remove from heat and serve immediately with additional grated pecorino for sprinkling on top.

Serves 4 people who are also eating a side salad, 3 hungry people, or a famished couple who skipped lunch.


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Wednesday, 09 May 2012 09:00

Life in the Roman Empire..

Miracle Players at the Roman Forum

when: Jun - Aug 2012; Fri only (annual)
where: Roman Forum
cost: Free
time: Fri 7.30pm

Each summer, English-speaking theatre troupe the Miracle Players performs a new comedy at the ancient Roman Forum. Re-enacting the fortunes and misfortunes of the Roman Empire, the talented group sums up 1000 years of history in a humorous 40-minute play.

Founded by Italian-Australian actor Eric Bassanesi and Scottish writer Denise McNee, the Miracle Players provide entertainment with creative storytelling techniques and humorous characterisation.

After Caesar - More Than Just A Salad and The Life of Michelangelo, in 2011 The Seven Kings of Rome returns for another historical hysterical run.

Related Information

Website: Miracle Players Website

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Published in entertainment