Monday, March 22, 2010

My Favorite Roman Ruins

Whenever I've been in a classroom listening to a history lesson, I have to admit that it couldn't have been more boring. It all came down to memorizing names, dates and conflicts. But when I'm on the road, exploring a land littered with ruins, history becomes an eye-opening tactile experience. On many of my journeys, I find myself face to face with the remains of the Roman empire, whether it's an ancient stone bridge that I jogged across or an expansive necropolis that's planted with flora that symbolizes life and death, both in Spain's Extremadura region. (I do have a thing for exploring necropoles all over the world.) But, because I like to go beyond the obvious in all my travels, rather than spending any length of time in Rome examining those grand artifacts, I hunted down Roman ruins in other parts of the world.


My recent feature round-up that I wrote for the travel network Boots n'All describes my pick of the top 10 Roman ruins that aren't in Rome. The Roman empire was quite vast, so it's no wonder that you'll find remains of Roman temples, arches, amphitheaters and villas in as far away as Croatia, Libya, and Israel.


But, what's even more fun is visiting many of these sites when they put on an annual cultural, drama or music festival. I was lucky to visit Merida, Spain when they were hosting their annual summer Merida Classical Theater Festival that's held in the impressive Roman amphitheater. The nightly activities can include films, dance performances, comedy and, of course, classic drama. What could be better than sitting under the stars on a pillow atop the ruins of the top tiers of the amphitheater and listen to a tragedy that was written by Euripides. Certainly a fine way of learning about history.

34 comments:

Frugal Kiwi said...

Sounds fantastic. I'm forever reading books set in Roman times so I'd love to visit some Roman ruins. Authors like Lindsay Davis, Steven Saylor and Simon Scarrow bring ancient Rome to life.

Alexandra Grabbe said...

If my husband had his way, we would journey around the former Roman empire looking at ruins. He will love this post. thanks!

marthaandme said...

I agree with you about seeing history as opposed to reading about it. In fact, I once had a teacher tell me how impressed she was with my son's personal knowledge of historical places and how she thought it was so important to take your kids to see history.

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

I love ruins. Great photos.

JTravel said...

Hi Frugal Kiwi, I actually have rarely read any books set in Roman times. Thanks for your comment. Reading any of these would be a good complement to the actual journey.

JTravel said...

Hi Alexandra, That would be a very fun and very long trip roaming from one part of the former Roman empire to another.

JTravel said...

Hi marthaandme, I used to teach high school -- not history, but biology -- but the kids really seemed to learn much more when their teachers took them for a history excursion outside the classroom than when they just sat with the textbook.

JTravel said...

Hi Roxeanne, Thanks for your comments. Ruins are the best, especially if you have a guide or a great mp3 to fill in all the blanks.

kerry dexter said...

Jeanine,
I've always loved history, because to me it was (and is) stories, not names and dates. seeing the palces only makes it better.

my favorite Roman ruin is Hadrian's wall -- from the Scotland side!

MyKidsEatSquid said...

Sounds like I need to brush up on my history with a trip! My favorite Roman ruins were somewhere in the Italian countryside. I can't even remember the name but you had to hike in to get to this smallish stadium. My group had the whole place to ourselves--so of course we pretended to be doing Olympic events. Very fun.

Vera Marie Badertscher said...

Well of COURSE it is a good idea to read some books about Roman history. You might find out that history even in books is exciting--it was just your teachers who were boring.

Alisa Bowman said...

I love the idea of Roman ruins that aren't in Rome. I get bored if I try to see too many of those things at once, but I love the little facts that one picks up along the way. Like how everyone in Ephasus was stark raving mad because of the lead in the pipes.

JTravel said...

Hi kerry, Hadrian's Wall is on my list.

JTravel said...

Hi MyKidsEatSquid, Sounds like you guys had a great time. Visiting Roman ruins without the crowds is the way to do it.

JTravel said...

Hi Vera Marie, You are totally right. It was the way history was presented in the classroom that was boring, not the books themselves. Thanks for commenting.

JTravel said...

Hi Alisa, Having a guide or some source that provides those kinds of details is what really brings the site to life.

Jennifer Margulis said...

I would absolutely love to visit these Roman ruins. Thanks for the tip. I'm inspired now. We HAVE to get back to Italy SOON!!

sarah henry said...

This post makes me want to pack my bags and head out on a Roman Holiday.

hotel bedding said...

Just found your blog - love it!!!

Jane Louise Boursaw said...

Jeanine - Those photos are absolutely gorgeous. I'm usually a homebody, but this post makes me want to travel and see these Roman Ruins.

And, of course, you know I'd be all over that Merida Classical Theater Festival. :)

The Writer's [Inner] Journey said...

I have longed to go back to Italy for a long time (30 years!). Your post is renewing that desire yet again!

kris bordessa said...

As a homeschooling parent, one of the gifts I'd hoped to give my kids is that of traveling to many countries and visiting different cultures. NOTHING brings history to life as much as visiting a place that touched history! Certainly, we've done some of this, but unfortunately our budget prevents us doing it as much as I'd like. We'll just travel vicariously through you, okay?

JTravel said...

Hi kris, I agree completely. I'm a former teacher and excursions that are well organized can provide a wealth of knowledge. Thanks for your kind comments. And glad you enjoyed the post.

JTravel said...

Hi The Writer's [Inner] Journey, Enjoy Italy if you decide to return.

JTravel said...

Hi Jane Louise, I have to say that the Merida festival was one of the highlights of that trip to Spain's Extremadura region. And it was all a matter of luck since I didn't even know that my trip to that city was coinciding with the opening ceremonies of the festival.

JTravel said...

Hi hotel bedding, I'm really so glad you found my blog and that you enjoy the posts.

JTravel said...

Hi sarah, Packing for a Roman holiday is definitely something to look forward to.

JTravel said...

Hi Jennifer, Thanks for your comments. It's fun to combine a history lesson with travel. Enjoy your next trip to Italy.

Peggy Bourjaily said...

Wouldn't I love to go see these ruins in person? You're so right, experience is what makes life interesting.

JTravel said...

Hi Peggy, It's funny -- I seem to be a magnet for Roman ruins. Even when I'm not looking for 'em, there they are. Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting.

Troy said...

Shhh, don't let the cat out of the bag about Extremadura, we like to keep it all to ourselves here! Just kidding...
If you thought that the theater in Merida was impressive, remember that it is a shadow of what it once was. It had been cannibalized for its marble to build things as far off as the Great Mosque in Cordoba.

The biggest Roman secret out here in Extremadura is that they have just discovered and are unearthing an INTACT theater very close to Merida in Hernan Cortes' home town of Medellin. When it's up and running, it should be very impressive indeed.

JTravel said...

Hi Troy, Thanks so much for that heads up. I can't wait to find out more.

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wall art said...

These are all wonderful places to vist and some of my favourite too. I'd recommend any who goes to Rome must see them!