Burning Rome


As you leave the meet up between the Romans (and shake your head in despair that the the chariot is missing) look to the right and you’ll see Ancient Roman graffiti! According to Jim Korkis (3):

The graffiti which appears on the walls in the “Fall of Rome” also appeared on the walls of ancient Pompeii and was taken from a collection of graffiti titled Loves and Lovers of Ancient Pompeii by professor Matteo Della Corte. One example is “Quisquis amat pereat” that translates to “May whoever loves perish!”

graffiti on wall in SSE burning rome scene


The Roman Empire has had multiple fires during its time, at least seven were conflagrations.  These fires were either in congested industrial/commercial areas or those surrounding the Forum (previous scene).  These fires offered an opportunity for rebuilding on a better scale with improved materials (1).

But with the fall of Rome (a period that lasted hundreds of years), invaders looted, burned, and pillaged their way through the city, leaving a wake of destruction wherever they went.

burning-rome scene shows the burning embers of the columns

In the most recent version of the ride – Judy indicates that we are witnessing the burning of the Library of Alexandria in Egypt, although scholars are still not able to agree on how it was destroyed (2).   The Library of Alexandria was one of the largest and most significant libraries in the ancient world with the greatest scientists, mathematicians, and poets from all civilizations.

The “Dark Ages”

The loss of the Library of Alexandria is in part symbolic of a general decline in access to learning that, with the collapse of Rome itself, led to the extinction of anything resembling organized history in western Europe for an extended period (4).

The Early Middle Ages (formerly referred to as the “Dark Ages”) is the early medieval period of western European history during ~(476 – 1000 AD) when barbarian peoples moved into what used to be the Western Roman Empire (5).  During this time, there was an overall cultural and economic deterioration.  Much of the great knowledge was assumed lost or burned.

The smell of “burning Rome”

A testement to the power of one of our 5 senses – THE SMELL OF ROME.   Whether you love it or loathe it – its plays a big part in the discussion of the ride.  There is even a market for scented candles!  Take a look:

Febreeze - in Burning Rome Scent Joke

Burning Rome T-Shirt from Redbubble that says I love the Smell of Rome BurningRome Burning Candle Scent by Magic Candle Company

Regardless of how you find your way to have the smell in your home through tea, a candle, or purchasing liquid smoke  – Disney does not have a hippy hiding behind the glowing embers blowing incense at us.  They are more likely to use a custom engineered industrial scent diffuser and fragrance delivery system.

February 15, 2008 – current
Narrated by Judy Dench

But then we hit a road block: Rome falls, and the great Library of Alexandria in Egypt is burned. Much of our learning is destroyed… lost forever… or so we think.

November 23, 1994 to July 9, 2007
Narrated by Jeremy Irons

But these same roads were turned against Rome by invaders whose destruction left ages of knowledge and wisdom in the ashes that would become the Dark Ages.

May 26, 1986 to August 15, 1994 (narrated by Walter Cronkite)

Glorious Rome falls victim to the flames of excess. Ages of knowledge are lost or forgotten in the ashes.

October 1, 1982 – May 25, 1986 (narrated by Larry Dobkin)

Glorious Rome, until consumed by the flames of excess. Imperial Rome, lost in the ashes of darkness.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script


  1.  Canter, H. V. (1932). Conflagrations in Ancient Rome.  Northfield, MN, The Classical Journal
  2. http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-africa-history-important-events/destruction-great-library-alexandria-001644
  3.  https://www.mouseplanet.com/10075/Some_Secrets_of_Spaceship_Earth
  4. Anderson, John G. T., (2012). Deep Things out of Darkness: A History of Natural History. California, California Scholarship Online
  5.  https://www.britannica.com/event/Dark-Ages