This baroque fountain marks the end of the ancient aqueduct Virgo, one of many bringing fresh water into the city. The aqueduct was built in 19 BC by Agrippa, son-in-law of Emperor Augustus. But it wasn’t until the renaissance (14th – 16th century) that the Popes began to restore these aqueducts. As part of the restoration they had fabulous fountains built to mark their entry point into the city.
On city breaks to Rome, this is a must-see. There was an ancient temple here, originally built by Agrippa (of Trevi Fountain fame) in about 27 BC. But in the 1st century AD disaster struck and it suffered serious damage a series of bad fires. Emperor Hadrian (the guy who built the wall in Britain) came to the rescue and rebuilt it, and it’s been in constant use ever since. Pope Boniface IV was given the temple in 609 AD, made it into a Christian Church and named it St Mary and the Martyrs.
St Peter’s Basilica
The renaissance and baroque St Peter’s is one of the four Basilicas of Rome, but it’s the only one completely inside the walls of Vatican City. Named after one of Jesus’ disciples, Simon Peter, it’s where he’s buried, and very close to where he was crucified and killed by Emperor Nero on Vatican Hill in about 64 AD. Massively important in the history of Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church, it replaced the old, run-down 4th century Basilica built by Emperor Constantine.
Just a few years after Nero executed St Peter, Emperor Vespasian gave the lands of the now-dead Nero to the people of Rome. He wanted to build a public space where the people of Rome could enjoy watching gladiators fight. And so the Colosseum was born. Emperor Titus officially opened it about ten years later, and Rome celebrated with 100 days of games. It was used for about four centuries until the public got bored of seeing gladiators die. What’s left is protected, but some of its stone was stolen to build other stuff in Rome!
But relax: nothing like that’s going to happen again. And nobody dies there any more. But it is where imagination is born, and where history comes alive.