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2021 Givens Scholarship | Studying Abroad: Thomas Hansen ’23: Rome, Italy

Thomas Hansen ‘23 — The Roman Forum – Rome, Italy — From a group of thatched huts on the banks of the Tiber River, to a wall built to keep the Picts out of England; from the marble temples to the emperors in modern Turkey to the houses of North Africa; from the theaters in Roman Gaul to the destroyed town of Pompeii, the Romans inhabited the entire Mediterranean and formed a diverse society. During my time abroad in Rome, I was enrolled in a class titled Roman Art and Archaeology. In this class, I explored how the Romans built and decorated their houses, how they buried their dead, how they interacted in public spaces, and how they used art for their sacred services. We began with the formation of Rome in the 8th century BCE and finished with Constantine moving the capital to the east. The semester consisted of me exploring numerous monuments such as theatres, amphitheaters, circuses, burial sites and ancient cities. 

Out of all the sites I visited, the place that I enjoyed the most was the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum, also known as Latin Forum Romanum, is the most important forum in ancient Rome. Situated on low ground between Palatine and Capitoline hills, the Roman Forum was the scene of public meetings, law courts, and gladiatorial combats in republican times and was lined with several shops and markets. It was such a great place to explore because of the importance of the forum to ancient Rome. Some of the surviving structures included the Temple of the Deified Caesar, the Mamertine Prison, the Curia (senate house), the Temple of Saturn, and the Temple of Romulus. As I walked through the Roman Forum, I was able to enter a new world; a world that the ancient Romans ruled. I walked the paths that Caeser and several other emperors walked. I touched the rocks that they sat upon when making the laws that turned Rome into what it is today. These were all landmarks that the most powerful Romans once did business with and hung out in. 

As I explored the Roman Forum, I was able to understand how important this site was for ancient Rome and present-day Rome. Though the forum had not been active for several centuries, it once was the single most important place in Italy. Walking through the Roman Forum gave me a deeper appreciation for the city I was fortunate enough to spend almost four months in. I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to study abroad in Rome and the experiences I gained this semester will last me a lifetime.