Imagining Life in Ancient Roman Times

Logan Anglin ’17 – Today in Rome,  I was able to experience what it was like for an ancient Roman Citizen to live in everyday life back in the 1st-4th century. We visited a church and sat through and experienced a traditional Italian Catholic mass. In particular, for the bulk of the day, visited the city of Ostia, an ancient Roman Civilization located near the coast of the Mediterranean. What was really important about studying this city was that unlike Rome, there had been no renovations or building on top of preexisting Ostia buildings. So by examining this city, we were able to see a relatively uninterrupted since the time of its busy existence.

For starters, just let me say how amazing it was to see this city and try to imagine how they lived and participated in everyday life. As we walked down the street made of large stones, there were worn down places only about 4-5 inches thick, which we learned were the result of years and years of wearing down and erosion made from the wheels of carriages. Immediately we began seeing direct evidence of a time in history where these ancient people actually lived here. This was the first real point in my trip where I was able to fully grasp the idea that this was an actual civilization that thrived and dominated the world nearly 2,000 years ago. All of the ruins we saw were simply amazing, like a time machine into the past. Especially since I plan on majoring or minoring in Classics, this helped me realize my true interests within the ancient world.

I especially was able to appreciate the ruins because I have taken four classes of Latin at Wabash College. I was able to practice this skill in the churches, signs, and all over the ruins. It was more of like a jigsaw puzzle, using what we have learned earlier in the semester as a base of knowledge, then by examining the ruins and the Latin associated to it, we could better understand what the Roman’s would have been doing here in these exact spots many years ago.

At one point in our tour with Dr. Hartnett through Ostia, he assumed the role of what a typical ancient Roman vendor would have done. The busy streets were lined with shops with large doors that offered good views of their insides and what they had to sell. Some of these buildings were very well intact and we were able to walk up the stairs into the second and third floor. These floors were meant as the living spaces for the store owners who worked on the first floor.

At one point in the tour, we were told to imagine what we would have seen, felt, tasted, touched, and heard if we were living at the time. We imagined very busy streets, with smells of all kinds of tasty food, smoke, and trash. Smoke would have filled the air as everyone cooked their foods without gas. The most populated streets were probably jam-packed with people, constantly bumping and shoving into one another. Everyone was probably constantly shouting as the acoustics in the buildings were not very good, and with so many people, you would probably have to yell in order to hear each other. The types of food to eat consisted of all kinds of breads, fish that was caught just a few miles over in the Mediterranean, and types of fruit or vegetables.

Even though this was my only second day here, it’s already been a trip of a lifetime as I have seen and learned so many things in the short time being here. It is hard to imagine that only 36 hours ago, I was in back in my dorm room at Wabash in Indiana.