On Monday, we visited the Roman Forum. The Roman forum was the center of activity: political, religious, and commercial.
Here we saw the arch of Titus. This was particularly interesting to me because of the connection to Jewish history. The temple of Jerusalem was sacked in 70 A.D. Titus was the emperor at the time. Depicted on the arch are the spoils from the war, which include a menorah and scrolls of the Torah. I can only imagine the grief the Jewish people would have felt seeing their holy sacred items displayed as spoils of war. Heartbreaking.
Our guide, Finn, is great at storytelling. He shares stories from antiquity with ease, stories that make the ruins come to life. It makes the walk through the forum so much more interesting. We learned about a sinkhole and the soldier who fixed it by riding his horse into the abyss, obviously killing both him and his horse; luckily, the sinkhole did not survive either. We learned about vestal virgins, and two brothers who fought for the kingdom leading to the death of one of them.
After Finn told us this story, my sister called on brothers who were on the trip and their mother who attended as a chaperone. Dawn had the boys act out the story, in which the ancients’ mother plays a pivotal role. The two boys and their mother played along beautifully, cementing the moment, the surroundings, and the stories in our memories.
My sister is constantly teaching. I love watching her teach. It gives me the kind of joy I have listening to my son sing. She makes ancient words brand new, illustrating how tense and grammar and etymology inform the translation of words carved in stone. It’s like music.
That afternoon, we went to the Capitoline museum, Trajan’s Column, and the Colosseum. I was particularly interested in Trajan‘s column because I remember studying it in undergraduate school. Trajan‘s column was dedicated in 113 A.D. It tells the story of the emperor Trajan‘s two wars against what is now Romania. These stories are told in the form of a marble comic strip that spirals around the 126 foot tall column. There are 155 different scenes. We could not get very close to it so the detail in the sculpture was hard to depict; pictures in a book do a much better job. Still to see the actual column? Amazing!
The Colosseum is as impressive as you have always heard it is the crowd was not too bad so we were able to enjoy a somewhat leisurely walk around it. Before we left, we gathered in an alcove and Finn read us a story in Latin about pope Sixtus the fifth. Such a rich experience!
Of course one of the most impressive things about the whole trip is these kids. I promise you if we are leaving the world in their hands, we have nothing to worry about. They are lovely and curious and compassionate and engaging and delightful. I feel so privileged to spend this time with them