Rome, Italy is famous worldwide for its breathtaking Greco-Roman temples, amphitheaters, and stadiums, which continue to capture the imagination of every single tourist. The temples are still intact, while a few other monuments are well preserved, after more than two-thousand years. Rome came back to life when the Popes began to reconstruct the aqueducts and monuments throughout the eternal city. However, it was not until the eighteenth century, as a popular destination of the Grand Tour, when the journey of exploration and learning formed the origins of modern multiculturalism in Rome.

Roman Archaeology provides students of ancient Roman history with a guide to the contributions of archaeology to the study of their subject. It discusses the issues with the use of material and textual/artefact evidence to explain the Roman past, and the importance of viewing this evidence in context. It surveys the multifaced approaches to the archaeological material of the period and examines key themes shaping Roman archaeology today. The focus of my article questions how archaeological material can be interpreted and its relevance for the study of ancient Roman history.

Darius Arya (Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology) shows us the ancient ruins of the eternal city as they have been standing for more than two thousand years. He showcases the status of these precious remnants and artifacts through his countless educational lectures, videos, podcasts, including his recent published book, in Italian, Roma Antica (Rizzoli, 2022), and likewise his new documentary series Under Italy with the Italian television station Rai 5.

The mother of all pagan domes in the eternal city is the Pantheon. The entire building constructed of stone and brick is a mystery. The architect designed the structure so that it would fully enclose an imaginary sphere, 143 feet (43.3 m) in diameter. The foundation of the Pantheon, like the wall and the dome is made of Roman concrete. It has 28 coffers. Why exactly 28? It is said ... because this number is not only a multiple of 7, it’s a number with deep magical symbolic values, but it is also the result of the sum of the first 7 numbers: 1+2+3+4+5+6+7=28. In addition, 28 was considered perfect because it was the result of the sum of its dividers: 1+2+4+7+14=28. Scholars suggest that the sum of this number seems to have been well thought out, since the evocation of perfections seems to marry the concept of the dome as a representation of a celestial vault, a symbol in turn of divinity, or a perfect entity. What more can you tell us about this magnificent Roman temple?

One of the most amazing things to me is that its construction, as magnificent as it is, is demonstrably a compromised and modified monument throughout its building phases. As soundings and limited excavations have indicated a similar outline of portico and rotunda for the Augustan predecessor, the Domitianic and Trajanic-Hadrianic versions were therefore forced to follow the original building plan. We're still in the dark about the elevation of those first two Pantheon buildings, but they certainly impacted on the final version. The Pantheon we see today was built after the first of 110, begun by Trajan and completed by Hadrian. It is this structure that is rife with all kinds of compromises.

It is, of course, truly a wonder, whose sophisticated construction internally has been described as a honeycomb, with many complex arches and voids. The free-standing dome has been estimated to weigh a colossal 5000 metric tons. There is so much elegance to admire out of that powerful engineering. Despite its impressive longevity, a series of frightening cracks on the southern side obliged the Trajanic- Hadrianic builders to erect a series of abutting radial walls to the south of the Pantheon, housed in a separate rectangular building. It's known in scholarship as the grottoni or grottoes, rarely accessible. The compromise on the northern side is better known. The transition block, just north of the rotunda, which houses two staircases (temples incorporated them into the design for access to the roof), is capped by a large outlined pediment in brick. If that pediment line had been extended to the portico (last element built of the Pantheon), then it would have necessitated the use of 50 foot shaft columns. Instead, the pediment of the portico, extending from the transitional block, is substantially lower, using 40 foot monolithic shafts. Scholars have hypothesized that in the absence of the intended, larger columns (which weighed much more and were difficult to quarry), the builders literally had to lower their expectations, using smaller, more readily available columns (that still weighed 50 tons!). The decision to change the original plan impacted the design and details throughout the rest of the temple, particularly in the interior spaces.

Such are the wonders of the Pantheon, whose completion doesn't just stand as a testament to the planning and design but also the excellence of the builders who on the spot, in the midst of construction, had the wherewithal to meet the challenges for surely one of the most difficult buildings ever constructed.

As a trained historic preservationist from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago, a licensed and accredited tour guide from the city of Rome (Regione Lazio), who continues advanced scholarship at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, I am on an academic mission interviewing renowned archaeologists and historians of ancient Rome about the construction of the greatest stone amphitheater in the world, the Colosseum. What continues to be less known is that there existed a building trade in Rome from the time of Emperor Augustus (with the exception of the reign under Tiberius), as demonstrated by Thornton and Thornton, 1989, "Julio-Claudian building programs: a quantitative study in political management" explains construction had been one of the most important industries in the eternal city. Any emperor who could not find work for this large body of men created a significant man management problem/ Therefore, Vespasian’s awareness of this is demonstrated by his refusal to use certain labor-saving devices commenting “you must let me feed my poor commons” (Suetonius, Divus Vespasianus, 18). In addition, there continues to be a grosse misunderstanding that Jewish slaves built the colosseum. So, I met with historian Samuele Rocca on the occasion of his lecture on April 17, 2023, at La Sapienza Unviersty, “In the Shadows of the Caesars. Jewish Life in Roman Italy (Leiden: Brill, 2022)”.

Well, no. It is a legend. In fact, as well demonstrated by the historian Peter A. Brunt, Free Labour and Public Works at Rome, (The Journal of Roman Studies 70 (1980), 81-100), as you well argued that Vespasian was well aware as his predecessors that the common people living in the city of Rome ought to be supported not just by panem et circenses (Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81), the distribution of free wheat through the Annona and palliative coming from expensive games hold till then in various areas, such as the forum, or in theatres, for example, the Theatre of Marcellus. Common folk needs to work. It is not a case that Brunt quotes a passage of Suetonius, in which is recorded an interesting dialogue between Vespasian and a mechanical engineer, who promised to transport some heavy columns to the Capitol at small expense, he gave no mean reward for his invention but refused to make use of it, saying: "You must let me feed my poor commons. (Suetonius, Vespasian 18)." Thus, the Colosseum, as well as all the other buildings erected by the Flavians were not constructed through gangs of slave workers, but by unemployed common people. The Jews captured and enslaved in the wake of the Jewish War would not have menaced the economic needs of poor Roman citizens, living in Rome.

I also asked Historian Samauele Rocca another important question. Who financed the construction of the Colosseum?

Today, visitors can now see the on on an architrave that reads:

Imperator Caesar Vespasian Augustus ordered a new amphitheater to be made from the spoils of war.

This is a very important in Jewish history,explains Rocca. This inscription has a long and fascinating history. Carlo Fea, who in 1814 visited the Colosseum found a Late antique inscription, which was once restored, indicated that the building had been repaired during the reigns of Theodosius II and ValenMnian III in 443 or 444. However, in 1995 Professor Geza Alföldy noticed that li[le holes among le[ers, indicated that the block had been reused, and that under the Late AnMque inscription, stood another much earlier inscripMon, which reads: “I[mp(erator)] Caes(ar) Vespasi[anus Aug(ustus)]/ amphitheatru[m novum?]/[ex] manubi(i)s [fieri iussit?]“. Thus, the inscription reads "The emperor Titus Caesar Vespasian Augustus had the new amphitheater built from the profits of the war" (Geza Alföldi, “Eine bauinschri` aus dem Colosseum”, ZeitschriE für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 109, 1995, 195-226/Louis H. Feldman, “Financing the Colosseum”, Biblical Archaeology Review 27.4, 2001). Clearly, the inscription refers to the huge loot taken by Titus, at the destruction and the sack of the Temple of Jerusalem. Some of the objects were carried during the triumph of the Flavians. The plunder, also depicted on the triumphal arch of Titus, included the Menorah, the golden seven branched lampstand, the showbread table and the trumpets, which were used to announce the coming of the Shabbat, as well as a copy of the Jewish Law. Of course, there was more than that, much more. Ancient temples were also used as banks. No one would have robbed a Temple, a sacrilege! So, it was a safe place to keep money. We know of many ancient temples that were used as banks. Besides, in the Temple were also kept the money that the Jews living in the Land of Israel and in the Diaspora sent each year for the upkeeping of the Temple, the Mahazit Ha Shekel, or half shekel, as stated in the Bible (Exodus 30:11–16). Indeed, Josephus records that in 54 BCE, Crassus, one of the triumviri, together with Pompey and Julius Caesar, on the way to the campaign against the Parthians, stole 2000 of the 8000 talents, which was then, the total amount of the Temple treasury (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities (XIV, 7). However, by 70 CE, the total amount would have been much bigger. Enough to finance the Colosseum and many other buildings. Thus, it is clear why the inscription is so important, because it reveals that the Colosseum was financed with the plunder taken from the Temple in Jerusalem.

Now let’s fast forward to this summer of 2023. I asked Darius Arya, who is financing the ‘restoration’ of the Colosseum?

Tod's and CEO Diego Della Valle began the project, providing 25 million euros in 2011 to preserve the Colosseum, inside and out, when the entire tax-deductible scheme that is commonplace in Italy today wasn't yet developed. Intially his donation was very polemical, but through his efforts, it has now become commonplace for Italian corporations to fund heritage projects. Just think of how often the Italian fashion world these days has funded heritage preservation projects in Venice, Florence, and Rome, including Piazza di Spagna (Bulgari), Trevi Fountain (Fendi), Largo Argentina temples (Bulgari), and more. Tod's was the ultimate trailblazer in these endeavors.

The project started in 2011, focused on the exterior. I was able to take the temporary external elevator up to the top (50 meters up!) twice to look at the conservation work (stabilization of the structure and cleaning). Phase two began in 2018 and was completed in 2021: conservation of the hypogeum space (beneath the arena floor). The final phase has begun, to create a hospitality and service center outside the Colosseum, freeing it up of the center that exists on the ground floor. The project is also focused on the second floor restoration.

The Colosseum has since betcome an autonomous park as well- ParcoColosseo- that manages its own finances, for new studies, excavations, exhibits, and conservation work. A new project financed by the Italian Ministry of Culture is to insert a retractable roof over the hypogeum to give the Colosseum an arena floor for added enjoyment and preservation. I'm concerned about the overall project in practice. Although it would preserve the hypogeum structures, the insertion of a mechanism of that magnitude might actually be problematic (cost, chance of breakage, possible negative effect on the hypogeum structures by creating a detrimental envinroment). We'll have to watch as this project unfolds, but with Tod's patronage, the Colosseum has never been in better hands.

Today, the Roman Forums seems to have no function other than to serve multicultural tourism. It offers tourists an unforgettable experience to travel back to the Roman Empire of the Caesars in which their tour guides explain how artists, scholars, archaeologists, philanthropists, and the popes brought back to life the splendor of ancient Rome. My compliments to your brilliant on-going contributions in social media, podcasts, educational videos, documentaries, articles, and books to English and Italian speaking audiences. So, what more is in your future in teaching the world about the history of ancient Rome?

People are becoming more familiar with the imperial fora thanks to the new walkway that allows the visitor to descend to the ancient levels at Trajan's Column. As you make your way through the fora and pass under the Via dei Fori Imperial, you truly have an incredible stroll through history to the Forum Romanum. It's one more way to absorb these architectural spaces, from above and now from below, ultimately connected to the original forum where the Republic first flourished.

My work in the Mediterranean- Rome and Empire- continues on many fronts, in many venues. I continue to teach and direct for the American Institute for Roman Culturewhich is a 20 year old 501c3 US non profit in 2023! Besides our now limited university programming (mostly online these days), I have turned our attention to develop our learning platform, free online content- lectures and videos, as well as online courses. Our weekly videos appear here. It's a way to engage this vibrant, layered history: by watching locations, museums, live excavations filmed on site. Learning about Rome's past and some of the greatest moments in history can help us determine the future!

I also continue to make tv and related programs. Most recently, I created and hosted a program for called "Traveling the Roman Empire." This is a real dream lecture on site series that takes you all over the Mediterranean, from Morocco to Jordan and inbetween. I've also continued to appear on Sky, National Geographic, and History Channel in 2022. This year, I have a lot of projects in progress. I can't wait to share them this summer! You can keep up by following my social media: @dariusaryadigs on IG, FB, Twitter, TikTok, and Youtube.

I would like to thank both Historian Samuele Rocca and Classical Archaeologist Darius Arya for this interview as the summer of 2023 begins in the eternal city.