Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fence-Hopping Humanities Students (and a professor)

Ostia Antica was a port city of Ancient Rome. Due to volcanic activity and an outbreak of malaria, it was gradually abandoned; however, much of the city survives today. We visited it, and could see a pretty good layout of the city. We were also able to actually walk in and around and on the buildings and streets. In addition to seeing buildings such as the Temple of Augustus, ancient snack bars, shops, and houses, we saw the well-preserved Teatro, or theatre. Sarah and I played the River Game in the orchestra, of course.

We also managed to locate the Mithraeum, dedicated to the god Mithra. The Mithraeum wasn’t technically off-limits, as there was an informational sign there, but getting to it involved hopping a few fences and leaping over a ravine. It was totally worth it, as the inside of the temple was remarkably well-preserved and very pretty, with an altar-type thing and some mosaics. Dean Ruebel declared very loudly that he didn’t know who we were, and then took a picture of us in our not-quite-legal state beside the Mithraeum.

*Musing of the Day* Ostia Antica was a fascinating place to see, and although it’s not as striking as, say, Pompeii would be, it’s still pretty moving. The seaside has long since receded, and the River Tiber’s course had changed, so the city that was once by the sea is now surrounded by fields. Whereas in the Forum I wandered about the life of a Vestal Virgin or a noble, in Ostia I thought about the average middle-class citizen, living life in what would become a nearly forgotten port city, not far from the center of the Western world, and yet at the edge of the sea and the world beyond.

 Ostia Antica was a train ride outside of the city, and on our way back in we stopped at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Wall. By “Outside the Wall,” it means outside the original, old, wall. This Basilica was a reconstruction of a 4th century building that had burned down in 1827, although some of the mosaics survived. It was simple and pretty, and had a lovely courtyard. It has been one of my favorite of the Basilicas/churches.