Saturday, June 6, 2015

Why Rome Must Fall: Breaking down the Eternal City

By Michele Trizzino

perfer et obdura; dolor hic tibi proderit olim Be patient and tough; some day this pain will be useful to you.

Gone are gladiator arenas, days when togas were common garb, and when knees bent upon hearing the name Caesar. It is no coincidence that Hollywood romanticizes an era which left an impressive historical footprint, a beloved Shakespearean drama, and most especially, a city which bears the name and the physical ruins of the empire which was. In awe, modern day Rome is frequented by millions and the standing fossil we know as the Colosseum ranks high on bucket lists of ‘Places to See’. My infatuation with Rome began in freshman year of high school when I was required to study Latin as a foreign language. Therefore, I'm cool and qualified to throw out expressions like, "Ave et Vale" (Hail and farewell), "E Pluribus Unum" (Out of many, one) and "Cave Canem" (Beware the dog). 

Triumphantly, I came, I saw and I conquered two National Latin Exams and the New York State Latin Regents Exam, but Latin class was my window to a glorified culture that tragically collapsed.

Portraying Cleopatra at Bishop Kearney High School's Classics Fair
Brooklyn - 2004

Portraying Cleopatra at Bishop Kearney High School's Classics Fair
Brooklyn - 2004

When prompted, "If you could experience or witness any era..." I often envisioned myself strolling through the Forum wearing a headdress adorned in golden filigree, occasional outings to the thermal baths, and being a spectator at Circus Maximus. Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise that I had my heart set on attending an institution that would offer me the ability to study abroad in Rome. In 2008, my dreams (minus the headwear) became a reality. Not without gelato in hand, my Latin textbook was brought to life before my very eyes and I experienced five weeks of pure bliss in The Eternal City.

I wasn't exaggerating about the gelato in hand.

The Roman Forum

The Colosseum
Circus Maximus

While present at the aforementioned landmarks, I imagined what it must have been like to hear the roar of the crowd at the Colosseum, the echoes of the chariots encircling Circus Maximus, or what it felt like to unwind in the spa-like haven located at the Baths of Caracalla. Despite the array of photographs and not-so priceless memories, I was nostalgic for a land and time that could never be tangible. Those sentiments were a main reason why I was taken aback to hear the words, “Maybe it was a good thing that Rome fell. Maybe it was an intercession…” escape from…my mouth.

Without an in-depth historical analysis, this reflection was fueled by the principle that the Roman dynasty was enwrapped in practices which were toxic to the society. Greed, gluttony, lust and savagery are considered some of the deadliest of sins; however, these ideologies were condoned as well as encouraged. Although temples and shrines of grandeur were built for deities, an emperor’s authority was revered limitless without restriction. It was demanded that any threat be eliminated and ultimately, this led to the persecution of a man who in the course of days was exalted and then crucified. To the fortune of the Christian community, specifically those who are Roman-Catholic, Christianity did not fall like Rome when Jesus was executed. Ironically, it was essential for the empire to descend. It was vital for the civilization to be stripped of its contaminated ways. It was imperative for a stimulus to be created so that there would be transference from sin… to love.

While conversing with an attending priest at my parish, he advised that adversities are often intercessions in disguise. It took me some time to process how or if I would be able to appreciate this statement. Would I be able connect God’s intercession with the crosses which I bear daily? Would I be able to entertain that when confronted with various hardships and limitations, God’s will is being carried out? Is it possible to be at peace with the ability to not understand, but accept? How often do I create my own ‘Rome’ when emphasis is placed on attaining the desires of the flesh vs. the spirit? How often do I reflect on the consequences of my free will and get lost in my own dynasty? Am I constantly under construction? Are my wildest dreams restrictive to what I could be if I surrendered my earthly desires and expectations? What if I broke down the subconscious walls of my ‘Eternal City’ so that I can allow God to pave the path toward eternal life?

Although typically deduced to a negative connotation, the word ‘fall’ is not void of hope. Hope to get up and stand. Hope to re-build. Hope to convert one’s ways. Hope for better days to come; to be faithful, dependent on Who lives rather than the idea of what was.

Hope to return to the Eternal City thanks to a certain tradition.

Until next time, ciao for now!

per aspera ad astra!  Through difficulties to the stars!

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