Though considerably built over with modern houses and travelled by modern bus lines, the Aventine still bespeaks a Rome of the past, if not the Classical past. The repeated fires that swept the city destroyed all the republican buildings, and the Temple of Diana remains only as a street name. Under the 4th-century church of Sta. Prisca is one of the best preserved and maintained Mithraic basilicas in the city. The basilica of Sta. Sabina, little altered since the 5th century, is lined with 24 magnificent matching Corinthian columns rescued out of Christian charity from an abandoned pagan temple or palace. The Parco Savello, a small public park, was the walled area of the Savello family fortress, one of 12 that ringed the city in medieval times.
A romantic gem is the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, designed in the late 1700s by Giambattista Piranesi, an engraver with the heart of a poet and the eye of an engineer. To the right of this obelisked and trophied square, set about with cypresses, is the Knight’s Priory, residence of the grand master of the Knights of Malta. In 1113 the newly founded order, the Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem, was in the Holy Land, whence it was driven to Rhodes, which it held until 1522, thence to Malta until 1789, when the order repaired to its stronghold in a Roman side street. The sovereign military order continues its long history of international medical work.
Almost half parkland, the Caelian includes the public park of Villa Celimontana, once the garden of the Mattei family, who had another on the Palatine, a clutch of palaces in the Campus Martius, and another in the Trastevere quarter. The six churches on the hill date from the 4th to the 9th century.
In the medieval confines of the only fortified abbey left in Rome stands SS. Quattro Coronati, today sheltering nuns and their charges, deaf-mute children. The basilica of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, from the 5th century, stands in a piazza that has few buildings later than the Middle Ages. Alongside the church are the remains of the platform of the Temple of Claudius, partly dismantled by Nero, completely by Vespasian. The round church of S. Stefano Rotondo (460–483) may have been modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The Hospital of St. John was founded in the Middle Ages as a dependence of S. Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran), just off the hill, and maintains its Romanesque gateway. The Hospital of St. Thomas, established at the same period, has disappeared save for its mosaic gateway, signed by the original Cosmate of the Cosmati school of carvers and decorators and by his father Jacobus. Nearby stands the Arch of Dolabella (ad 10), and not far away are the ruins of Nero’s extension of the Claudian aqueduct. Also on the hill is the extensive Military Hospital of Celio.
Between the Esquiline and the Caelian, the end of the Forum valley is filled by the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine, with the Palatine edging down from the north. After the fire of ad 64 had destroyed so much of the city, Nero undertook to rebuild the end of it—200 acres (81 hectares)—as a palace for himself: seawater and sulfur water were piped into its baths; flowers were sprinkled down through its fretted ivory ceilings; and the facade was covered in gold, from which the name Domus Aurea, the Golden House. The expropriation so enraged the citizens that his successors hastened to efface all trace of Nero’s incredible palace:
The ornamental artificial lake was drained and on its bed the Colosseum was erected for free entertainment; Trajan built magnificent baths—also with free admission—atop the domestic wing of the Golden House; and Domitian converted the portico on the edge of the Forum into Rome’s smartest shopping street. The obliterators were aided by the fire of ad 104. In 131 Hadrian erected his Temple of Venus and Rome where the vestibule had stood at this end of the Forum; the church and former convent buildings of Sta. Maria Nova were built on the western corner of the temple platform in the 10th century. Less than 70 years after the Golden House had been started, nothing was left of it but a 150-foot gilded statue of Nero. Popular tradition has it that the face was changed with each succeeding emperor, but it was destroyed by one of the early popes.
The removal was so complete that later Romans could not remember where the Golden House had stood. When the domestic wing was discovered under Trajan’s Baths in the 15th century, the rooms painted in the Pompeiian style were thought to be decorated grottoes. Some years later, when Raphael and his friends were let down on ropes to look, the style they imitated in decorating the Vatican loggias was called grottesche. "Italy" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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