The Forum – Rome, Italy

I have been experiencing the far reaching extent of the Roman empire all year long. Every place I have ended up traveling to the school year has led me to ruins that this culture left behind. Some of them have been well preserved, and some of them have been just piles of rocks that are still being excavated so the world can enjoy them again. But I found that if I really wanted to see the best of what these ruins have to offer, I should go to the source, so I packed up for a quick weekend, took a short three hour flight from Amman, Jordan and touched down in the first of Western Civilization’s empires. I was instantly transported to a land of Roman ruins and some of the most famous are among the landscape of Rome.

I did not have a lot of time in the city, so I had to be selective about the places that I would visit. High on my list was the Forum. I had heard about this location as being a great place to highlight what this ancient civilization had to offer. Despite the fact that I knew that it was the original square of Rome, I did not have much more knowledge about this place. This is why when I finally made it through the gates, I was blown away by what I witnessed.

A lot of Ancient Rome has been preserved, allowing people to walk through the old streets, and look at the places where temples were built, and rulers were murdered. The glory of Rome is brought to life here, all the way down to the architecture, and statues that decorated this place. Time has worn them down a bit, but with a good guide, the stories of Ancient Rome can be brought back to life.

My favorite was the home of the vestal virgins. I have heard of these women spoken about in the past, but I had never heard about how they were forced to live. They were young women that held on to their virtue for the pride of their families. It was a great honor to have a vestal virgin among your children and at least one daughter would alway be asked to take on this task. Our tour guide asked if anybody knew what happened to the vestal virgins who did not live up to their promises, and there was a fourteen year old girl there with her family who knew the answer to this. Apparently, if the virgin did not hold on to their virtue, they were buried alive because it was against tradition to shed the blood of any of these women.

It made me laugh that the young lady was able to answer this question in front of her father. I had to think about what kind of conversations they had at dinner which allowed her to answer this question so quickly, and if her dad would ever let her date before the age of thirty-six.

Rome is obviously filled with a bunch of amazing sights, so it could be very easy to skip over one of them, especially if you are there for a limited time. If there is one place that you should make sure you see though, it is the Forum. This sprawling expanse of Roman ruins is filled with amazing stories and incredible architecture that have stood up over the millennia. It will probably still be around 1,000 years from now, but it is worth seeing the first opportunity that you can.

Roman Ruins in Jordan

Just like moving to any country or new location there have been a lot of adjustments to make and a lot of surprises, but I think the biggest surprises I have seen have been the Roman ruins that are all over the place throughout Jordan. I know logically thinking about it now, it makes sense. The presence of the Romans was always in the background in the Bible, and historically, they control this part of the world for a long time in history, so of course, their mark should be all over the place. But it is one of those things that did not hit me as being a part of my life now until I actually lived among those ruins for a couple of months.

I know that I have not hit the most important of these ruin in Petra, and I have plans on visiting that in April, but that does not mean that I haven’t seen some more of the impressive sights. There are some that jump right out from the first moments that you arrive in Amman, and smaller ruins that you have to travel to by the Sea of Galilee, and a truly impressive collection that creates its own city in Jerash. Each of them have their own flavor, but each is also a great way to spend a day in you make it out to Jordan.

The easiest of these ruins to access is in the heart of Amman. You can easily get to them with a thirty minute cab ride from the airport, or even better, with a ten to fifteen minute ride from most hotels in central Amman. They are really hard to miss. From many vantage points from this hilly city, they can be seen if you just look down. Look for the amphitheater in the heart of the city, and sitting right above that is a collection of ruins that overlooks this iconic location. Both sights are worth visiting, but they have separate entrance fees, so beware. There is a pass that can be bought when first arriving in Jordan that will reduce the cost a bit, but it will only allow you into a limited amount of sights in the country. Make sure to save one of those for Petra because that will be one that you really will want to see, but the two in Amman are also nice additions.

The other sight that I would suggest that you visit is only a short hour drive north of Amman. It is in the heart of the city of Jerash. This city got its start many centuries ago from these ruins and there are some impressive sights to see within the grounds. There are two smaller amphitheaters than the one that can be seen in Amman, but they are nestled on an old Roman road that gives them a more authentic feel. There is a long field that once was used for charioteer races with the stands still intact on one side of the field. There are old temples dedicated to ancient Roman gods even though they still used the Greek names. And there is a huge circular courtyard that was once was used as the gathering place for all who lived there, and those who had travelled many miles to get there.

There are many other places where the sights of Roman ruins can be found in Jordan. I have just shared my few favorite ones that I have witnessed so far after living here for a few months. It makes Jordan one of those places that should be on everybody itinerary for world travel, and it surprises me how few people want to make the trip to this little corner of the world.

But if you do make it out here, you will not be disappointed by what you will find. Jordan is a place rich in history and culture. The people are warm and friendly, and not enough people know about its spectacular views making it the prefect vacation destination for those in the know.