Rome as Text
By Juliana Gorina of FIU in Rome
Rome, Italy is a city like no other. In the epicenter of Europe and western culture, the city is a mix of Roman ruins, medieval, renaissance, baroque, and modern buildings. Walking through the streets feels like walking through the set of a movie, with ruins casually being pointed out on an obscure street corner. The elegant, decadent catholic churches, covered in marble and gold juxtapose the crumbling Roman ruins that are mostly brick, cracked marble stone, and overrun with wildflowers and grasses.
Egyptian obelisks tower in piazzas around Rome, signifying the Romans imperialistic victories over other great civilizations. The Catholic churches take a similar approach, using ancient roman columns as grandiose decorations inside the churches, symbolic of Christianity’s victory over pagan rule. When you take note of these features, it is almost as if history is flashing right before your eyes. Rome is a giant juxtaposition of itself; ruins are meticulously cleaned, preserved, sectioned off, while modern buildings are riddled with graffiti, sidewalks littered with trash, an overall unkept look.
Modern day Italy also stands over its ancient buildings, as the ruins fall a few feet below Rome’s current soil levels. This contrast in height creates a beautiful imagery of what was and what is, a great city that has persevered, building on top of itself, with its notoriety remaining. This seems to be a recurring theme with Rome, with one group building on top of the other, in a struggle for power. Now what remains is a cultural epicenter, with ruins in restoration, and the modern in decay.
Pompeii as Text
“One man’s tragedy is history’s greatest gift”
By Juliana Gorina of FIU in Pompeii
Walking through Pompeii thrust us into ancient times. A city that was covered in ash preserved almost perfectly except for the wooden roofs and structures. This was the first real taste of ancient Rome since arriving in Italy. As we walked through the streets of the main city center of Pompeii, I could for the first time picture what ancient life would be like. The unique aspect of Pompeii is its frozenness in time. Even some of the citizens of Pompeii died with their city, frozen in agony.
Pompeii’s infrastructure was something that stood out the most to me. The elevated stone crosswalks with the pre-measured spaces between stones, and the grooves in the Roman roads for better vehicular travel are innovations that were a marvel to see in person. When we walk across a random crosswalk, we would not think that it was an ancient invention. We see in Pompeii that although they were not modern people, they employed many of the same pleasures and utilities as we do today. When you walk through the ruins, if you are not paying close attention, you may miss these small details. Holes in the sidewalk to tie up traveling animals, like street parking today; bars where hot food and wine are served and travelers can rest and converse, like any modern bar or tavern today. Pompeii is a place where as a modern human, we can step into the ancient world, see it for what is was, and even see how we now live as they did.
We try to remove ourselves from ancient people, with the rationalizations that we are no more technologically advanced, more intelligent, have greater perspective. Pompeii has taught me that we might not be as vastly different to ancient people as we think. Many of the comforts we do not think twice about, crosswalks, the orientation of our roads, how we describe the time of day, are all ancient inventions that we rely on heavily. Pompeii is a historical marvel, it allows us to step back in time, step in the shoes of ancient people, and bridges the gap between us and them.