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A Remarkable European City - Colosseum, Rome, Italy

by Wade Rowland - Part 3

Rome, Italy

I was soon at the Piazza Aracoeli, from where it is just a short, death-defying sprint across the shooting gallery known as Via dei Teatro di Marcello to Michelangelo's stately staircase mounting to the top of the Capitoline, my destination.

It seemed impossible that anyone fortunate enough to experience the layers of living history of Rome and its incredible artistic richness could come away without being changed.

The untravelled and ill-educated can easily be convinced that their little corner of the planet is the best of all possible worlds. It is not a far step from there to a jingoism that denigrates the outsider, as a means of maintaining the psychologically important myth of local superiority. History, too, has its parochialism, just like geography.

Briefly stated, it amounts to this: past=bad; present=better; future=best. Most of us today believe we live in the best of all times, on the leading edge of social evolution and cultural development.

We have survived a nasty and brutish past to arrive at a comfortable, prosperous present and can look forward to a utopian future. We see answers to our increasingly burdensome human problems exclusively in pursuing the same goals that caused the trouble in the first place - in more Œprogress.' How, indeed, can the past offer solutions, when it is by definition inferior in every respect?

A few well-spent weeks in Rome, or in the medieval towns of France, or in the history-drenched lands of Greece - a trip back to times when civilization's priorities were radically different from ours, cannot help unsettle that belief, and awaken us to a more complete spectrum of possibilities. Goethe said his life began when he first visited Rome: I think this may be what he meant.

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