Batchelder ’15 Captures Spirit of Ancient Rome

Steve Batchelder ’15 – Dr. Hartnett asked me early in the week if I thought the Vittorio Emanuele Monument looked like a typewriter or a wedding cake?  As a Creative Writing major, it was easy to see the Monument as a typewriter, but now Rome has me thinking otherwise.  On Thursday we visited the ruins at Ostia, St. Peter’s Basilica, saw a Lazio soccer match, and enjoyed a Thanksgiving pizza together.  Needless to say after leaving our hotel at 8am and returning from dinner around midnight, we were a little worn-out from an another amazing day.

Hartnett’s Class on another night at the famed Trevi Fountain

I especially thought that good night sleep was much needed and what else could we possibly need to see in Rome after a day like that?  Michael Carper asked me if I would like to go see the Spanish Steps and visit Trevi Fountain.  I have to admit, I was a bit reluctant.  I felt my swelling ankles, considered the number of hours I had spent on my feet.  I even felt pessimistic about following Carper off into Rome, further amounts of walking, I was pretty well convinced that whatever monuments he insisted on seeing could wait until tomorrow.

But for whatever reason, I couldn’t let Carper go off on his own.

Eddie Pingel, Carper, and I walked up to the Via Corso past Trajan’s Colum and then twisted our way through a few poorly lit side streets to find Trevi Fountain.  Whatever regrets I had about walking the streets of Rome after mid-night were immediately forgotten.  The fountain was lit up and Poseidon giving way to the natural force demonstrated in the fountain.  Two statues to his right and left attempted to wrestle bulls out of the water.  We sat and watch romantics kiss and pose for photos in front of the fountain.  For as many statements as the city makes in its architecture makes of man’s conquest over nature, the fountain struck me with its attempts of the power of nature to lash out against the city.  The baroque artistry provided an image that I longed to see in Rome, a movement speaking against the power of man and submiting us all to the raw beauty of that which we cannot conquer.

Our next stop on the mid-night tour were the Spanish steps, further up the Via Corso.  From the top of the steps Carper taught Eddie and me the strategic layout in which the papacy wished to direct pilgrims to the city.  Much of the work of our course has taught us to consider what it was like to live as a Roman.  We have looked at a number of Social Historical dilemmas and discussed in great detail a lot of possibilities to look at a Roman life.

With a couple Wabash brothers, I got a sense for our course that we haven’t been able to tap into.  Can we say what it feels like to be a Roman?  Or in any period of time, what would it have felt like to visit Rome?  In our study we have had various clues from the presentation of spaces, inscriptions, and ancient literature to demonstrate how life might have been lived.  Yet, when we try to find emotion in many ways they remain unspoken, not behind marble, stone, and bronze monuments, but in your heart you feel a sense of endearment to this place.  I think that this question strays a bit from our work as social historians, but nonetheless there is a buzz about this city that has a way of transforming our perceptions.  Whether it is the cheers of prideful Lazio fans or in the roaring flow of the Trevi Fountain, Rome has me feeling more and more like a Romantic.

Maybe we cannot experience what it felt like to be a Roman, but we are sharing in something much greater than ourselves.  We are among those who have sought the city for the scholarship, romance, religion, and other purposes.  As our week comes to a close I find myself wishing that everything I have experienced would remain in my memory, but that would be asking too much. What is sufficient though is to appreciate that we are part of a fellowship that has sought this city from every corner of globe, adored its splendor, and been changed by it.  Maybe a week is all it takes to change the Vittorio Emanuele Monument from a ‘type-writer’ into a ‘wedding-cake’?  Maybe a week is all we need to have our lives moved in such a way that the power of humanity takes hold of our hearts with no intention of letting go.

Una vita non è sufficiente per Roma”- One life is not enough for Rome

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