The centre of Rome

Last weekend saw me and Rose turn host as Kat and Olly (Rose’s cousin and her cousin’s boyfriend) came to stay.**  I’m going to explicitly set out the unwritten code which dictates guest behaviour in Rome: Having accepted hospitality, one is duty-bound to act interested as Sam Romes on.  And as per usual, Rome on I did.  In my head, what typically happens is that I transform into a Jackanory-esque story teller and unleash the tales of Roman glory.  “Come on kids, gather round!  Today’s story is about the architectural orders of columns!” At which point, we all embark on a shared adventure into the world of the Doric, the Ionian and the Corinthian.  When I finish, just as I’m preparing myself for my guests’ uproarious applause, I glance about me and I see they’ve been unable to maintain that interest they’d so courageously summoned at the start.  Kat and Olly, however, stayed with me to the bitter end, going so far as to ask extra questions.

I can’t remember most of the ones that went unanswered now I’m afraid, but I remember two from in the Forum.  The first was “there’s a shelter over this bit.  Is it important?”  The bit in question was probably the umbilicus urbis, or Rome’s belly button.  As its name suggests, this was the centre of the ancient city.  Or at least, a centre.  Interestingly, the sources seem to refer to 3 sites which would have qualified as the central point: The Umbilicus, the Mundus or Vault and the Milliarium Aureum or the Golden Milestone.  The Mundus was a ditch into which the original settlers of Rome threw the first fruits of harvest as well as soil from their original home town upon moving to this new settlement.  The Golden Milestone was a monument set up by Augustus to signify the single point to which all those roads which led to Rome actually led.  The Umbilicus Urbis was, er, the centre of the city.  The only source I’ve been able to find it mentioned in (the Notitia*) is a simple list of ancient monuments.  Having not entirely answered your question then, let’s move on.

As for the second question, I’ve had even less luck.  I’m appealing for help now.  Anybody who can shed light on why an extension cable would have been hanging out of a side door on the arch of Septimius Severus, please put me out of my misery.

*http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/L/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/_Texts/Regionaries/text*.html

**I’ve separated this bit from the rest of the blog so that I can hijack There Boy for personal, non-Rome related use.  If you’re not Kat or Olly, well frankly I don’t know what you’re still doing here. You two, it really was lovely to have you both here.  If you don’t throw that crayfish party come summer, then we’re going to have to do it ourselves.

Somebody: Why's this here?

The Side of the Arch of Septimius Severus

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4 Responses to “The centre of Rome”

  1. Ed B Says:

    “Somebody: Why’s this here?” Maybe to check on the integrity of the structure from the inside .. after all, it’s nearly 2000 years old. Just a thought.
    Ed

    • Samuel Says:

      Having looked at your blog* Ed, you’d definitely know more about that sort of thing than me. Still, it seems a little odd to bother building a door half way up the monument to do that. Aren’t there easier ways?

      *Which is really interesting by the way. I’m looking forward to watching some of those projects develop.

      • Ed B. Says:

        First, thanks for stopping in at Centerstone !
        From what I do know about arches .. the stability of the base portion is most important .. mess with that and the integrity of the arch is compromised.
        Ed

      • Samuel Says:

        Well that certainly sounds like a good reason. Thanks Ed!

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