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Unbelievable First-Hand History Lesson

oldchurchMason McKinney ’17 – The best part about today’s trip was our tour of the church of San Clemente. On the outside, San Clemente seemed like any other church in Rome. The inside, at first, seemed to be the same story as the apse, arches, and altar all evoked a sense of awe and amazement in my eyes. I would soon find out, that this was no ordinary church as Dr. Hartnett directed us down a set of stone stairs which led us to a chilly and damp basement. The class then learned that this was an old church built early on in the 6thcentury, and that the level that we had originally walked into was built directly on top of what we were now standing in. After investigating this layer further, we found a stairwell that led us further down into the earth. At this point we learned that the 6thcentury church had actually been built on top of yet another church that dates to the 1stcentury CE. We had learned about this concept in class where buildings were often times filled in with earth and then built upon at a later point.

What I found to be most interesting about this tour was that we were able to see this stratification of history firsthand. In a matter of moments, my classmates and I walked down two flights of stairs that essentially acted as a time machine bringing us back nearly 2000 years into the past. Going on this tour allowed us to get a firsthand glimpse into the daily and religious lives of the people who lived in pagan as well as Christian Rome.


The Vatican’s Profound Impact

Daniel McCormick ’17  – Today was one of the highlights of the trip where we get to expand our knowledge of not only Roman sculptures, but also religion by visiting the Catholic capital of the world, the Vatican City.  In this post I will only discuss the Roman sculptures we looked and then another post will discuss the paintings and other highlights within the Vatican. So, lets get started!

Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican

Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican

Thanks to Professor Hartnett’s many trips to Rome he was able to secure our visit to a private museum within the Vatican Museums!  We were able to closely examine several different Early Roman Empire Statues and Friezes.  We started with a statue called, “The Augustus of Prima Porta.”  This specific statue, according to professors Wickkiser and Hartnett, is one of the top five most famous statues from Roman Antiquity!  This statue is usually on display, but was having several minor repairs done to it.  That allowed us to be within mere inches from the ancient statue dating back to 15 AD.  In about half an hour we were able to break down the entire statue.  We reasoned that the debate regarding whether the statue was constructed before or after the death of Augustus had to be after death due to several elements of the statue.

Michael Miller presented the second thing we looked close at, the Portrait of Livia and Depictions of Empresses.  He pointed out several different things include how the Julio-Claudian Era (Augustus-Nero) enlarged eyes on portraits.  Michael also pointed out that angle of Livia’s face is pointed slightly down in a submissive, but empowering way like she would have been overlooking a crowd.  Livia also looks to be fully clothed up to her neck, as well as, that she is wearing a cover/hood to show how reserved she is.

In another part of the Vatican Museums, Andrew Jackson presented the statue of Claudius, Emperor 37-54 AD, as Jupiter.  This shows how the Emperors viewed themselves as gods, as well as, how people who earned triumphs (accomplishing great deeds, such as, winning a war) viewed themselves on theirtriumphus, day of triumph.

We concluded the tour of Roman sculptures by viewing the Sarcophaguses of Constantine’s mother and daughter, located across the room from each other and how these tombs help us answer the question, Constantine, Emperor or Christian.

Ben Farmer ’16 – As Dan described earlier, we went into the Vatican Museums to observe the artwork and statues. However, personally I preferred the tour of the old pagan/Christian tombs underneath the Vatican and the Basilica itself to the artwork.

The tour underneath the Vatican was incredibly hot and humid. The surrounding walls were all ancient rooms that were placed along the road to the north of the Circus of Gaius and Nero. There was a variation of tombs, most of them were pagan at the beginning of the tour, but as we walked down the line we started to notice a change. The closer we got to St. Peters tomb, the more Christian tombs began to pop up. The tombs themselves had a great deal of artwork and other designs that showed either pagan and/or Christian symbolism on the walls and ceilings. When we got to the tomb of St. Peter we saw his bones all locked up in little glass boxes returned to his original burial place. Along the wall of the tomb itself was a whole mess of graffiti markings. These markings, according to the tour guild, were names, symbols, prayers and other sorts of things that pilgrims had etched into the stone.

Afterwards, we went into St. Peters Basilica. This structure was massive, and beautiful. The whole building focused your attention towards the center where there was St. Peters tomb and altar. The altar itself was incredibly tall, nearly 25 meters tall at least. One of the most interesting things that I found, however, was that there was a offering table with one of the Statue of a Pope. To the right foot of the statue was a female version of Hercules standing on the club, and to the left foot stood Minerva reading a Bible and pondering it. I just thought it was interesting that they would have included that into the statue.


Revelations in Exploring History First Hand

Boyd Haley ’17 – Firstly I would like to thank anyone who made this trip possible for me, including my parents and the staff at Wabash College.  Today specifically we started out by going to the column of Trajan and doing some in depth analysis of the different panels as it went up. In class we talked about the location and it was very interesting to see the actual monument and not just see it in a book. Seeing the column of Trajan was important for me because later in the day I presented on the column of Marcus Aurelius which as I learned in my readings has very specific ties to the column of Trajan.

PillarLater in the day we headed up to the campus martius to see the Horologium, ara pacis, and I got to give my presentation on the column of Marcus Aurelius. Actually going to the campus martius was so eye opening because in my classical roman classes I always end up either writing a paper or giving a presentation on something in the campus martius. To see how all the monuments fit together and the ideas that they bring up is something you can only do in Rome, I don’t think I would understand them as well as I do now if I hadn’t have been able to go on this trip. It was a good first trip outside of the United States and truly an experience I will not soon forget.

Nolan Fenwick ’17 – On Thursday our group went on top of the Capitoline Hill to go inside and look at the ancient artifacts that were at the Capitoline Museum.  Inside we saw many works of Roman art, including the colossus of Constantine.  The utter size of this monument was truly mesmerizing and thinking about all it would have taken to create such a behemoth is rather awesome.  Across from that were the reliefs from the Hadrianeum, each relief representing a different province that was located within the Roman world.  It was educational to witness how many romans pictured the different regions of Rome and how they were understood as a culture to the rest of society.  The Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius stood glinting inside, with just enough gold left on it to show its power.  It was very large and foreboding to be underneath of it.  The statue stood as a symbol of strength and power and it was easy to see why it was seen this way.  The Statue of Commodus portrayed as Hercules was very cool.  It was so well preserved that the marble still shined bright.  The amount of detail that was included was truly staggering.  Afterwards a large portion of us decided to attend the Lazio vs Dnipro soccer match.  It was the first professional soccer match for many of us and was considered to be a cool experience.  The crowd was small though because the Lazio fans are upset with the president of the club and were boycotting attending the match.  All in all it was another very exciting day in Rome.