Roma as Text
The Goddess of Femininity
During our stay in Rome, from the hundreds of art pieces we were able to see, what truly caught my eye was the Capitoline Venus on display at the Capitoline Museum. People would come from all around just to gaze at the statue of the Capitoline Venus so much so that the museum dedicated an entire room to her, covered in mirrors so you can get a 360° view of her nude body. Venus is known as the goddess of love, beauty, and pleasure. She represents femininity and the acceptance of feminine sexuality among other things. She was even deemed among Romans as the “Mother of Rome.”
One of the most important key concepts I have been reflecting on as it seems to be a recurring motif regarding roman culture would be the cultural openness. Roman culture was most notable for its contributions to art and architecture. Unlike most other developing empires Rome was inclusive of many different aspects of cultural and religious influence from surrounding populations of Italy. One of the biggest influences to the Roman Empire was Greece. Although Greece and Rome had quarreled throughout the later part of the Hellenistic Period, many aspects of Greek culture became assimilated into Roman Culture. This included language, art, literature, etc.
One of the clearest depictions of this receptivity to the cultures of others by the Roman Empire was the Capitoline Venus. The idea behind Capitoline Venus was a famous sculpture made by Greek sculptor, Praxiteles, of the goddess of love, Aphrodite (or Venus in Roman culture). This rather large, nude female sculpture was considered to be one of the greatest works of art in the world at the time between 360 BC and 475 AD.
What made this statue stand out to me so much was the fact that Venus was praised for accepting her sexuality, and this statue featuring her nude was and is still held in such high regard. A statue this risqué would not be able to be featured this way in the public in United States. Despite the many art pieces across FIU and having an extensive art program, a statue even close to being this revealing being displayed would cause an uproar, even though it is just that… art representing a woman’s body. It made me think about the prudeness of our society now compared to that of ancient Rome. Romans, who were known for being openly gay, having multiple partners, and being anything but prude, had such a great influence on our culture but for some reason we did not retain their opinions on sexuality. Reflecting on our culture, it seems as if we took a step back in the wrong direction as we try to shame women for embracing their sexuality as opposed to celebrating it, in the same way Venus was praised in this piece.
Pompeii as Text
The Area Punished by The Gods
Located in the Campania region of Southern Italy, the ancient city of Pompeii is known around the world as a window into the past. The eruption in 79 AD of the nearby volcano, Mount Vesuvius, completely covered Pompeii in 30 feet of ash which preserved the city for centuries as it hardened. With signs of impending doom, most of Pompeii’s 20,000 citizens fled the city, but the 2,000-3,000 that remained were forever immortalized under that ash, and with the reputation of the cursed city, it had been forgotten until the 16th century.
The history of Pompeii’s tragic ending is a story known throughout the world, and personally, something I even remember learning about in elementary school as a young kid. What I was surprised to learn on this walking lecture was how modern this city really was and how many modern inventions/norms we have today had origins in Pompeii. From things as small as saying such as the term “red light district” used to describe urban neighborhoods that have high concentration of sex workers was once used to describe neighborhoods where prostitutes would stand outside holding lamps. To bigger things used in everyday life, such as reflective pavement markers on roads, car (or, in this case, carriage) size restriction entrances, and intersections of roads. The terms cardio maximo (as in cardio referring to the main artery) is used for roads that go North and South, while decumanus was an East-West road, and together they form an intersection of roads. Perhaps the most shocking to me was the origin of paying for public toilets, which turns out to be a great source of income and is now extremely common throughout Europe.
Before visiting, I had assumed those from Pompeii were simple or underdeveloped, so it was really quite a shock when I found out how many things we use today that we got from them.