Sunday, June 24, 2007

Explore Rome and all its glory, with just a click

ROME — Imagine strolling through the Forum like Emperor Constantine, or climbing the marble steps of the Senate amid the splendor that was ancient Rome, the caput mundi, the capital of the world.

Such flights of fancy have long been the dream of many a scholar, tourist and ordinary modern Roman. A new $2-million, 3-D computer project by a team of international experts may make the dream a reality — a virtual reality.

Designers of Rome Reborn claim it is the largest and most complete digital simulation of a historic city ever created.

Ten years in the making, the project was launched at UCLA, is based now at the University of Virginia and was unveiled to the public this week in Rome's City Hall.

It re-creates the Eternal City in AD 320, the time of Constantine, when Rome was at its peak with more than 1 million inhabitants.

Using historic maps, laser scans of Roman structures as they are today and the expertise of archeologists, artists and architects from Europe and the U.S., the creators of Rome Reborn have simulated 7,000 buildings and 31 monuments, including the Colosseum and others that are in ruins, such as the Temple of Venus and the Roman Senate.

The model shows almost the entire city within its original 13-mile Aurelian Walls as it appeared 1,700 years ago.

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