by Genna AlTai
Rome isn’t just for lovers. Rome is for…
In a nutshell, Rome holds some serious mass appeal. Whether you’re there to sample the many local delicacies or just looking to be surrounded by men in well-tailored suits driving Vespas, Rome’s got something for everybody and their auntie.
On a recent trip to the pizza capital of the world, my boyfriend and I were exploring Rome’s historical epicentre – Palatine Hill. One of the city’s seven hills, Palatine Hill might not be as famous as the neighbouring Coliseum, but it sure as hell holds just as much cultural significance.
As HIStory has it, Palatine Hill was the original location of the cave where Romulus and Remus were discovered by the she-wolf Lupa (an actual wolf, not a metaphor for Shakira). Romulus and Remus went on to build a new city on the banks of the Tiber River, but, alas, life didn’t stay so sweet for the feral brothers. Out of the blue, the two had a violent argument and Romulus killed his twin brother Remus in cold blood. And this is how Rome got its name.
Wandering through Palatine Hill will not only offer up a wealth of historical monuments and stories, but the area is also flooded with thought-provoking modern art. Please revert to the header image for an example of said intriguing modern art.
If you enter the complex from Via di San Gregorio, you’ll eventually reach the stadio, which was most likely used as a games area for emperors at the height of the Roman Empire. It was here that I found an art piece that got me thinking about history as a whole and the perspective from which it’s been taught to us since we were children.
Herstory vs. History
As a great lover of history and a feminist, it’s difficult to occupy both spaces without feeling conflicted. As you pass through the awe-inspiring halls of Palatine Hill and take in the grandeur that is the coliseum, you can’t help but feel forgotten as a member of the “fairer sex”. Emperor, senator, rogue slave… None of the names you hear when you’re getting to know Rome’s history belongs to a woman.
Presenting, five of some of the greatest leading ladies this world has ever seen:
Queen of the Celtic Iceni people in what is now Norfolk, Boudicca led an uprising of British tribes against the occupying Roman army after they had taken her land, publicly flogged her and raped her daughters. Like any angry mother, Boudicca decided to act. When Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was campaigning, Boudicca took advantage of his absence and led a variety of British tribes to battle. Together, they destroyed Camulodunum (modern day Colchester), Londinium (London) and Verulamium (St. Albans).
The second historically confirmed female pharaoh we know about, Hatsheput has been regarded as “the first great woman in history” by famed Egyptologist James Henry Breasted. Note: she’s still top notch even without James’s seal of approval.
According to a number of sources, Hatsheput reestablished trade networks that had been disrupted throughout Egypt. In addition to financially bolstering the ancient kingdom, Hatshepsut was one of the most prolific builders in ancient Egypt, commissioning hundreds of construction projects throughout both Upper and Lower Egypt.
3) Catherine the Great
Catherine II, lovingly known as Catherine the Great, was born in Prussia, but became ruler of Russia in 1762. Under her 34-year reign, Russia expanded its territories at the expense of two massive world powers — the Ottoman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Following Western Europe’s lead, Catherine supported the evolution of the arts in Russia and believed herself to be a “philosopher on the throne.”
4) Florence Nightingale
Born in 1920, we have Ms Nightingale to thank for modern day nursing and medical hygiene. Known as “Lady with the Lamp,” Florence Nightingale served in the Crimean War with a team of nurses, where they collectively improved the unsanitary conditions at a British base hospital, reducing the death count by a staggering two-thirds! Nightingale’s celebrated “Notes on Nursing” even led to worldwide health care reform.
5) Oprah Winfrey
Alright, Oprah is still very much alive, but it goes without saying this woman is a Pandora’s Box of inspiration. Despite growing up in poverty and adversity, Oprah became the very first woman to own her own chat show and is one of the most financially successful women to walk this planet. Her career has spanned four decades and she’s still killing it. All hail Saint Oprah.
Like a boss
Even in 2016, women are still being told blatantly and subtly, our worth, future and potential is in our physical appearance.
On top of trying to achieve physical perfection in a world that demands everything, our entire gender has been groomed to people-please. Being liked is great and all, but I’m pretty sure people-pleasing alone doesn’t make the herstory books. Just ask Boudicca.
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