Rome – the ancient city where it all started. We spend hours learning and discussing ancient Roman civilizations in school, yet many of us have never been there (or at least, most likely hadn’t been there before we started learning about it). Aside from not seeing the modern city, it is of course impossible to return and see the ancient city, when the Empire was at its height. Therefore, we use science to infer the way the culture thrived, and textbooks, documentaries, pictures, and sketches to imagine how it could have looked. Additionally, friends who have visited in the last 100 or so years are able to supply us with pictures that grant us peaks into Rome's 21st century buildings and streets. With all of our modern technology, it’s easy to assume we know the way it was through the many centuries, and we develop fairly complex visuals of it all in our heads.
Thanks to all of the prep work through years of schooling and social media, I had a pretty certain idea about what I was about to see when I arrived in Rome this summer. Sure enough, yes. Rome was exactly how I had imagined it. Huge. White buildings. Ruins. Tourist traps and vendors everywhere, but also regular neighborhoods where civilians lived. I was actually surprised at how similar it was to the picture I had drawn in my head.
However, despite all of this, it was still breathtaking, and still felt surreal. The buildings were bigger, older, sturdier than I had been able to envision. They felt more out of place among all of the bustling vehicles and shops than I had thought they would. Even the streets, cobblestone and old, were more unstable that I had anticipated. Every detail mattered, and every detail felt right. I was a modern girl, dropped into an ancient city, where any number of moments previously, a chariot race may have been occurring just a street away; (it wasn’t too hard to imagine, as I did see some horse drawn carts.)
But it didn’t happen just moments ago. It happened millions of moments ago. A thousand years ago, and even more. And yet, here it was, standing before me. Yes, many pieces of ancient marble had fallen, and many buildings were altered from their original state. But still standing on their own accord were the Pantheon, the Colosseum, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and more, as they always had. I am glad they’re still there and I feel lucky to have had the chance to see them. It’s important to preserve ancient monuments and buildings, and to remember where we and our model of society come from. We need to remember how innovative we can be, and how much we can accomplish when we choose to put forth the effort.
I have always been a visual learner, and visiting these structures helped me finally add context and meaning to everything I had learned in class growing up. Even though Rome was exactly what I had expected, I found myself staring, eyes wide, jaw dropped, amazed at what humans had accomplished with their own brains and hands. It called my attention to how much we think we cannot accomplish, or only can accomplish with the help of technology and gadgets. It was a wakeup call to envision what I want to do, and then go do it, because I am capable. Yes, I knew what what to expect, and yes, it was just as amazing as I had hoped. But most of all, it left me inspired to not only dream more, but to do more to accomplish it.