My History, Your History, Everyone’s History

Let me just start by telling you all that I’ve walked over 10 miles today (the iPhone counts this for you). My feet are going to give out any second but, nevertheless, it’s been a great day. And by great I really do mean GREAT, FANTASTIC, STUPENDOUS, HISTORIC… And any other synonym you can think of.

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We started the day by looking at Emperor Augustus’ forum (dated 2 B.C.). Obviously, this was amazing but we only saw it from the outside.

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At the top was a replica of the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius.

As I mentioned in my last post, the Palatine Hill was where Rome started — but the Capitoline Hill was where the most important roman artifacts were stored. The plaza at the top, designed by Michelangelo himself, faced St. Peter’s Basilica. This is particularly interesting because Marcus Aurelius is in the middle and it actually looks like he’s saluting St. Peter — almost like he’s bowing down to him.

Inside the Capitoline Museum, we saw the temporary exhibition that was on display. The first thing that I came across was a sculpture of the son of Marcus Aurelius. For those that don’t know (which was me up until a couple hours ago) Marcus Aurelius marks the end of the paux Romana (so Romulus marks the rise and Aurelius marks the end). Anyway, in the sculpture, you could start to see the downfall of the Roman Empire, embodied by Aurelius’ son. Here, he shows himself as a God — which already says that he was like Caesar: arrogant. Back then, the Romans didn’t like when you would show off that you had power, so this was when the empire began to fail. 11282105_10206855187517477_1295051237_n

The room this specific exhibit was in was also very intriguing because it’s from the 1600s. In fact, county commissioners throughout history would meet there because it was a very historic painting (they have the actual history of Rome painted on the walls — i.e. a painting of when Romulus seized all women in the tribes, the vesto virgins, etc.).

Another thing I saw was, what I like to call, the splinter sculpture (because I don’t actually know it’s real name) — which is also seen in Vizcaya at Miami. It’s said that this guy was a messenger who had delivered an important message. Throughout his whole journey, he had a splinter in his foot and ran like that — meaning that he would endure personal suffering for the betterment of society because he had a sense of civic responsibility. This is really normal in Romans because they had this belief that you should surrender everything to take care of the community in which you belong to. Basically, a belief that your city is larger than you. In this community, the state is a concept, an agreement that comes before people, and the Romans embody this.

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We also saw the original sculpture of Remus and Romulus drinking milk from the she-wolf (see my last post for info).

And we saw a REAL sculpture of what Michelangelo would look like, made from his death mask (basically, when he died, they put clay all over his face to copy his features into stone).

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Also at the museum, we saw the original Marcus Aurelius equestrian statue of him saluting his troops (although the proportions are off because he’s larger than horse). (Fun fact: this is supposed to be the largest equestrian sculpture.)
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The museum (or a part of it, in the least) is the largest structure — at this time — made out of concrete. It’s the first large-scale building that’s entirely made of this material. To me, this is astonishing and completely insane because everything we see now is concrete and the Romans were one of the first to use it. To better put this into perspective, just think: everything at FIU is made up of this material and this was the first structure that used it for something this big.

Next, we saw the famous sculpture of the dying Gaul, which shows that Romans cared and understood about the pain and humanity of the people that they conquered. This sculpture brings history to life and I was incredibly fortunate to be able to stand there to watch this because this artwork is at a completely other level than what I’m used to (I also know nothing about art so this is a huge change for me).

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Honestly, it felt unreal to be standing there looking at the original art from the original artists. Again, I’m part of this history. I’m part of Caravaggio’s life now, I’m part of Michelangelo, I’m part of the Romans. And it’s so interesting to be here and touch the same things that people touched and made thousands of years ago.
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Lastly, we went to the Pantheon (which was amazing). This was the first building that had an entirely Greek structure in the front and a rotunda on the back and, after it was built, almost every church mimicked it (as well as the U.S. Capitol Hill). The columns for the Pantheon were cut in Egypt and then brought here — each one of them as a solid piece. It’s also the only building that, since the day it’s been built, has been active. First, it was a roman temple and then it was transformed into a Christian church. In the Roman times, it was a place of worship for all roman gods (which was different because usually each God had a different temple and the Pantheon had all of them at once).

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To me, it was truly a miraculous space, where I could easily get a sense of my presence on Earth. In other words, of how small I am compared to the Earth. It really puts you in the NOW and gives you a better perspective on life in general. I was completely in awe the whole time.

Other quick and very interesting comments/side notes/information about the Pantheon: 1) Raphael (the painter) is buried here — as well as one of the queens of Italy; 2) This queen, Queen Margarita, was served cheese, basil and tomatoes by a baker. That became known as the margarita pizza (a.k.a. cheese pizza); 3) Nothing covers the hole on top. It’s open. That’s why the floor goes down (it’s inclined) and why there’s drainage holes around it; and 4) It took 7-12 years to build.

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Although it’s been a very long day (and Bailly says that tomorrow will be worse), it was a very insightful and eye-opening experience for me.

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