Brady Boles ’17 – Before coming to Rome, we had learned the importance of Rome in its power as a city and as an important symbol for the emergence and growth of early Christianity. However, I had not truly appreciated the historical significance of the various pieces of architecture of the city and what they told about the emperors, early Christian figures, and even the everyday normal folk of the empire. Everything about the trip was extremely fascinating, fun, and informative, but my favorite parts of the trip were the trips to Ostia and the various Constantinian basilicas.
It is hard not to have your breath taken away when walking into the various basilicas. The size of each one was absolutely massive and you could feel the power of the building before you even walk inside. As you walk inside, you feel even more overwhelmed, not only by the size, but also by the vivid Christian imagery and relics present within the building. During my reflection, I appreciated the building’s ability to portray Constantine’s intention to show his power and leave his mark on history by building these massive basilicas. For me, these structures highlighted one of the main themes of Ancient Rome, the importance of being remembered, being great and powerful, and carrying on the family name.
I was also taken aback by the artistry present in each of the basilicas. Not only are the mosaics and paintings truly beautiful, but they had an impact on me in that they reflect how far Christianity has come in the previous centuries. In the early centuries after Christ’s death, Christianity had been a private religion that had experienced persecution under several emperors. Then in the 4th century, some of the biggest and most significant buildings had been built as churches for Christianity, reflecting the religions transformation into the more public, majority religion of the empire. The basilicas beauty also marked the importance of artistic skill during those times and it really made me appreciate artists in general. It also left me disappointed because in many modern cultures, including the United States, artists struggle finding any work. These Roman artists had an important task of creating artwork that characterized religions and the Roman Empire and it really made me realize how much I take creativity and artistry for granted.
I also loved Ostia and the way it contrasted these basilicas. It allowed us to take a day to experience life of the everyday Roman citizens instead of just remembering emperors and major Christian figures. It was amazing to look at some of the homes of these people and to imagine what sounds, sights, and smells were present. I also loved my site, the Piazzale delle Corporazioni. It was amazing to see how a simple portico transformed into the center of commerce for a booming empire. It was rewarding to see the different mosaics in each of the offices that represented the growing diversity and grasp that the Empire had on the world. Ostia reminded me that it is important to understand how the everyday citizen lived.
Aside from the course material, this trip was invaluable in that I got to live in a beautiful city for a week with great people, great food, and a great atmosphere. I learned that aside from the language barrier, the Italian people are not so different. They are proud of their history, live a fast -aced life, and love to have a good time, just like many of us Americans. It was exciting to see the subtle and major differences in our ways of life, whether it be the food we eat or the chaos that is the streets of Rome. I got to see and learn about some incredible things in Rome and enjoy them to the fullest thanks to the teachings of Dr. Hartnett and Dr. Nelson. I also became closer with some of my Wabash brothers and was able to create memories that I will cherish for a long time. I’d like to thank Dr. Hartnett, Dr. Nelson, and Wabash College for making this trip possible.