There is a reason Rome boasts the title The Eternal City. Constantly this place reminds itself, the Romans, the little dogs attached to the Romans, and the visitors of its past. We walk over cobblestone roads with the gravel worn out between. The stones protrude and make me think of Ancient Romans stepping in flimsy sandals, scuffing my boots seems less important.
The Romans dress the part, in classic black. You know the natives here by their black overcoats and pants, black scarfs and sunglasses. Color seems more for the city itself. The people let the buildings and sky form the painting; the people are the little black dots. Yet, even the neutral black takes on a classic, cool, edgy, elegance. It makes me want to go through a black period. Here it would be completely normal. In America, people would wonder why I was so moody and boring. Maybe living in the classic, eternal city, amid so much, lets these people realize that understated perfection is perfect.
The American university where I study, John Cabot, sits in a fairly modern building across from the ancient Tevere. Across this river, a few miles away stands the Coliseum where Roman Gladiators battled lions and staged sea conflicts. Ironically, or classically, the John Cabot mascot is the gladiator. I don’t think battling lions is a varsity sport… or at least they didn’t mention it during orientation. Still, it exists as reminder of the past.
The road to our residence, Via della Penitenza, is named for a penitentiary. Therefore, my spacious Roman apartment stands somewhere close to old jail cell rooms. The irony and progression of the past is everywhere. A trip to the Pantheon, built in Ancient Rome and then again in 126 AD, stands amid gelaterias and snack bars. Tourists take pictures on their iPhones of the Pagan architectural wonder.
It all makes me think of the evolution. The conservation of the classic. The mix of the old and the new here puts America to shame in its blatant lack of time, something for which we can’t claim responsibility. Yet, one must wonder, does the classicism(?), the history, the mere length of the chain of people in this place, does it all create a broader perspective?
Does living here tap into some ancient, classic collective conscience not found anywhere else? Does something happen aesthetically, emotionally, psychologically, with the impressive effort of conservation, with the continual reminder of the individual’s small place?
What does living in the “classic,” the “eternal” mean? How does it change the one?