Posts Tagged ‘Rome. Roman’

An eternal presence in the Eternal City

May 27, 2011

I am vacationing in the Eternal City of Rome, Italy. The Romans believed that Rome would always exist as the ruler of its empires so that is why it is called the Eternal City. Rome continues its eternal presence in the world, but its empire consists only of a frenzied concoction of busy streets, closely stacked buildings, and crumbling ruins. Within all of this confusion, though, is a populace of people who work hard, play hard, and take siestas.

I visited the Colosseum and its neighbors, Palatine Hill and The Forum. The Colosseum was not the most important part of Roman rule, but it gets the most press. It is a vast stadium (not much unlike the present day football stadiums) where gladiators (usually slaves and criminals) dealt death to each other and thousands of animals captured and imported from faraway lands. It was difficult to find quiet and silence among the hundreds of people visiting, but it was too easy to imagine that I still heard the cacophony of cheers and jeers that smothered the weeping and cries of the condemned. Looking down, I could see the walls and corridors where the animals were kept. They must have been consumed with confusion, fear, and rage. None of them would live to return to their homeland.

These games ended about 1500 years ago, but we still like to gather in stadiums and witness victory and defeat in the fields below. The difference is that most of our gladiators will live to fight another day and retire into old age.

Only a few of the homes and buildings of Palatine Hill and The Forum, where Roman law was enacted and high society lived, still exist. The foundations of long-deceased structures can still be seen in the ground as excavators sweep away years of sand and grass. My eyes consume the same scenes as ancient Romans: the Colosseum in the distance, the bricks of the house of Octavius Augustus Caeser, a stark and brilliant sun in a sky-blue heaven . . . it is the same, but it is different.

We are different, but we are the same as those Romans. We are still barbaric in the way we feast upon the misfortunes and deaths of others, yet we have built an infrastructure of sewers and cities that are marvels and miracles. The Romans built their plumbing from lead, however, and it is supposed that many of the elite suffered from lead poisoning. We, too, have poisoned ourselves and continue to do so in ways we have yet to discover.

My presence here feels like a weary breath. We are revisiting what we have already created once–a way of being that did not . . . could not . . . last. My question is: can we restructure what we have built or do we let it crumble into ruins to build upon it again?

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass