December 24, 2012

Rome Can't Be Seen In A Day

My Rome plans were stacked in a nice little row of reasonable itineraries and smart agendas.

Then we got here.

This place is massive. Someday, when I can grasp how large Ancient Rome was, then add two millennia to it, I might understand how to get around town. But my head starts to hurt when I think about how many layers of city we are built upon...then the equation is impossible.

Is there any other ancient empire that has had as great an impact on the modern world as Rome? I see so much of America here: grandeur, engineering, sports, government strength, free market, transportation, efficiency. But my sight has taken a time machine, because those words barely describe the Rome I actually see now. Rome today is a smorgasbord of insane traffic, colorful stucco, curious tourists, and uneven pavement.

While there is a romantic historical beauty to ruins, it also lends to a darker mystery of why these areas were never "taken care of." After the Roman Empire actually ended around 500 A.D., the real Dark Ages came into play and there was no money anywhere except in the Catholic Church. The Romans themselves picked apart their epic Colosseum for extra bricks and marble.

Ancient Rome just got left there. Nobody cared enough to do anything about it for a thousand years! And after all that time finally passed, the entire identity of the city was wrapped into the crumbling columns, half-arches, and gutted walls.

I keep thinking about how majestic even the lowly governors of Rome were in the Bible; how multiplied was the emperor's palace?! Only one-third of the Basilica of Constantine (basilicas were originally judicial halls) stands, and the main nave was 55 feet even higher than what we see today! Only side columns and an altar stand where an entire temple used to be next to the Colosseum!

And all I can do is imagine the horror of Caesar if he were to see his Rome today.

If we could see America in 4012, what would our reaction be? Will there even be an America to see in 2000 more years? What would George Washington see in America right now?

You must come to the ruins of Rome with an open mind, ready to process and digest your surroundings. It is a place to lean back into the past, and to learn for the future.

It took us two exhausting days to get through some of it, and we didn't even go to any of the museums. But the time was necessary for comprehension and appreciation.

Travel is always ready to give us a deeper perspective; we just have be willing to accept it.