We have spent a wonderful few days in Roma so far and are looking forward to the rest of our week. Its hard to write about Rome and what it is list to visit such an infamous and significant place. What is not already common knowledge or just a second rate version of a proper tour guide? Have have indeed had some amazing food (fired lamb's brains and artichokes, octopus salad with lemon to name a few items). The sights are truly world class- the Forum, the Colosseum, the Vatican. And, reluctantly I admit that the sentiment I wish to express is probably no less novel than writing about any of the afore mentioned topics. Nevertheless, what has struck me the most is what I am compelled to write about. When we tour an area like the Necropolis under the Vatican – a burial ground from around the First century- I have two ask two questions. What will future civilizations admire about us and what will the mock?
Touring the Forum is a great example of the juxtaposition that I am thinking about. Buildings such as the Senate evoke a feeling of pride for our own great model of Government. Yet, right next to the Senate are tombstones inscribed with D.M.- or Dis Manibus, the beginning of a prayer to “pagan” gods. Guides and books about early Roman times often refer to such artifacts with a Dr. Laura-like judgmental tone. Indeed, it is easy for anyone to look at an pagan alters and vomitoriums (rooms for purging after a meal so one could eat again) and think 'wow, how far we have come. Good thing we know no one thinks a little guy with a bow and arrow can make two people fall in love, what a laughable idea” (example borrowed from Roman mythology). So here we are, admiring one ruin and dispelling another.
As we walk around Rome and see centuries of history within feet of each other (just visit San Clemente) its hard not to draw parallels to our own society. Will our freedoms, or technology continue to be admired two thousand years from now? Will some future tour guide visit Washington DC and say “these people used to actually ride around in little machines to get from home to work...” and the entire group chuckles and whispers “can you imagine a time before teleporters?” What if our legacy is something we do not even think to take pride in today? “These people actually invented the hamburger, the most famous food of all time.” Ok, maybe that is worth being known for. Will they have technology or information in the future that dispels something we hold truly sacred today?
Being in Rome gives me a since of scale of time that I have never had before- even as a history major in college. I am reminded that Roman Mythology (though it had many forms) lasted several hundred years, arguably over a thousand. These are the same people who had the sense to banish kings and establish the Republic, rule shared by two 'brothers' with the support of a senate. The Romans who believed that eating some things were lucky and others were unlucky. At the same time, they figured out how to bring water from the mountains to the cities with aqueducts built with an amazing technology called an “arch”. What will we send forward? Hamburgers and Freedom, cars and the internet? What are we holding on to right now that is only supported by our lack of knowledge (or perception of reality)?