Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Tuesday, 11 April 2006

The Eternal City

Rome is wierd. In a good way. There is this amazing building, with statues all over it, and frescoes on the side, which in any other city would be the focal point of the city. Here, it's another building on the corner. Statues and ancient architecture everywhere. Everywhere pictures of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, being suckled by the She-Wolf, as the legend says. (And by the way, can I say how wicked cool it is to see a sign saying, "This way to the Romulan Huts."?) Trevi Fountain is beautiful, and so are all the other fountains. It becomes a bit overhwelming. In one square they had the funniest guy doing an juggling act with fire on a unicycle, and getting the audience to participate, and having guys lie on each other's bodies supported only by one leg of each guy, and borrowing the cellphone of a guy walking buy so he could blow an airhorn into the phone at the woman the guy had been talking to...it's a bit hard to describe.

And then, the Pantheon. If you've read Asterix and Obelisk, or seen any movies of ancient Rome, you've seen this place. In fact, I'm fairly sure they use it in Brother Sun Sister Moon, when Francis is lying waiting for an audience with the Pope. Interesting there is an inscription on top commemorating it's founder, one Antipas. Any relation, I wonder? The Pantheon is sweet because it's so intact, the most intact ancient building in Rome. You can sit there and see in front of you the insence going up to gods, the men wandering about in togas, women bartering for food in the square. It feels old.

And it was evening, and it was morning, the first day.

The second day was ancient Roman day. I remember from the movie Luther that Martin was distressed to find the heart of Christianity so overcome with poverty and beggers. Nothing has changed. The beggers perhaps have nicer clothes, but they are everywhere in this ancient city.

The Colliseum is big too. Everything is big here. Next to Ceasar's Triumphal Arch, the Colloseum has holes cut out all along the wall, like the ones the soldiers were waiting in for Mr. Von Trapp at the end of Sound of Music. And it looks like those movies too of Americans in Paris, driving by the Colliseum. The center floor was covered by wood, and underneath many roooms for bringing up magical creatures and whole scenes, as if by magic. Since the games were given for political purposes, they were free, and fed the all classes of audience. One time, a whale washed up on shore near Rome, and they used that incident to create a giant whale skeleton, with 20 real bears pouring out of the whale's mouth, all to be hunted in the arena. Whole mountains would suddenly form below. And then the gladiator fights, thankfully dwindling as Christian values too root, until finally one bold Christian man, seeing the blood spilled by opposing fighters, stood up and said this is wrong. No one heard him. So he jumped into the arena, yelling out that this was wrong. People heard him, and he was killed by a gladiator. And then, one by one, the stunned crowd left the arena. I'm told the games were never the same since.

I appreciated most of all the opportunity to see the third great event of the Colliseum, where so many of us were martyred for the Faith. Which is what the current regime in Italy appreciates too- it has been redone as a commemoration of martyrdom, and every Good Friday the Pope has a Stations of the Cross processional there. Speaking of martyrdom, I did get my fondest wish made true while in front of the colliseum...

From there to the Forum, which is where all the movies get their ideas of Rome. It's large, about twice the size of Walili in Morocco or Baalbek in Lebanon. Frankly the dry air of Lebanon preserves stone better than Rome. And I saw the same intricacy already in Lebanon. But what the Forum really offers that is unique is size. Not the total area, but the buildings themselves. This was the center of Rome. (Literally- there is a stone marking the center of ancient Rome there.) Here the Senate building, where the senators used to meet. The place where Peter may have been imprisoned. Numerous gigantic temples.
Even the temple and housing of the Vestal Virgins, which some may remember from their studies of archetypal feminine types in Greco-Roman early Christianity. Julius Ceaser's palace remains- which cover a phenomenal area and look down over the Circus Maximus, where the chariot race fictionally took place in Ben-Hur. Again overwhelming, in a good way. Lots of ruins, sure. But honestly, how do we know they are actually Roman ruins?

Evening, and morning, of the 2nd day.

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