Wednesday, September 5, 2012



FLAMEN Antonyus Subia jokingly says that traveling to Rome with him is a bit like having Sir Edward Gibbon as a travel guide, referring to the 18th Century author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Actually that is not far from true. While he is not the least acquainted with the latest "in" places to eat and drink on the tourist route, he knows the city of the Ancient Romans like the back of his hand.

Sitting at breakfast on the rooftop terrace of his hotel overlooking the Ancient Forum, Antonyus points to a gabled building nearby and says, "That's the Senate House, you know. A bit small, don't you think?"

And pointing in other directions he picks out the Capitoline, the Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum (all of which are obvious) along with many, many minor landmarks which are not at all obvious.

While ordinary visitors to Rome flock to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, Antonyus zeroes in on all the Ancient Roman sites, a lot of which are not well-marked or well-known to the average tourist.

"There's the Tomb of Augustus," he says reverentially as we stop along a side street and he points to some tumble-down ruins in a pit.

Aside from two priests of Antinous, not one tourist or other person is in sight. 

It is across the street from Benito Mussolini's 1938 restoration of the Aura Pacis Augustae (the Altar of Augustan Peace), prompting Antonyus to say, "I like what Mussolini did with that altar."

When in doubt, he whips out his guide book. Now, most people buy an ordinary guide book by a big-name publishing house. 

But Antonyus has his own personal guide book, a thick manual which he has put together himself, listing the location of every statue of Antinous and every Hadrian-related structure.

The pages of this Subian guide to Rome are interspersed with his own original art work. So when he arrived at Hadrian's Villa, he not only knew his way through the layout of the villa, but also had art work based on his own pre-visit imaginings of what it looked like in its prime, when Antinous and Hadrian resided there.

In the photo above, Antonyus is holding up his personal guide book to Rome and comparing a page showing his art work with the real thing in the background.

Traveling with Antonyus really is like exploring Rome with Sir Edward Gibbon.

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