Meily De Leon: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli as Text

“Above Science” by Meily De Leon of FIU

History is the bridge that interlocks the past and present, while simultaneously molding the future. The Romans were and still are considered a civilization ahead of their era. Strong evidence of the forward thinking and innovative concepts that they contributed to modern day society can be found via ancient Roman ruins. In particular, Hadrian’s Villa built approximately between 117-136 CE, impressively portrays the emphasis on personal health from the perspective of a time where knowledge of medicine was not widespread. Moreover, a primitive understanding of the physical observable ailments that plagued Romans existed. In spite of this, divine beliefs of the gods did influence the understanding of inexplicable conditions. Usually the miasma theory was at work, which is now rejected and replaced with the concept of contagious disease not fumes alone. Doctors of the time used physically distinguishable characteristics to give any prognosis for a Roman, for example the level of fitness of a person, was an easily identifiable quality at first glance. Therefore, Hadrian’s villa contained a large spacious rectangular structure called a gymnasium. This allowed Romans to exercise not only physically, but culturally as well. Since, their social lives revolved around dominance shown through brute strength, as a result gymnasium became essential in aiding Romans in their pursuit of praise from the emperor. In this case, emperor Hadrian was not one to shy away from ostentatious displays of wealth and power by permitting others to enjoy the wealth of the latest technological advances in his home.

In Addition to the gymnasium, elaborately large baths with intricate designs and decorations were present immediately next to the gym. The bathhouse has several baths that were of different temperatures. It was believed that changes in temperature from hot to cold served to improve a person’s circulation and close the pores of the skin, which does hold true to this day. Also, the expansive 300 acres of Hadrian’s Villa contributed to the active lifestyle Romans held, hence the lagoon at the entrance of the villa served as the measured distance that an individual was recommended to walk daily after having a meal; about 2-3 times were suggested by doctors. Other structures on the premises, such as the fishing pond pictured above, demonstrated the intertwining of entertainment and personal health through social activities.

Thus, the fact that these deductions were made without solidified scientific approaches and that a majority of the world still abides by these principles of personal health, reinforces the concept of “Everyone is a Roman” and how Romans have paved the way for architecture that serves purposes beyond the primitive need for shelter and survival. �

Roma As Text

“indescribable” by Meily De Leon of FIU

The city of Rome is a culmination of history and culture experienced through architecture. Its people are welcoming and carry an atmosphere of familial unity.  To recap,  the start of my journey caused me to feel a sense of unease in combination with an anxious perspective which hindered me from assimilating the scope of the city’s wonders. Inhibited by clouded judgement, I was unable to appreciate the uniquenes that Rome offered initially. This began to change as I was exposed to the diverse history that the ancient city holds. The forum, a Roman treasure, was the epitome of classical Roman life. Standing at the center of all its glory immersed me in a different era, with every step I slowly outgrew the cautious nature that had consumed me. The forum was the birthplace of the Republic and of civic relations: politically, socially, and religiously. During the 500 year rise of the Roman empire, this location was the foundation for their society as a whole, portraying deeply rooted cultural values, beliefs, and traditions. These Roman traditons are still, to a lesser degree, exercised today across the world. For instance, the Vestal Virgins were a strong indication of misogyny that has contributed to the taboo topic of female virginity in various cultures, such as my cultual background. Carrying my hispanic culture with me to Rome has helped me envision how life was lived here, as I continue to draw parallels.

Ultimately, the idea of traveling not as a tourist, but rather embodying an italian civilian has fostered independence within me.  I’ve developed an independent nature that I would have never believed I could harness in the time span of a week. Personally, I did not come on this trip for a religious endeavor or spiritual awakening, but I have gained empowerment from the freedom to do as I please without the fear and pressure to conform to the standards of a certain culture.

Ancient Rome, like the modern United States, was a hub for diversity in terms of people and cultures. It was a harsh place, but ultimately accepting, and I have found that the city’s culture remains largely the same. After some trial and error, I have truly begun to feel at home, and I believe that when I leave Rome to see more of the country and perhaps the rest of the world I will more readily integrate myself and find the beauty in my surroundings. Once a victim of culture shock, but never again.

Pompeii as Text

“Despair” by Meily De Leon of FIU

The concept of the unknown is often an ominous thought. A state of unfamiliarity is accompanied by paralyzing fear; therefore, it is no surprise that the people of Pompeii did not all flee the city, out of an approximate population of 20,000 citizens 2,000 perished. In 79 A.D Mount Vesuvius erupted, and annihilated the Pompeian way of life, the remaining ruins symbolically tell the history of its people. The recounts of witnesses that managed to escape death conveyed despair and helplessness as the darkness of the ashes consumed the sky. The well-preserved bodies of adults, children, and pets, alike, were impactful and evoked melancholia, while reinforcing that above all nature is the determining factor for any civilization’s reign. The positions of the bodies frozen in time revealed the universality of human emotions in a regretful manner.  As a result, the eruption caused the city’s treasures to be buried with it until rediscovered about 1900 years later, consequently the uncovering of the city influenced the European world and mirrored modern-day way of life. For instance, the idea of fast food, private homes, and separation of street lanes were clearly emphasized around the city. The excavations are evidence of how ancient Roman ideals are interwoven in everyday routines and architectural layouts that have become social norms. The present is indubitably a reflection of the past, which is a strong indication that our roots all have an origin regardless of the location or the cultural heritage behind the peoples. Another important detail that should be highlighted in the Pompeian ruins

is the fresco paintings in the Villa of mysteries

that elucidate the cult-like hierarchy that existed depicting women as sexual symbols. The Dionysiac fresco, in my perspective, represented women of the time as critical of other women of lesser social ranking, whom were subject to punishment when not conforming to patriarchal standards. However, it could be viewed as a liberation of women in the sense that paintings of nude women, such as the Birth of Venus, commemorated the sexuality of women. Rather the deeper meaning seemed oppressive, as the women are pictured toiling away unclothed. The vague nature of the painting keeps the mysterious  aura of Pompeii alive, and reminds us that humans are all connected to each other through similar sentiments, tragedy is the most relatable emotion as proved by the end of the Pompeian civilization .

Italia as Text 2019
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