Friday, January 26, 2018

Rome Journal: Are Antiquities a Thing of the Past?

suburbs of Rome (photo: Alicia Patterson Foundation)
Tourists naturally visit cities like Rome for the antiquities: the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Baths of Caracalla and the Theater of Marcellus. The Vatican doesn’t exactly qualify as an antiquity. It  didn’t become the center of Christianity until after the Pope’s came back from Avignon in 1377. But is the other Rome occupied by average people doing everyday jobs a future antiquity to which tomorrow’s traveler will be attracted? Or has the age of antiquities passed? Mussolini tried to qualify when he constructed the E.U.R. which would have been the home of the l942 World's Fair if the war hadn’t intervened. Now the Palazza della Civilita Italiano is one of many structures that remain and which could be considered candidates for landmark status. You see it looming on the skyline with its massive grid of futuristic windows as you drive from Fiumicino to the center of the city. In France you have Les Banlieues in England Council Housing and in Italy, it’s the Borgate, the housing developments also built during the fascist era. Few visitors get to see this side of the city, but while they have an enormous economic and sociological significance, they hardly evince the majesty that’s to be found at any of the sites of archeological digs that are perennially taking place in Rome. Some might term Silvio Berlusconi a modern day Caligula, but true grandeur requires the kind of empire that's been lacking for almost 2000 years.  Leonard Downie Jr. wrote a paper entitled, "The Modern Sack of Rome" (Alicia Patterson Foundation, l972). Could it be that antiquities are a thing of the past?

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