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The second day of our trip turned out to be our favorite day of the trip.  This was our day to explore Rome!   Our first destination was the fabulous Borghese Art Gallery.

 Unfortunately things this day did not start very well at all.

Just to clear something up, I understand there is a modern phenomenon known as an ATM Machine.  Right.  But I did not bring an ATM card on the trip for the simple reason that I have never used one.  What we had in our pocket was the end of our supply of cash.

Our first order of business was to get more Euros. The hotel directed us to a nearby money exchange. I paled as my $600 shrunk to 287 Euros.

I was really angry. I had gotten a 51% exchange ratio at the airport, but now I was only getting 47% here at this rip-off hole in the wall.  I wanted to back out of the transaction, but we had a time deadline facing us to get to the Borghese.  So I gave in.

In retrospect, it seems like I gave in a lot on this trip.

Besides my 287 Euros, I now had $100 left in my pocket. Marla had $200 and Sam had the other $100.  We had $400 left and seven more days on this trip.  I wondered just how far this remaining cash would go if we couldn't start finding places that took credit cards.

Stranger in a Strange Land

We had 30 minutes to get to the Borghese Art Gallery.  Would this be enough time?  More important, what bus should I take to get there?  I was a stranger in a strange land and very unsure of myself. As I will explain, the map was very disorienting.  
Study the map below for a moment.  That is the Vatican (#1) on the upper left and that green area on top was the Borghese (#2).

As I looked at the map, the museum seemed to be on the right. It also seemed the map indicated the museum was to the East. My Boy Scout training said that since the morning sun was on our left, then the museum had to be on our left as well.  Right or left?  I was very confused After much trouble, I decided to follow the Sun  (a decision that fortunately turned out correct.)

Borghese Gallery

Villa Borghese Grounds

My confusion was directly related to my lousy map.  As I mentioned earlier, I was convinced the Wall in front of my hotel window was North.  What I did not realize was the true location of our hotel was hidden.  When I first saw this map, I assumed the Hotel Alimandi was in the False location.  It was an easy mistake to make because as you can see the True location of the Hotel was obliterated from sight by the "Welcome to Roma" caption.  My reality of Rome was upside down!

We were running out of time.  Should we take the bus going to my left or to my right?   I decided the sun was my best friend.  I would follow the sun and hope for the best. S
o we caught the first bus going to the left even though my brain was very unhappy about the confusion.  Not surprisingly, my confusion caused me to make a mistake.

It didn't dawn on me at the time, but just because the bus was heading to the east didn't mean it was heading to the east.

Let me explain. Shortly after we got on the bus, it turned left. The bus was now headed north. Although I didn't know it at the time, we had indeed gotten on the wrong bus.

Now that we were not headed towards the sun, I immediately worried that something was wrong. I was still using this limited map of Rome given to us by the hotel. The street where we had caught the bus was definitely on my map, but after the bus turned left, not one of the new streets appeared on my map!

This bus had literally gone off the map!  Where we were we going?!?  I started to panic. I knew I had made a guess to begin with.  My biggest concern was that we were heading west in the opposite direction. That made sense because 'west' was off the map.  I was deeply confused.

s the bus wandered into areas not on my map, I studied my map furiously.  That's when I made a discovery. I noticed the Vatican Museum we had visited yesterday was at the top of the Vatican City (see the red square in the picture above).  That is when it dawned on me - my Hotel must be above of the Vatican City, not below it (see True location).  In other words, when I faced the Wall in front of my hotel room I was actually looking South, not North!    

In one sudden Galilean inspiration, my world had just flipped 180 degrees. This was going to take a while to get used to… but I didn't have 'a while' to spare!

Marla had no idea the extent of the panic I was in, but she could tell I was worried about something. She sensed we were in trouble.   Just how lost were we? 

Marla just kept staring at me with a very dark look. You see, there was only one stop on this entire trip Marla deeply cared about - the impressive Borghese Art Gallery.

This is such a popular location that you actually have to reserve a two-hour visiting block ahead of time.  You cannot drop in unannounced.  My mind wandered back to the day Marla had spent an hour on the Internet trying to figure out how to make our reservation to visit.   This visit was practically all she could talk about. 

Now we had only 20 minutes left to make our appointment.  Not only that, we had pre-paid our visit.  If we didn't show up, that money was down the drain.  The pressure was really getting to me.

This would be our one and only chance to see this place!  
I was poor, I was lost, I didn’t speak the language, and I had 20 minutes left to get there or my wife would blame this fiasco on me.  It had been MY DECISION to get on this bus and I was convinced something was wrongI was deeply worried, but I did not know what to do.  Where was this bus going?

It was about this point that the comedy began.

As we sat on the bus wondering where we were, the three of us tried different strategies. My strategy was to continue to stare helplessly at the street signs and hope a street would appear that was on my map. Marla's strategy was to talk to the three people closest to her on the bus. Meanwhile Sam interviewed a fourth person. Not one person spoke English. Well, change that, they all seemed to understand a little English. This is another way of saying that Marla and Sam spoke English while the Italians nodded their heads a lot and waved their hands.

I have to give the Italians credit - all four of them tried very hard to help. All four people were trying to explain things to us using sign language and broken English. But I paled even further when I saw that none of them could agree on where we were headed! They started arguing among themselves pointing in opposite directions and gesturing wildly.  What did I get us into?

Watching this charade, Marla, Sam, and I didn't know what to do. As I stared at the map, I could see there were two bus stops next to the Borghese that had been circled by the woman at the hotel - Flaminio and Spagna.

So I said, "Bus go to Flaminio?" and pointed down the street hopefully.

"No Flaminio!  Bus no go Flaminio!" They all agreed on this account!  My heart sank.

Then I tried my next option. "Spagna?  Bus go to Spagna?"

Same thing. "No Spagna!  No Spagna!  Bus no go to Spagna!"

I understood them very clearly. Their English was improving as my prospects were diminishing. This was looking hopeless. I could feel our chances of getting to the Borghese in time were slipping away by the moment.

But one very polite man with spectacles spoke up and said, "Bus go to Borghese.  I show you."

That was our only ray of hope.  But it was no sure thing.  The other three kept shaking their heads in disagreement.  It was three against one.  Our hero was outnumbered.

Confronted by the contradictions, Marla didn't know whom to believe. She kept interviewing all four people without any real success.

However, unbeknownst to Marla, I was starting to cheer up a little.  Two very good things had happened. First, the bus must have turned a second time because I noticed we were headed towards the sun again.  Second, we had crossed a very large river. That had to be the famous Tiber River which ran through the center of Rome.  Not only was the Tiber River east of our hotel, part of it ran very close the Borghese Gallery. I still didn't know where we were, but I was encouraged nonetheless.

Shortly after we crossed the Tiber, the man who had promised the bus was going to Borghese spoke up with conviction, "Trust me! Trust me!"

Marla looked at me and I nodded.  We decided this guy was our man.  Why not?  What were our other choices?

At the Italian man's bidding, very soon we all got off the bus. To our surprise, the man got off too. I remember thinking it was kind of odd that he got off with us.  I also noticed Marla had a big frown on her face, but I didn't have time to figure it out. Instead I looked around for street names.  Not one street sign was on my map. Pardon my Italian, but this sucks!

The Italian guy pointed down the street. He seemed to indicate he was going to lead us there. So the three of us followed our Italian amico in silent prayer for four blocks.  My gut was knotted with anxiety the entire time.

The Gallery was still nowhere in sight, we had eight minutes left, this guy didn't speak a word of English and we still had no clue where we were.  Where we were going?  Marla looked very unhappy.  I didn't blame her a bit.  So was I.

Just about the time I wondered for the twentieth time if this guy knew what he was doing, Marla entered the Twilight Zone, her favorite TV show. 

Marla suddenly got a very worried look on her face. She pulled me over and whispered, "Rick, I saw that man put his hand in his pocket. I saw a gun in there!  He has a small gun!  And we have no idea where he is leading us!"

Now I entered the Twilight Zone as well. The theme to the Twilight Zone started to play in my brain like a broken record.

A gun?  Were we in danger?  Was he setting us up?

For the record, I was skeptical

I seriously doubted t
he man had a gun in his pocket.  I wasn't sure if this man knew where he was going, but I had not gotten even the slightest bad vibe from him.  His appearance was not exactly the Desperado type.  

He was a skinny guy, clean cut, maybe 5' 10" and 150 pounds.  He wore office clothing and looked like a bookkeeper.  He didn't have a muscle on his body and he wasn't tough looking at all. In fact, he was much closer in appearance to Mr. Rogers than the Godfather.

But I also saw no reason to override Marla's fears.  I could see she was serious.  If Marla was right, we could be in a lot of trouble.  Better safe than sorry.  

Fortunately at that exact moment Marla and I noticed a very expensive hotel just around the corner.  So I told the perplexed man grazie, then suddenly changed directions and hustled my family over to the safety of the hotel.  Our companion had a very confused look on his face, but he made no attempt to follow us. 

Miraculously, our decision to part ways had a silver lining.  There were taxis!  Yes!  We were about to get a taxi when a man walking his dog heard us speak the word 'Borghese'.

In perfect English he said we didn't need a taxi. The entrance to the Borghese Gallery was only one block away! He pointed in the same direction the man had been taking us. All three of us stared at the man with incredulity. You have got to be kidding!

In a flash we had just gone from 'off the map lost in the middle of nowhere' to 'robbed and murdered' to 'here we are'.  How weird is that? 

As relief came flooding in, I could still hear the Twilight Zone music playing in the background, theme song for the Adventures of Rick and Marla and Sam. 

Following the dog walker's suggestion, we soon found the entrance to a huge tree-filled park.

As we took a leisurely stroll through the grounds, two policemen on horseback came by. I said 'Borghese Gallery?'

They smiled and pointed me in the right direction. Finally!  We now had five minutes to enjoy our triumphant stroll through the gardens before our visit to the magnificent Borghese Gallery.

In retrospect, I believe our mystery man was leading us straight to one of the entrances.  After all, the hotel we found was right across the street from the grounds.  We owe him a favor for getting us there. 

But in Marla's defense, he may have indeed had a gun, perhaps for his own protection.  Who knows?

All I know for sure is that we got very lucky. 

Italy won the 2006 World Cup in soccer.
As you can see, they start 'em young.

Just to put some closure on this 'Lost in Rome' story, while I was at the museum I studied the map on the right.  The map of the Borghese grounds helped me understand what had gone wrong with the bus trip.

As you can see from the picture below, our bus did not take a direct route to the Borghese Gallery.  When the bus made its left turn, it took us off the hotel map to the north.  This explains why the hotel map did not show the streets of our bus route.

was at the western entrance. Spagna was at the southern entrance. The Gallery itself was at the eastern entrance.  The northerly route of the bus explained why everyone said no Flaminio and no Spagna.
They were right. Our bus route went nowhere near those spots (I think we were about a mile north of Flaminio). 

Looking at the Borghese map, I could see we had entered the grounds from the northern side. The bus had indeed passed within several blocks of the Borghese Gallery, but from the northern side that was not included in my limited hotel map.  So our man with the gun was right too.  It may have been the wrong bus, but fortunately the bus at least passed within walking distance of the Borghese Gallery .  

What a crazy morning!  But, as Shakespeare would say,
'All's well that ends well.'


Our Visit to the Borghese Gallery

The Borghese Gallery turned out to be even better than advertised. Such beauty. Plus they had air-conditioning and took credit cards! My kind of place.

We were about to get an audio guide when the lady suggested that using a human guide was far superior.  So we took her advice. Good move.  Our guide was a tiny Italian lady, 28, who was obviously an art major and VERY PASSIONATE about her love of this Gallery. She made all the magnificent sculptures and artwork come alive for us.

Impressive were the sculpture of Napoleon's sister Paulina by Canova (pictured at left), as well as Renaissance paintings by Raphael, Titian, Van Dyck, Carravaggio and Corregio.

Although I am hardly an art expert, in my opinion, the star of the gallery was Gian Lorenzo Bernini.  Our friendly guide showed us several different sculptures done by Bernini that were unbelievably lifelike. The most famous was Apollo and Daphne. Another one was David right before he throws the stone at Goliath. The third was Pluto and Persephone.  These three were pretty amazing sculptures.  As I study the pictures below, I can promise you they don't do justice to the incredible detail involved in these larger-than-life projects.  It was very obvious we were in the presence of genius.

Of course I felt very overwhelmed as we toured the museum.  Bernini was the star, but there were so many other works of art throughout the gallery that were famous in their own right.  My head was spinning at all the deeper symbolism our guide explained to us in marvelous detail.  I quite honestly had no idea there was so much secret code and hidden meaning in art!

It was probably the most culture I have ever been exposed to in my life other than my recent case of athlete's foot (support bacteria; they're the only culture some people have).  

All kidding aside, this was my favorite visit of the trip.  I am grateful to Marla for scheduling our time here.


The Spanish Steps

The remainder of the day was pure joy as we followed the map and wandered through the streets of Rome on foot. As we were leaving the Borghese Gallery at 1 pm, Marla said she was happy now. As far as she was concerned we could do whatever we wanted for the rest of the day.

Now that I had successfully become oriented with layout of Rome, the hotel map and I were no longer enemies.  Looking at the map, I could see the famous Spanish Steps were just beyond the southern border of the Borghese estate.  We also noticed the Colosseum was at the bottom of our map. 

We had been told you could get practically anywhere in Rome by walking, so we decided to see if this was true.  Using the trek to the Spanish Steps as an experiment, we made walking the entire city our goal for the day. 
Since we were poor, walking made a lot of sense.  It didn't hurt that the first part of our journey took us through the beautiful gardens of the Borghese estate!

It turned out this advice about walking was correct.  As the day unfolded, we were definitely able to confirm
that most of the famous locations were within walking distance of each other (assuming you have all day to walk, that is).

Although I am getting a bit ahead my story, later that day at the Colosseum
we had a guide who pointed out that Michelangelo had stolen many rocks from the Colosseum to help build the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City just two miles away.  I was a little skeptical at his 'two miles away' part of the statement, but his point reinforced my notion that the most important parts of the ancient city were definitely within walking distance.

I also smiled when the Colosseum guide referred to the Borghese Gallery as a remote country villa located 'far away in the distant regions of Rome'.  Out in the country?  We had been able to walk from the Borghese 'country estate' over here to the Colosseum in less than five hours! The thought of the remote Roman 'countryside' being all of two miles away was amusing for a boy raised in the vast State of Texas.  If you want a better definition for the word 'remote', try walking from Katy to Downtown Houston in five hours.  Good luck.

After a brisk 20-minute walk southward through the lovely Borghese gardens, ta da, we were suddenly treated to the beautiful view of the famous Spanish Steps, a favorite tourist stop here in Rome.  The 138 Spanish Steps are indeed wide and very steep. They are so beautiful that they have served as a backdrop for many movies shot in Rome.

Up at the top of the stairs stood a beautiful church known as the Trinità dei Monti (in English it is the Church of the Holy Trinity atop Pincio Hill). This famous church is well known for its scenic dominance above the Spanish Steps that descend into the
Piazza di Spagna.

The Church of the Holy Trinity was important to my daughter. Sam attends Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart here in Houston, a Catholic girl's school. Although we are not Catholic, I have to admit that 13 years of this marvelous Catholic education has definitely had its impact on her.  Sam definitely wanted to go have a look due to a special link between this church and Sam's school.

As Sam explained it to me, this church is run by the Religious of the Sacred Heart,  which is same society of nuns that run Duchesne Academy. These nuns are affiliated with Society of the Sacred Heart, which was founded in France by Madeline Sofie Barat. The Religious of the Sacred Heart run schools all over the world. Besides the dozens of schools all over the US, there are Sacred Heart schools on every continent.

In 1844, a young girl studying at the convent in Rome painted a fresco of the Virgin Mary. When the painting was completed, the Mother Superior of the convent threw a curtain over it.  She was convinced it was too ugly to be on display constantly.

However, two years later, Pope Pius IX took a trip to the Trinita dei Monti and asked to see the painting behind the curtain. Begrudgingly, the Mother Superior uncovered the painting to discover that it had become a beautiful painting of the Mother of Jesus. The paint had faded over time to depict Mary perfectly.

That day, the Pope named the painting Mater Admirabilis - Mother most admirable. The painting is extremely special to Sacred Heart Schools, and to this day a recreation of it sits in the foyer at Duchesne as well as other Sacred Heart schools.

Caveat Emptor: The Great Gelato

After the Spanish Steps, it was time for some ice cream.  We were about to encounter the single defining moment of the trip.

Let me paint the picture. It was hot.  It was crowded (hundreds of people were milling about in the general area of the Spanish Steps). It was afternoon. It was time for food. I suggested pizza or gelato. Marla said whichever we found first worked for her.

We soon came across a small sidewalk shop that sold soft drinks, water, and gelato. The name was Caffetteria Antica RomaThinking back to how fast our gelato (Italian ice cream) had disappeared the day before, I decided to move up to an ice cream cone a little bit larger.
 Yesterday's scoops had cost 6 Euros. I picked the cone in the red rectangle (see picture).  I figured I could afford a little more, but I didn't go overboard. As you can see in the picture, there were only two smaller sizes.

The young man not only gave us each three scoops of ice cream, he put some colored decorations and little Italian flags on top for good measure. How pretty! That was definitely the fanciest ice cream cone I had ever seen.

As Marla and Sam hungrily devoured their gelatos, I walked over to another part of the store to pay.  I stood in line behind four customers. Some old guy was slowly but surely collecting the money. I had not been given a bill or a price.  I had no idea what the cones cost, but since this cone wasn't much bigger than the one from the previous day, I wasn't worried.

This was a pretty loose operation. There were no doors and it was very crowded. The three of us could have walked away and no one would have known a thing.

It occurred to me that if I wanted to pay for one cone instead of three no one would have ever known the difference.  After all, I didn't have a receipt.  I experienced a moment of weakness. Considering how poor I was feeling, maybe I could fool him.  But after a brief contest between good and evil, my conscience won.  I thought how Kahlil Gibran had once said it is much easier to be a moral person when you have money in your pocket.  Hmm.

Now it's my turn. The old guy looks at me and asks how many. Three. Without even looking up he says "36 Euros". What!!!  I practically died from shock!

36 Euros!!! Are you out of you mind! Suddenly the Twilight Zone music started playing in my brain again. I was in shock.

As I clung to my money, I did some rapid calculations. How could 6 Euros of Gelato yesterday suddenly multiply to 36 Euros today? I had surely not increased the size of my ice cream by a factor of 6. There must be a mistake.   36 Euros = $72.  Who on earth charges $72 for 3 ice cream cones!?!  My entire dinner last night for 3 people complete with wine had come to 42 Euros.  Why does this guy charge so much for ice cream?

He stared at me and I stared back at him in silence. It was so quiet he might have been able to hear the Twilight Zone music playing in my brain.  Did I remember to set my ears on mute?

I tried to protest only to realize he didn't speak English! He only could speak in Euros. How do you argue with someone in another language? Just then two cops walked by outside. One word from this guy and I am sure the polizia strolling down the piazza would have flattened me like a pizza. So I begrudgingly handed over my precious Euros and shed huge secret crocodile tears inside. How would I ever be able to enjoy my ice cream cone knowing my deep-seated Puritan sense of thrift had just been ripped into ugly bloody shreds?

Marla wasn't very sympathetic which didn't help much. First she insinuated how stupid I was for not asking the price ahead of time. Then she pointed out the cost was listed. As the new clouds of depression set in, I dully scanned the price list. There were prices for over a dozen different sizes of cones. And yes, one of them said 12 Euros.

But as I stared at the different sizes of cones on the shelf above, how was I supposed to know which cone size correlated with which price?  I thought that was a pretty good argument on my part.  Why hadn't they put a picture next to the price?

Marla pointed out I had selected the largest cone size in the display.  But her argument didn't make any sense.  There were several sizes larger on the menu as well as smaller sizes.  I even saw cones listed that cost 25 Euros!  Then it dawned on me that maybe the confusion was deliberate.  Hmm.  It worked.

As the Twilight Zone music kept playing over and over in my head, I was reminded of a very old saying in Latin - Caveat Emptor… beware the buyer.  I had just fallen into la crème de la crème of Roman tourist traps, the great Gelato shakedown!

As I realized what a fool I had been, what should have been a happy moment instead turned to Dark Depression. It takes a complete and total moron to spend 25% of his last remaining cash on 3 ice cream cones.

I had honestly not felt this poor since I was a struggling grad student waiting in the food stamp line forty years ago. In an idle moment I wondered how the Monster Mash would be received on the streets of Rome.  Should I dance and entertain in a desperate attempt to raise cash?


Marla visits Caffetteria Antica Roma on the Internet

Note: After Marla read my story, out of curiosity, she googled Caffetteria Antica RomaApparently my experience was not a random one.  We had stumbled into a well-known tourist trap! 

As you will see, this little sidewalk cafe has a very bad reputation.  

Mara's discovery brings up an interesting thought.  I wonder if tourists of the future will carry portable devices to check the Internet reputation of every location before entering.  RA

4 Apr 2008
I know my story is nothing new among seasoned travelers, but I could still be a refresh warning for the more "rookies" of us all...

So, there we were, in Rome for the first time, me, wife, and 4 kids, just a few hundred meters from Piazza di Spagna, and the kids see this Gelateria (ice cream shop), Caffetteria gelateria Antica Roma, located in Via di Propaganda 26, just seconds from Piazza di Spagna and the famous "Trinità dei Monti".. My wife enters the Gelateria with the kids, and i chose to stay outside to take pictures and keep watch on our youngest one, still in the stroller.

Now, being an Italian myself, I should have seen it coming, but not at this level. My wife came out of the Gelateria with the kids, iced cream cones, and a *very* strange expression of guilt on her face. She told me that she was charged and in a moment of brain stress induced brain blackout, she paid 90 euros for the ice creams. That IS correct, 90 EUROS = 135 US Dollars, for: 4 ice cream cones with 2 scoops each, plus a small cup with one scoop, plus a small slice of tiramisu. 9 Scoops of ice cream and a slice of cake, 135 dollars... And yes, I still have the receipt and a picture of the ice creams...

Guys, when in Rome, FIRST, ASK FOR THE PRICE !!! if it seems too much, turn around and *leave*.  
(Rick's Note: I wish I had done this myself!)

There are no words to describe how stupid and cheated I feltI should have gone back in, called the police, and created a huge fuss, but I did not, my bad, my loss.

Truth to be told, Rome is gorgeous. Just treat the downtown area like "enemy territory" when it comes to eating and drinking. If budget is an issue at all, stay in the outskirts, like we did, and use the metro to go downtown.
   (See original Writeup)

RICK ARCHER'S NOTE:  The next four reviews were found by Marla on Travel Buddy.  I was so amused, I took the time to my add my own story as well. 

Sep 05, 2007
If you are at the Spanish Steps, and feel like an ice cream. Under NO circumstances should you go to this place. We paid 9.80Euro for EACH gelati we had. That is, we paid 30E for 3 small gelatis.

It's the most expensive ice cream i've ever had.

9Euro of that was just for the shit seats we had. My mum stood there arguing with them for 10 minutes but no one in the shop would even talk to us and all pretended to not know what they should actually cost. Meanwhile the gelati was melting and wasnt even that good. We had much better elsewhere in Rome and much much cheaper too.... 
(See original Writeup)

Mar 21, 2008
You are totally right, we paid 7.50 for each cone. The cashier (tall woman with dark brown hair) said we had eaten 7.50 worth and had to pay that amount. We argued with her, because there was a sign "2.50 each per cone", but she said our cones were bigger than this size. I think she has different measurements for tourists and romans. We had similar experiences with other places in Rome and we will never go back to this country. After that we were in Barcelona. This town was cleaner and the people were nicer and were correct in money matters etc. We were in Italy in 1984 and they cheated us back then also.

Don't go under no circumstances to this place. Sorry, but historic places AND people count!  Try to find a Asteria to eat they usually are family owned and may not cheat you as easy.
  (See original Writeup)

Mar 31, 2008
This place is evil. My boyfriend ordered a gelato in the smallest, plainest looking cone and when he went to pay they charged him 7.50 euros. I was sure there was a mistake because I had just been to the place about 3 weeks before with a friend and I am sure we did not pay over 3.50 euros for our gelato.
There were also people with giant cones, elaborately decorated with wafers and stacked with I cant imagine those people paying 30 euros for their ice cream.

After he paid, I asked the lady at the cash register if it was 7.50 euros for just ONE small cone of gelato and she rudely said she didn't know and the man serving the gelato tells her the price.

I went back to the man who served us the gelato and asked him the same question and he pretended he did not speak English even though he did less than a minute ago when he served us. At first I was confused so I repeated myself and asked him again and he started speaking Italian really fast (which my friend and I could understand) and he said arrogantly "Speak Italian, I don't know English, speak Italian!!! Italian only!" So my friend asked in Italian if the cone my boyfriend had was 7.50 and she pointed at the sign that clearly said 2.50 euros for a small cone of gelato. The man pretended to not understand her Italian and started yelling at her in Italian and then he waved his hands at us in a shooing and degrading motion telling us to leave. This whole time we were being polite, but I got upset at this and told him I had been here before and I didnt pay 7.50, and I said the sign says 2.50. He started to mimic me mockingly, making faces and continued waving us away.

I don't think it would be so bad paying 7.50 euros for a tiny ice cream if they had not been so rude and avoided my questions.

(See original Writeup)

Posted on: Apr 02, 2008
haha! we had the exact same scam! the lady at the till pretends to not be responsible for the cost. and the guy making them pretends not to understand. so they just make the most expensive thing there is whether you want it or not. my mum is actually Italian and spoke perfect Italian and they were still rude and pretended not to understand. It's a total scam. They also charged 3Euro for EACH of us to sit down....

(See original Writeup)

Rick Archer's Note: 
So there you have it.  I had the distinction of being ripped off by one of Rome's most famous tourists traps.  Lucky me.

Trevi Fountain

It took a while, but eventually I was able to carry on with my life.  I ambled listlessly southward along the Via del Propaganda.  I wondered what ‘propaganda’ meant in Italian.  Probably something like ‘Street for American suckers’ or some phrase as equally cheerful as that.

Eventually my spirits returned.  I noticed we were just a few blocks from the Trevi Fountain.  A couple minutes later, there it was in its entire splendor.  The Trevi was the biggest fountain I had ever seen in my life.  The size wasn’t the only impressive part of the fountain; the sculptures of the various Gods and Goddesses were just incredible.

I could not imagine the skill and the work that when into creating something this beautiful.  Overcome by the splendor, I was so happy I started to sing ‘Three Coins in a Fountain’. 

People will tell you I don’t sing well.  I received further proof when suddenly I was hit by a hail of coins from people trying to shut me up.  You would think my feeling would be hurt, but it wasn’t.  Instead, like a thirsty man hungry for water, I fell to the ground and groveled for the coins. 

Maybe one of them would be a Euro, a coin infinitely more valuable than gold itself!  No such luck. Just a bunch of worthless pennies.  Darn.  Still broke.  Obviously its tough to sing for money when you have no talent.  I chucked the whole lot of them in the fountain.  Maybe my luck would change.

As a side note, I later discovered my new best friend Bernini had first designed the magnificent sculptures at the Trevi Fountain.  Although he didn’t carve them himself, later artists faithfully reproduced his models.  Wonderful place. 

Victor Emmanuel and Pantheon

As we continued to stroll southward towards the Colosseum, out of nowhere appeared the marvelous Victor Emmanuel Monument (see picture on the right).

This was quite an impressive structure.  However, I had no idea who this man was. 
I was immediately curious to find out what Victor Emmanuel was famous for, so I read up on him as Sam, Marla and I strolled over to the nearby Pantheon.

It seems that after the Goths got through finishing off the Roman Empire around 476 AD, during the Middle Ages the Italian Peninsula had divided into several merchant states. As you can see from the picture, there was the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Florence, the Kingdom of Naples, the Papal States, the Republic of Genoa, the Republic of Siena, the Duchy of Milan, and 6 other smaller territories as well.

Apparently back in the 1800s, a century when all the European powers were constantly at war with one another, these various individual states were under the control of different foreign powers.

In other words, Italy as we know it today did not even remotely exist. These various states were too small to wield any real power on their own, so they existed under the control of their two powerful neighbors Austria and France and to some extent Spain. Furthermore these various states had no interest in merging with one another. In fact, they were usually fighting each other during this era. Things stayed this way for hundreds of years. United we stand, divided we fall.

Two men changed all that. Victor Emmanuel with plenty of help from a brilliant general named Giuseppe Garibaldi began to reunify Italy by merging one piece of the puzzle at a time.

Garibaldi started things off around 1848 by uniting the southern part of Italy. This area was much too remote for the European powers to show much interest. Their claims were in the central and northern parts of the Italian peninsula. France and Austria were determined to keep these territories in their place, but Southern Italy was just barely beyond their reach. So Garibaldi was able to gain at least a measure of strength without being squashed by France or Austria.

Garibaldi and Emmanuelle joined forces in the 1860s (the same time as the American Civil War). Using Southern Italy as their initial base of operations, these two men began the reunification process.  Emmanuelle was very clever in his method.

Normally you think a revolution is the way to gain independence. Not Italy. The city-states had no desire to be united and Emmanuel/Garibaldi had nowhere near enough strength to force these states to do it anyway.  What Emmanuel did was offer to fight alongside one superpower against another superpower in the wars that plagued Europe in the 1800s.

Emmanuel was the politician who was always busy making treaties with the major powers. Garibaldi would then fight whatever messy battle Emmanuelle had gotten him into.

Emmanuel played one major power against another. He was constantly changing sides. By periodically aligning with the major players, Emmanuel positioned his small kingdom to pick up little pieces of territory here and there.

For example, France and Austria would fight a war with Southern Italy playing a small role. It didn't matter who won or lost. Even if it was their ally who lost, after the war Emmanuel and Garibaldi would pick off one of the loser's Italian territories and add it to their collection. They gambled the bigger nation was too preoccupied with post-war headaches to come down and reclaim their prize.

Pretty soon there would be another war, maybe this time France and Germany or Austria and Russia or Prussia and Hungary. Again when the bigger nation was preoccupied, Emmanuel and Garibaldi would pick off another territory. One by one, the merging territories were growing bigger. Soon they had an army sizable enough to play with the big boys.

At this point, they began to acquire their new territory directly. They would pick a fight with France or Austria over the Republic of Siena. Austria would send down some troops. Using his home field advantage, Garibaldi would win the battle. Now Siena belonged to them.  Emmanuel and Garibaldi had picked up another piece of the puzzle and grown stronger in the process. Italy was becoming as powerful as its neighbors.

In all it took about 20 years, but eventually a new nation was formed out of all the original dozen city-states.

By coincidence, as Marla, Sam and I arrived at the enormous Pantheon (see picture on the right), I discovered that Victor Emanuel was buried there. Quite an honor and richly deserved!  

The Pantheon has always been known as the Resting Place of Heroes. 

As you can see,
Victor Emmanuelle has been properly immortalized as the Father of this new country named Italy.  He is the "George Washington" of Italy.

The Roman Forum, Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar and Birth of the Roman Empire

After the Pantheon, it was time for the final push to the Colosseum.  But first we had to stop and take a look at the Roman Forum.

The Forum was located about halfway between the Victor Emmanuel monument and the Colosseum. It was about 5 pm. We had neither the strength nor time to actually walk down into the Forum area. So we contented ourselves with sitting on a sidewalk high above and looking at it from 200 yards away.

Marla got out her tourist book and started identifying the different structures. I could see it broke her heart not to go down there and touch every marble column and historical broken rock with her bare hands. I have no doubt that Marla was a Roman dictator in a previous lifetime.  The ancient memories were undoubtedly calling to her subconscious.

As Marla stared at the Forum and reveled in her glory days of yesteryear's Imperial Rome, she let me look at the book.  While reading the tourist guide I ran across Caesar's famous quote Veni Vidi Vici - I came, I saw, I conquered.  That brought back memories of my own.  How can I forget those words? 

You see,
I took two years of Latin in the 8th and 9th grade. In my classroom, a banner of Caesar hung with those immortal three words.  I stared at that banner on many an occasion.

consider my two years of Latin to be the single greatest waste of time in my entire childhood.  I had no choice - Latin was part of the classical training to be endured at my college prep school. Humph.  In my opinion, my time would have been better spent in auto mechanics or a typing class. At least then I might acquire a skill that could actually prove useful later in life.  

But no, Latin was mandatory at my school.  I have always chalked up my Latin class experience as my Peggy Sue Got Married moment. To refresh your memory, Peggy Sue got a bump on her head and woke up back in her teen years. Although she was confused by this new/old world, she was fascinated at her unexpected chance to relive high school all over again.   Peggy Sue thoroughly enjoyed saying the things she always wanted to say back then (don't we all!)

My favorite moment came when she handed in a blank math test.  Peggy Sue then informed her math teacher she knew for an absolute fact she would never need algebra later in her life.  So why bother with Algebra?  Or Latin for that matter!

But you know what?  The more I think about it, based on the perspective granted me by my long and wonderful life, I now realize my Latin class did actually get inside my brain. 

In the eighth grade I was required to translate Caesar's Gallia into English from its original Latin.  One night I got curious about the history behind Caesar's conquest of Gaul, so I pulled out my World Book Encyclopedia.  I began to read about Julius Caesar without even being told to do so!  Imagine that - a teenager acquiring knowledge for the sheer fun of it.  Amazing.

Caesar's story ended with links to articles about his adopted son Augustus Caesar as well as an article on the Roman Empire.  I couldn't stop reading!  Ever since,
I have always been partial to the history of the Roman Empire.

Then came movies like Ben Hur and Spartacus.  I was forced to accept that maybe the Romans weren't so glamorous after all. In fact, I began to realize the Roman Empire was unfathomably cruel.  That conviction was reinforced by the Gladiator What a great movie!  Russell Crowe was incredible. If only the movie had a plausible ending, it would be one of the greatest films of all time.  Oddly enough, while I read up on my Roman History for this article, I read that Commodus the Emperor actually did participate in some rigged gladiatorial combat.  But it was still a stupid ending to a great movie!

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar (100 BC - 44 BC) was great for so many reasons.  For starters, historians place Caesar as one of the greatest military strategists and tacticians who ever lived, along with Alexander the Great, Sun Tzu, Hannibal, Genghis Khan and Napoleon Bonaparte.  

Caesar's hero was Alexander the Great.  One day Caesar encountered a statue of Alexander the Great  and realized with dissatisfaction he was now at the same age as when Alexander had the world at his feet.  Caesar was disgusted to note he had achieved comparatively little.  In Caesar's defense, unlike his hero Alexander, Caesar had a much bigger hill to climb.  Alexander was born to the King of Macedonia.  His entire childhood was dominated by military training.  Caesar never had any formal military training as a youth.  Nor did he have any special advantages.  Although his parents were patrician, they were neither rich nor influential. 

Everything Caesar accomplished, he got it the old-fashioned way - he earned it!  Caesar got his start in politics.  His greatest gift was a natural ability at oratory.  His fast start in politics was interrupted when a dictator named Sulla came to power in 82 BC.  Caesar was 38 at the time.  Sulla wanted to execute Caesar because he seemed a threat.  Caesar went into hiding and joined the army as a way to leave Rome and keep a low profile.  When Sulla died in 78 BC, Caesar figured the coast was clear and decided to return home.

Here is a story about Caesar's considerable moxie. On his way home, he was kidnapped by Cilician pirates and held prisoner on the island of Pharmacusa.  He maintained an attitude of superiority throughout his captivity.  For example, when the pirates thought to demand a ransom of twenty talents of gold, Caesar insisted they ask for fifty instead.  They took his suggestion!  In the process, he had made himself so valuable they made sure to take good care of him.

After the ransom was paid, Caesar raised a fleet, pursued and captured the pirates.  After he imprisoned them in Pergamon, the governor of Asia refused to execute them as Caesar demanded, preferring to sell them as slaves.  Caesar returned to the coast and had them crucified on his own authority, as he had promised to do when in captivity - a promise the pirates had taken as a joke.  But first he cut their throats to lessen their suffering because they had treated him well. How thoughtful!

In 65 BC Caesar made friends with Crassus, the richest man in Rome.  Large loans financed Caesar's rapid rise in politics.

In 60 BC Pompey returned to Rome after several impressive victories in Asia.  He was frustrated when Crassus blocked several of his initiatives.  Both men were much more powerful than Caesar.  Caesar decided that to curry favor with one meant the development of an enemy in the other.  So even though he had the least power of the three, he suggested they form a Triumvirate, labeled the "three-headed monster" by his enemies.

Caesar now had the two most powerful men in Rome on his side.  Caesar went to work.  In the following year, Caesar pushed Pompey's measures through, helped Crassus' proposals, and got for himself a five-year term as proconsul of Gaul after his own consulship was over. 

In order to help his buddies, Caesar used many strong-arm tactics to get his way, developing many dangerous enemies in the Senate in the process.  It was time to get out of town.  Caesar left Rome for Gaul just one step ahead of the posse.


In 58 BC, Caesar arrived in Gaul (modern day France) deeply in debt and with a very small military force (just 4 legions).  Caesar immediately went to work.  He would not return to Rome for nine years.  In this time he conquered most of what is now central Europe, opening up these lands to the Greco-Roman Mediterranean civilization - a decisive act in world history.

Caesar proved himself to be a brilliant military strategist.  Sometimes he used brute force to win his battles, but just as often he found ways to win without risking his own soldiers. 

For example, in 52 BC he conquered his greatest opponent, a Gaul named Vercingetorix by simply laying siege to Alesia, his enemy's city.  But the Romans were outnumbered five to one! 

After winning several battles against Caesar, Vercingetorix decided to muster all his forces in one spot, an impregnable fortress high up on a hill, to prepare for the kill shot.  To his surprise, Caesar secretly followed him there and began to dig a huge ditch around the castle.  The enemy saw no threat in this ditch and laughed derisively. Then one day, Caesar shocked his enemy by diverting a nearby river and converting the ditch into a massive moat.  80,000 troops were suddenly trapped! 

Of course the enemy fought desperately to free themselves, but like a giant boa constrictor Caesar's forces sucked the life out of them.  Soon the Gauls were starving.  With 80,000 soldiers and the local population, too many people were crowded inside the plateau competing for too little food.

The Gauls decided to expel the women and children from the citadel to save food for the fighters. They hoped that Caesar would open his defenses to let them go.  This would create an opportunity the army could use to breach the Roman lines.

Caesar knew exactly what the enemy planned to do.  He issued orders that nothing should be done for these civilians.  The women and children were left to starve in the no man's land between the city walls and the circumvallation.  Did I mention Caesar could be ruthless? 

Now that their gamble had failed, the Gauls could not bear to watch their women and children die.  Caesar's will was greater than their own.  They finally just gave up and surrendered.

Caesar used water as a weapon on another occasion.  During the siege of one Gallic city built on a very steep and high plateau, his engineers tunneled through solid rock, found the source of the spring from which the town was drawing its water supply, and diverted it for the use of his own army.  The town, cut off from their water supply, capitulated at once.

Since Caesar had a reputation for sparing the lives of his enemies, often times his opponents gave in more quickly just to end the suffering when it didn't look like they could win. 

On other occasions, Caesar resorted to tactical brilliance.  The rout of Pompey's numerically superior forces at Pharsalus during the Civil War and the complete destruction of Pharnaces' army at the Battle of Zela are campaigns still studied today at every military academy. 

Caesar's forces loved him fiercely.  They saw that he did everything in his power to protect them from needless danger and they enjoyed getting rich off his conquests.  Not surprisingly, they were loyal and ready to respond when he asked them to.

Rome loved Caesar too.  The ongoing success of the Gallic Wars brought an enormous amount of wealth to the Republic through spoils of war and new lands to tax. Caesar himself became very rich since, as general, he benefited from the sale of war prisoners. His book Gallia was wildly popular at home.  Caesar had made quite a name for himself in his absence.

Meanwhile Back in Rome

During Caesar's stay in Gaul, his benefactor Crassus met his death during a war in Parthia (ancient Iran).  Since Pompey was based in Rome, he now had the inside track and used it to gain political prominence.  It soon became obvious that he and Caesar would fight it out for the control of Rome.

In 50 BC, the Senate, led by Pompey, ordered Caesar to return to Rome and disband his army because his term as Proconsul had finished.
 Sensing the obvious trap, Caesar refused to relinquish his army.  In the event known as Crossing the Rubicon, Caesar and his army returned to Rome.  This act of defiance ignited a civil war between Caesar and Pompey.

Thanks to his successes in Gaul, Caesar returned home with quite a military reputation.  Despite greatly outnumbering Caesar, who only had his Thirteenth Legion with him, Pompey had no intention to fight.  Pompey turned heel and ran!

Caesar pursued Pompey to Brindisium, hoping to capture Pompey before the trapped Senate and their legions could escape.  Pompey managed to elude him, sailing out of the harbor before Caesar could break the barricades.

Caesar spent the next two years chasing Pompey around the Mediterranean.  First Caesar eliminated Pompey's forces in Spain.  Then he confronted Pompey in Greece.  Despite being outnumbered two to one, Caesar vanquished Pompey on the fields of Pharsalus.  Caesar's warriors were more experienced. First they sniffed out the trap Pompey had set for them and avoided it.  Next Caesar brought in a surprise hidden legion to snuff out Pompey's major thrust, and then his men moved with unbelievable speed to the point of counter-attack.  Pompey again fled the scene.

Pompey escaped to Egypt and sought refuge in the court of Ptolemy.  Bad move.   He was assassinated by a former Roman loyal to Caesar who was working in Egypt at the time.

When Caesar entered Egypt in pursuit of Pompey, he was immediately asked to take sides in the Egyptian Civil War between Ptolemy and his sister Cleopatra.  Ptolemy held the upper hand as Caesar arrived.  But Cleopatra had herself smuggled into the palace in Alexandria wrapped in a rug (purportedly a gift for Caesar).  Using her considerable powers of persuasion, she enlisted his help in her struggle to control the Egyptian throne.  How could Caesar resist?

Beware the Ides of March

After his fling with Cleopatra, Caesar spent the next year mopping up pockets of resistance in Asia Minor and Africa.  In 46 BC he returned to Rome as the undisputed leader of the Roman Empire.  No one opposed him.  Within two years, Caesar was named Dictator for Life.  The time was February 44 BC.  Unfortunately, just one month later he was dead.

We all know the story.  Several Roman Senators, including Cassius and Brutus, decided that Caesar had too much power for one man.  On the Ides of March, 44 BC, 60 different men participated in Caesar's murder by stabbing him to death.

What a tragedy it is that the life of the greatest genius produced by Rome was snuffed out by Romans who imagined that they were acting on behalf of their sacred Rome!  Such fools.

History has been very kind to Caesar.  Although the man was capable of great ruthlessness in the defeat of his enemies, Caesar clearly was Rome's greatest citizen.  Yes, he did rise to great power, but he always used that power strictly to advance the development of the Roman republic.

Caesar, if anyone, deserves to be called a master of politics. He was equally great in understanding general political trends as in directing them. With consummate skill he handled the machinery of political details, without ever sacrificing his major aim of winning decisive power. 

And yes, Caesar had made many enemies.  If Caesar had a weakness, it was his lack of modesty.  Caesar relied so much on his prodigious talent to get his way that he overlooked the need for tact, especially when he thought that he was in the right.  His
flights of his genius lifted him to a lonely eminence where others were unable to understand his motives.  And in their ignorance, they were terrified of his absolute power.

In the end Caesar did nothing in particular to provoke his murder. Perhaps his only mistake was his practice of allowing his enemies to live after he defeated them in war or in politics. 

Augustus Caesar

For several days after Caesar's death, there was a political vacuum.  The conspirators apparently had no long-range plan.  So, in a major blunder, they did not immediately kill Mark Antony (apparently by the decision of Brutus).

Mark Antony was in the perfect position to inherit Caesar's power.  The conspirators had only a band of gladiators to back them up, while Antony had a legion, the keys to Caesar's money boxes, and Caesar's will.  Furthermore, as Caesar's right hand man, Antony was already a recognized leader of Rome.

Mark Antony got his start as a military leader under Caesar during the conquest of Gaul.  When Caesar decided to patrol the Mediterranean in chase of Pompey, he put Mark Antony in charge of running the affairs of Rome.  Although Caesar and Antony had their differences, Antony had remained loyal to Caesar to the end.  Antony learned of the murder plot just moments before it took place and had rushed to the Forum to warn Caesar.  Alas, Antony was too late. 

Afterwards, Antony was the one who decided to punish Caesar's assassins.  First he negotiated a truce with the assassins by promising them amnesty. But then he turned the tables on them by publicly exposing their role in Caesar's death in a marvelous speech at the funeral.  The citizens of Rome were outraged.  The assassins ran for their lives!

On the other hand, when Antony read Caesar's secret will, he received a nasty shock of his own.  Caesar had named as his chief heir a virtual unknown by the name of Octavian, adopting him (posthumously) as his son.  Octavian who?  Scarcely anyone in Rome had ever heard of him.  Antony barely even knew who Octavian was himself!

Meanwhile a short, sickly 18-year-old boy named Gaius Octavian was living in Greece at the time when he received two shocking pieces of news. Not only had the Roman dictator Julius Caesar, his grandmother's brother, been murdered, but Caesar had named young Octavian as his heir.  Octavian was only a schoolboy, but suddenly he had been named the successor of the greatest man civilization had ever known.

Caesar's nephew had impressed him on several occasions.  Obviously Caesar had expected to groom the boy into this role in due time.  But since Caesar was unaware of his impending doom, he just hadn't gotten around to telling the boy yet.

The assassination changed all that.  It was dangerous for anyone, much less an inexperienced boy, to try to step into the famous dictator's shoes.  He would be a marked man for sure.  But against the worried advice of his family, Octavian boldly went to Rome to claim his inheritance.

Octavian soon met opposition from the powerful politician Mark Antony.  Antony had seized Caesar's money and papers.  Antony was claiming that he was Caesar's legitimate heir.  He had always been loyal to Caesar, but now Antony wanted the power for himself.  He fully intended to succeed Caesar. 

Antony took a harsh attitude to Octavian because of his age. He even tried to block his inheritance from Caesar.  Given that Antony clearly didn't want Octavian around, what I can't understand is why he didn't have the boy killed.  Antony clearly had the muscle to kill the boy on the spot the moment he entered Rome.  So what if Caesar's will had named young Octavian the legal heir?  What meaning would the document have if Octavian was dead?  Then Antony would have practically no one to stand in his way from assuming his dead leader's role.

Why Antony did not do so is a mystery I was unable to find the answer to.  And I looked in plenty of places!  If forced to guess, Antony saw a total weakling before him and failed to recognize that in Octavian he was dealing with a natural born politician.  In other words, Antony underestimated his rival and let him live.

But did Antony think Caesar was a fool?  Caesar had spent his whole life evaluating talent.  Did Antony fail to realize Caesar had recognized a quality in the lad that hinted at greatness?

At first, nobody seemed to notice the boy, except for Caesar's veterans. Even though Octavian couldn't pay them, the soldiers were impressed by his confidence and courage at such a young age.  Maybe the old man knew what he was doing when he picked Octavian to take his place.  Why not give the kid a chance?  Soon, the veterans of the legions were lining up behind their dead leader's chosen heir. 

With this military backing, Octavian had now established a foothold in Rome. Octavian took the name Gaius Julius Caesar, quickly won the allegiance of many of his great-uncle's political supporters, and assumed a role in government. 

At first Octavian worked with Mark Antony to track down all of Caesar's murderers.  They joined forces to avenge the death of their mutual benefactor.  In fact, Antony even married Octavian's sister, Octavia, in a show of allegiance.

But once Caesar's murderers were eliminated, the two men turned their wary eyes on each other.  Eventually the ambitious Antony joined forces with Cleopatra, ruler of Egypt, and divorced Octavia.  He was preparing to dominate the Roman Empire and he had the military might to do so. 

Seeing his chance to get rid of his rival, Octavian declared Antony a traitor.  He waged war on Antony and Cleopatra.  In 31 BC, 13 years after the death of Caesar, Octavian finally tracked down Antony and Cleopatra's forces on the Actium promontory in western Greece.  Forming a blockade, Octavian forced a sea fight known as the Battle of Actium

Octavian turned to his best friend Agrippa, who was the better military leader, and let him assume control of one of the most famous sea battles in history.  Antony was routed; he and Cleopatra fled back to Egypt with Octavian on their heels.

Octavian and Agrippa then went on to conquer Egypt.  Both Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide.  Octavian now used Cleopatra's riches to consolidate his power. 

Upon the demise of Antony, Octavian had emerged as the sole master of the Roman world.  The Republic was finally ready to succumb to imperial authority.  In 27 BC the Senate gave him the title Augustus, meaning "revered".  He would rule the Roman Empire for 45 years until his death in 14 AD. 

However this exalted position had not come easily.  Octavian had been forced to fight an endless series of civil wars to achieve this status.  As you read the story of Octavian's rise to power, you sense that war was second nature to the Romans.  The endless series of Roman Civil Wars read like round after round of preliminaries, semis, and finals in a tournament!  In all, Octavian had to eliminate over a dozen contenders to finally lay undisputed claim the throne of Rome.  It was quite a feat.

Now Augustus Caesar would become Rome's greatest leader.  He surpassed his gifted predecessor Julius Caesar in many ways.  Although Octavian had nowhere near the military ability of his uncle, he was every bit the equal of Julius Caesar in the area of politics.  Thanks to his largely benevolent rule, Augustus established a period of peace known as Pax Romana that lasted for two hundred years (
27 BC to 180 AD).

Augustus Caesar brought social stability to a region once plagued by constant warfare. Although Roman leaders were forced to extinguish occasional rebellions during this period (for example the Great Jewish Revolt of 68 AD), the interior of the Empire was left completely untouched by civil war or attack by invaders from the perimeter. 

To create 200 years of peace in this brutal age was a remarkable accomplishment!  Although much attention has been given to the tyrannical and often vicious leaders like the Emperors Caligula and Nero, most of the Roman emperors ruled sensibly and competently for the next 200 years.

Indeed Rome had reached the very zenith of its power. Thanks first to the groundwork of Julius Caesar and then to political prowess of his talented nephew, The Augustan Age became a time of lasting prosperity throughout the Mediterranean. 

The greatest legacy of the Pax Romana was the spread of Roman culture to Western Europe such as Gaul, Britain, and Spain.

Under Augustus Caesar's rule, the Roman state began its transformation into the greatest and most influential political institution in European history.  The Romans and their Empire gave cultural and political shape to the subsequent history of Europe all the way through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to the present day. 

The Roman Empire allowed people of many different cultures to retain their heritage into modern times. The Empire helped to perpetuate the art, literature, and philosophy of the Greeks, the religious and ethical system of the Jews, the new religion of the Christians, Babylonian astronomy and astrology, and cultural elements from Persia, Egypt, and other eastern civilizations. 

The Romans supplied their own peculiar talents for government, law, and architecture and also spread their Latin language. In this way they created the Greco-Roman synthesis, the rich combination of cultural elements that for two millennia has shaped what we call the Western Tradition

The impact of the Roman Empire endures until the present day.  How else do you explain the value of teaching a dead language like Latin to a school kid like me here in Houston, TX, some 2,000 years later?  Because Rome is where it all started - our language, our culture, our traditions, our laws, and the way we think.  

Veni, Vidi, Vici... Hail Caesar.



Next Story: The Roman Colosseum

The Roman Forum today

I can safely say that my knowledge of Latin has never once
impressed my friends nor helped me conquer my enemies

Russell Crowe as the Gladiator, Oscar for Best Picture 2000
It was a brilliant film albeit a goofy ending

Julius Caesar was one of the greatest military leaders in history

The Defeat of Vercingetorix - Julius Caesar conquers Gaul

The Roman Forum of yesterday

Today the Roman Forum is largely in ruins

Defying the Senate: Caesar crosses the Rubicon

Cleopatra used a rug to meet her new boyfriend

Et tu, Brute!

The Greatest Ruler in Roman History - Augustus Caesar

Beware the Ides of March:
Julius Caesar loses his life

Cleopatra takes her life.  If it seems a lot of people lost their lives during
the making of the Roman Empire, that's because they did.

After Caesar's assassination, Caesar's armies transferred their loyalty to Octavian, a move that Pompey never anticipated. Octavian was still a sickly teenager, but he was a brilliant politician

31 BC  The Battle of Actium - Octavian defeats Antony

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