Maria Carla Robaina: Italia as Text 2019

By Maria Carla Robaina of FIU

Tivoli as Text

Maritime Theatre in Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli

Located in the small town of Tivoli, Hadrian’s Villa is any architect’s dream. Incorporating architectural styles from all around the world, this construction from the 2nd century A.D. takes the best of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and creates a classical city that spans 200 acres. One of the most captivating buildings in the property is the Maritime Theatre. This structure consists of a round central porch supported by numerous ionic columns, and surrounded by a circumcentric pool, creating a perfectly balanced,  Greek-inspired retreat. The combination of land and water is evident throughout the historical landmark property but it is never as purposeful as it is in the Maritime Theatre. Water mixes with land to create an isolated space in the midst of all the chaos, much like the villa itself separates Hadrian from the city of Rome. The Maritime Theatre can then be thought of as an oasis within an oasis, only accessible by two wooden drawbridges that when closed, disconnect its occupant(s) from the outside world. As a Spanish-born emperor, Hadrian often felt out of place in Rome, which would explain his thirst for isolation, and the thought process behind the architectural features of both the villa and the theatre. Furthermore, governing an empire like Rome, with more than 1 million inhabitants, was a challenging feat. So, in a sense, the villa was a sacred ground for the emperor to go and relax while observing his empire from above. The Maritime Theatre then was an even more intimate experience, which provides an air of spirituality. Its circular pattern mimics that of the Pantheon (an all-inclusive religious ground) which Hadrian redesigned after its destruction. Considering this then, it’s easy to see why the circle would be the chosen shape for both the Pantheon and the Maritime Theatre. The circle symbolizes wholeness, perfection, and the cyclic nature of the universe, all of which resonate with Hadrian’s own beliefs of religious acceptance, and self exploration.

Rome as Text

The Pantheon

Rome is flooded with narrow streets and alleys; crowded with passionate tourists in search of the next cultural adventure. I was one of them, and walking through Via Giustiniani, I had no idea what was coming. Then I saw it. I felt its immenseness take over me. So majestic, so imposing, that you both fear and feel pulled in by it: the Pantheon. Rebuilt in 118 CE by the emperor Hadrian, the Pantheon was created to serve as an inclusive religious ground at a time when the Romans were worshipping non-Roman Gods. While Hadrian was a well travelled and culturally aware intellectual, the need to unify Rome was the motive behind the Pantheon’s design, rather than mere religious consciousness. Rome had a lot of immigration, so it would have been difficult to unify all Romans under one, or a select group of Gods. It was much easier then, to make them feel secure in their faith by allowing all kinds of worship. The Pantheon provided the perfect platform for that, and ensured public support. This idea is evident in its classical Roman design, which features and immense portico, supported by massive, solid marble Corinthian columns, and followed by the circular interior called the rotunda, which contains representations of different Gods. The circle is a perfect shape that represents the idea of wholeness, and inclusiveness which mirrors Hadrian’s intention. It is also present in the oculus, which is an opening right in the middle of the Pantheon meant to take down any barriers that may sit between us mortals and the heavens, thereby enhancing the religious experience. It is truly magical to see the sunlight shining from the oculus onto the marble interior, creating a thread of energy that connects us to the divine. That is the magic of the Pantheon. Sure it was a political move, but it represents a shift in the history of Rome and the world, a transition into religious freedom. The concept of the Pantheon is one that should be copied in today’s world. As a whole, we need to become more accepting of everyone’s beliefs in order to preserve peace. Maybe that’s why I was so touched by the Pantheon; it is architecturally divine, and an embodiment of human unison, as if the whole world stood as one, under the light of the oculus.

Pompei as Text

“The stiff tell stories too”

Once there were 20,000,

then there were none.

Seventeen thousand fled to live

Three thousand fled with the smoke.

This is Pompei, a once anonymous city now infamous thanks to tragedy, and the whole world seems to oblige. People from all nations come to witness with their eyes what many tales have lead the young and old to cry. Ashy figures look alive, no longer human, but their humanity is still intact, and very present throughout the town. The stiff tell stories about themselves. They tell us how they lived and how they died. So we, in our shared humanity, get transported to their time. We see their streets, their bakeries, with the ovens that are still used in Italian pizzerias to this day. We see their brothels, and their restaurants. We see their pain in the stiff faces of the dead. We see the fear that hunted them ‘till their last breath. We look around, and we see that we’re all just the same. And we feel the connection. To many, it’s just another city with ruins. To the observant, it’s the story of life itself. We’re born into this world without any expectations. Then we grow, and we build things of our own, we create a community, and we are part of something greater than ourselves. We become more social as time passes by, and collectively, we progress. Some rich, some poor, some women, some men. We have kids of our own to love and protect. And then of course, there’s the unexpected end. The stiff lived just like we did. They went hungry, and thirsty, and had our same needs. They worked, and talked, and loved, and feared in the same way we would have feared the deadly showers. So here’s what I would tell tourists: take it all in, because one day, none of us will be here, just like they aren’t. But at least their city remains, so they have something to be remembered for: a legacy. We better make sure we all have something then.

Italia as Text 2019
Italia as Text
Miami as Text
Italy Study Abroad



Monique Moussa: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli As Text

“A Little Darkness Never Hurt Nobody” by Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Tivoli, Italy

Did you know beauty can be created from destruction?
And this waterfall is not an example of Roman seduction

Many come near but do not see it’s glory
For far bellow there holds a different story
Two floods have come and recreated the land
But people today come to Tivoli only to get a tan

It is believed that at the bottom of the waterfall is hell
And by the time you get down to see the end, your feet have already swelled
All that can be seen are large rocks and darkness
I for one found grace and tranquility

Just because it might look slightly black and scary
Does it mean that we should turn away in such a hurry?
Should we give those things that might not appeal to the eye or mind a chance?
For all we know, they might enable us to advance

Water is seen to be a symbol of rebirth or of sexuality
Yet many believe that the Villa Gregoriana waterfall represents the brutality
Judging something for only its negative qualities keeps individuals closed minded
In today’s world, we are not so different from that archaic mindset

The waterfall is beautiful in its structure, but its beauty is emphasized when large bushes of green trees surround the waterfall. Just simply listening to the water, the animals, and the wind is relaxing. The Temple of Vesta overlooks the waterfall, and it is almost mocking of all the deaths that the waterfall has caused. Individuals took advantage of the waters dangerous nature to harm people. It creates this negative image of something that should be seen as beautiful. The waterfall is still dangerous but the beauty it has is covered up because of what humanity has done. We tend to not give nature or people that are unattractive or “evil” a chance because that’s how we have been raised. It limits our growth as a society because we can still learn so much from the ugly and evil, and as seen from the waterfall, just because it looks scary, does not mean it’s not also beautiful.

Rome As Text

“It Happened to my People too” by Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Rome, Italy

We each see something different
Something that stands out to us
When taught about this arch it was hard not to make a fuss
Previous knowledge has lead me to be ignorant

Born and raised as a Palestinian
I always believed Jews were bad
For they took my land that my family has always had
Yet just as everything was taken away from my family
I realized Jewish people have experienced the same agony

Judge me as you might
But at first this was a hard sight
I saw this and I thought of Titus
How his actions had caused great change

I stand there and stare
While my fellow classmates did not treat it with such care
To many this is just an arch of beauty
To me this arch is my duty
Duty to understand and let go of the past

I cannot blame those Jews from the past
Nor should the Jew blame the present day Romans for their outcast

I did not expect to come to Rome and feel a connection to my culture
Yet there I stood and was taken away by this piece of architecture
Jewish people were already exiled from Jerusalem
70 years later Titus defeats the remain Jews
I sympathize for them
What is left for them?
They no longer have a home to call their own

And I again I reflect
So much was taken away from them
And I wonder
How can they do the same that has happened to them to others
How are Palestinians supposed to stand and accept their lands being taken away

I see things differently now than I did before
I do not blame a whole religion for some people’s action
But I learned that history truly does repeat itself
I just never thought I would witness how it would affect me

I need to remember
I hope I do not forget
Just because injustice has happened to my people
I should not judge those who are causing it
Because they too have suffered the same bit

The power of the art in Rome is impactful
For I am not the only one that can experience this
Many individuals of different cultures can resonate with different art pieces
And that is the true power of Rome
No matter how different
Somehow we all feel a connection

Pompeii As Text

“The Struggle of Women Through Time” by Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Pompeii, Italy

It seems like todays world is all about sex
And who you are going to sleep with next
It is not to say sex isn’t great
But it isn’t a major determinant of fate

For many people today, sex is something you choose to do
But to many in Pompeii it is something women were forced to go through
The city had about 30 brothels
And the women could have sex with men as old as fossils

Back then it was legal
It still does not justify them existing
Some of these prostitutes could acquire a bit of wealth
What about their mental health?

These women would sleep with countless men for money
And to me that seems sad for a women to have to go through
Why must her body be objectified in order for her to survive
It is amazing how far women have come and thrived

And imagine to be in their shoes
Where men could just walk in and pick and choose
They choose what position they like best
As if it isn’t degrading enough that you are just admired for your breasts
But you are also sold to have sex in a position you might not like
And these men would probably never treat you right

Women do not suffer the same struggle now
Prostitution still exists but it is not allowed
Women are still treated like objects to many
The struggle now is the difference in pennies

Women then and now get treated different then men
But now the struggle is equal pay

The women in Pompeii struggled with legal prostitution
Women today struggle with illegal prostitution and unequal pay
For a world that has advanced so far
It does not look like we progressed at all

Lily Fonte: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli as Text

An entire day in Tivoli.

We met Hadrian, we felt the Spaniard’s power,  and sensed his intelligence in the air as we walked through his massive and breathtaking Villa.

We walked through the labyrinths and sat by the roaring fountain of Neptune in the Gardens of Villa D’Este.

And then the professor asks “Would you like to see The Valley of Hell?”

Students look at each other, already with tired eyes, but eager to see more of this unique town.
The descent was a tough one, for some, even painful. But that was nothing compared to the intense energy that was emitting through the air as we got lower and lower into The Valley. Deeper into Hell.

Dirt and rocks filled our shoes, grime stuck to our skin, but every time I paused my descent and looked around, The Valley was alive, it was speaking, encouraging me to carry on, the best was yet to come, and so I descended.

We reached a cave and climbed inside, into what I considered to be the depths of Hell. But what I felt was not an inferno, it was paradise.

In that moment, I was sitting in a Valley that when flooded, would claim lives and disappear bodies.
And yet, all I felt was love for the trees I was seeing, the birds I was hearing, the incredibly fresh air I was breathing and the cold stone I was sitting on.

Tivoli is a town filled with beautiful villas and the lingering power these leaders left behind. But The Valley of Hell is more than just a Villa with beautiful scenery and history, it’s an experience. It left me sitting there, as the minutes passed, feeling an indescribable emotion. All I knew is I didn’t want it to end.

Roma as Text

A Letter to Rome


Dear Roma,

When we first met it was cold and wet. I was lost, overwhelmed, and alone.

Straight from Miami, I entered a world I had never imagined I would ever get to see. Roma: the world of rebellious gladiators, Spanish emperors, unfaithful senates, Vestal Virgins, and populations larger than ever believed possible at the time.

I entered Il Colosseo through the Gate of Life. Climbing as high as I could to the highest levels to watch the game, as the women would have done before me. From there I can see the gladiators fight, the victor stands tall while the sand swallows the blood of the unfortunate soul and his body is carried through the Gate of Death.

In the Forum, I walked through the Temple of Vesta as one of the prestigious Vestal Virgins. at age 21, it had been about 11 years since I had been chosen, an immense honor for my family. It was only now becoming increasingly difficult for other priestesses in the temple to maintain their vow of chastity, one of them already charged with treason. I go about my own way, manage to my properties, and prepare for the games at the Colosseo. In 19 short years my service will end.

On the Appia Antica, I walked the roads into Rome for the first time as an outsider. I saw not only the beautiful tombs of the wealthy, but also the lifeless bodies of large, strong men, tied to trees that seem to almost touch the sky. I reminded myself never to challenge the authority the Roman Empire.

As a pilgrim, I witnessed the ceilings of S. Maria Maggiore, filled with gold brought by Christopher Columbus. I saw the ecstasy in Saint Theresa’s words with my own eyes, I prayed by the final resting place of Saint Paul, and I learned to fear death at the Capuchin Crypts.

As Lily, a college student, I found my way around the roads of Rome, learned to communicate with the locals, experienced the energy and passion of Roman fans in a game against Juventus, and learned to rely on quick macchiatos from coffee bars all around the city.

I entered Roma with one identity, and I leave with many more.

If all roads lead to Rome, then I’ll see you again soon.

Thank you.

Pompeii as Text




Before I entered Pompeii I found it hard to relate to the humans who’s lives ceased to exist in 79 A.D.

As I walked around the dozens if not hundreds of small streets, in between all of the ruins, I started to understand these Pompeiians.

They were just like me.

These were people who walked around their town, eating at stop-and-go fast food stations, which they had literally everywhere (Pompeiian Mcdonalds?) In Pompeii there were over 100 different places to eat. These people loved their food (as do I).

The moment that I felt that Pompeiians were just like 21st century human beings (or rather, that we are just like them) was when I saw a “beware of dog” mosaic on the floor. It took me a second to realize that these people, who existed almost 2 whole millenniums ago, had the same warning signs that we use today, with basically the same wording, in order to keep intruders out of their space.

They didn’t know what was coming, civilians in Pompeii were living their lives, eating their food, and visiting brothels, dogs and children were playing under the sun. They were living the same lives we are living today, when their lives were suddenly taken.

The main lesson I learned when I visited Pompeii was to appreciate my life, appreciate every single moment, appreciate my food, my animals, my town, my home. Because even with all the technology we have today, life is still fleeting, and we never know what the future holds.


Maria Sara Valle: Italia as Text 2019

By Maria Sara Valle of FIU

Tivoli as Text

The Valley of Hell and the Hike to Heaven

We cannot understand true pleasure, love, and divine paradise until we understand pain, heartbreak, and hell. The Valley of Hell or “Valle dell’Inferno” located in Parco Villa Gregoriana in Tivoli, Italy was one of the most beautiful and yet difficult hikes I’ve done in my entire life. This beautiful view includes a waterfall with fierce, white water from the Tiburtine canyon, ancient ruins, and a myth of a portal that seems to go straight to hell. This breathtaking view was a common stop on the Grand Tour for European students pursuing a classical education. Many documented their time there in journals and drawings capturing the beauty of the waterfall and the history of the Temple of Vesta and the Temple of Sibyl. The Valley of Hell gets its name from tragic stories of flooding and drownings caused by the ferocious Aniene River that killed many citizens and destroyed countless houses. It wasn’t until 1835 that an engineer by the name of Clemente Folchi designed artificial canals known as the Gregorian Tunnels which divert the rivers power away from civilization. Pope Gregory XVI called for the reconstruction of the park around the now artificial waterfall and thus the park was named Villa Gregoriana. 

For me this experience was one of kind. It combined my eternal love of waterfalls, breathtaking landscapes, and nature with my immense dislike for strenuous hiking. As much as I love exercising and staying healthy, hiking is one of those activities that literally takes my breath away but not in a good way. My apple watch activity tracker calculated that we climbed a total of 90 flights of stairs and walked 14.42 miles that day, my highest activity achievement. It was a difficult and steep climb/descend with many worn down steps and uneven surfaces. The tears nearly filled my eyes as my sore muscles moved my body forward. Yet, I did it! I never gave up and although my body begged me to quit, to turn back, I knew that the true Hell would be my regret if I didn’t finish that hike and experienced the satisfaction of reaching the bottom of the Valley of Hell. The light at the end of the tunnel was seeing the waterfall from the bottom, its immensity surprised me and took my breath away. I was shocked. I stood there and stared for a few minutes thinking to myself how proud I was of not giving up and how many things the human body is capable of as long as we believe. The experience of going inside a cave for the first time was something I will never forget. All in all, it was a spiritual experience for me. In that view I found my strength, in that view I found a new love for hiking and exploring, and in that view I saw my destiny. Nothing that comes easy is worth having and I am not afraid of continuing to work incredibly hard to reach my dreams!  

Roma as Text

“Twenty in Roma”

Rome housed the greatest empire in the world, nurtured Catholicism, and birthed the renaissance, and now Rome has also witnessed me grow immensely as a person. Rome is the city where the impossible becomes possible. Through the Colosseum and the Roman Forum we realize how advanced and successful Romans were at acquiring territory, building beautiful structures, and creating the system of government we utilize today. In the assembly and holiness of the Pantheon we can see the love of architecture and art of several Roman emperors such as Hadrain, a very well-travelled emperor of Rome during 117-138 AD. The Pantheon was once a monument to all the Gods and is now one of the most beautiful places for Catholic worship in the world. From every peak and angle Rome’s skyline is like no other I have ever witnessed before, filled with history, culture, and in all honesty, pure magic and blessings.

Although I love my country and my city of Miami I have never ventured outside of the city walls on my own. I adore having the safety of my parents embrace. Being far away from my family and friends has forced me to think about who I truly am and the type of person I want to be. For me, Rome has helped me connect to my spirituality. My whole life I have been conflicted between my religious beliefs and science. I have always been certain that I am a woman of science and for many years I felt like these two could not overlap, so I neglected my faith. I have had so many blessings and miracles in my life that science cannot explain. I found myself always turning to God and the Saints when I felt lost or alone. Since then, I have realized that my belief in God and in science can coexist, they can even complement each other. During my religious pilgrimage through Rome I have realized that my connection with God is something no one can take away and that I never want to lose again. The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs built inside the ancient Roman Baths of Diocletian was designed mainly by Michelangelo Buonarroti in the 16th century and proves my newfound belief that we can be humans of science and religion. My favorite part of this church was the scientific influences made by the astronomer and mathematician Francesco Bianchini who built a meridian line inside the church for Pope Clement XI to check the accuracy of calendars, predict Easter, and provide Rome with a sort of sundial like the one in Bologna’s cathedral all while praising God. Now I am certain that I can believe in God and the church while still loving and advocating for science.

My first day in Rome I turned twenty years old and by my fifth day in Rome I had fractured my big toe riding bike on the Appia Antica, the oldest Roman road. Basically, in only five days Rome had already seen me smile from ear to ear, stare mesmerized several times, and cry my eyes out. This injury also helped me see the kindness of the Italia people. A lady offered me water while I sobbed about my toe underneath a historic aqueduct, a couple helped us call a taxi to take me back to the apartments, and then in San Giovanni Addolorata Hospital the doctor took us to see Roman ruins where the original statue of Marcus Aurelius, which is now in the Capitoline museum, was found. There is nothing more momentous and unforgettable about this city than finding my faith and my inner strength to continue exploring Rome as an unstoppable force.

Pompeii as Text


Mount Vesuvius, an enormous, active volcano that measures 30 miles at the base and is 4,203 feet high.1 This dangerous volcano is found only 9 km from Naples in Campania, Italy.1 Since its most infamous eruption which caused the destruction of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii in 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius has erupted over two dozen times and killed hundreds of others, but the volcano has remained inactive since 1944.1 The giant now sits silently waiting, and its power continues to grow and grow. With only one major highway out of Naples, a surprise explosion would be devastating for this city, similarly to how the volcanic eruption in 79 AD flooded Pompeii with ashes and volcanic rock for 18 hours, practically trapping it in time. Here, it is like time never passed. The bodies of the victims remained covered in pumice and ash for over a thousand years leaving behind voids after their bodies decomposed. Using plaster archaeologists were able to fill in the voids, capturing the emotions of the Pompeii victims in their last moments. Scans of the teeth from the victims reveal healthy teeth structure, most had no cavities.2 Dentists believe they had healthy eating habits of vegetables and fruits, and high fluoride content in the water.2 Now, we can see this city for what it truly was. Brothels, restaurants, and bakeries filled the streets in a dynamic city. Despite the beautiful scenery, my heart broke. The castings capture the emotions of the victims as they took their last breath while their world collapsed among them. All I wanted to do was help them, but it was too late for them to escape nature’s fury. The story of every single person broke my heart in half. There was a child next to their parent in a deep embrace, knowing it was their last moment together, dying in each other’s arms. The photograph above is of a man who died covering his nose delaying the inevitable. I stared at him forever, wanting to take away his pain, to dry his tears, to bless his soul. Every heart and dream was crushed in the timespan of 18 hours. I cannot even begin to imagine the fear of the children, the despair of the adults, and sadly we cannot control mother nature. Catastrophes plague our world, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and tornadoes threaten our happiness. In Miami I have seen hundreds of houses and families destroyed from the wrath of our Earth. As global warming continues to affect our home we are putting ourselves more and more at risk each day. All I hope is that we learn from our mistakes and can prevent losing the lives of thousands of people in the future.


  1. http://www.pompeiisites.org/Sezione.jsp?
  2. https://www.seeker.com/pompeii-victims-bodies-revealed-in-scans-photos-1770334701.html

Italia as Text 2019
Italia as Text
Miami as Text
Italy Study Abroad

Tivoli as Text


Green by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU at Tivoli, Italia.


As far as the eye can see

There is no end, no limit

To what could and could not

Be done.

The landscape at Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli

Humbles even the most ostentatious.

There is so much more than

One’s own existence.

We often assume our existence is the center of the universe.

The truth is that our existence is solely the center of OUR universe.   

There is no end in sight, just


Our minds wander to answer the burning question,

What awaits at the end of the landscape?

Perhaps this wandering imagination

Allowed the Romans to be free.

Free to embrace other cultures.

Free to love who you love.

You see Romans were not concerned

With conforming to sexual and societal norms

Romans were interested in ethereal pleasure

If we were more like the Romans in this way

Perhaps we would be substantially more content

With our lives.

Perhaps love would indeed win.

I imagine Hadrian stood where I stood,

possibly with his wife.

And dreamed a great dream

A dream where he had never fallen

Into the Nile river that day and that his great

Love story was still alive.

A dream where he could look

Into his lovers eyes one last time

and admire the way the green reflects

In them.

A dream where at the end of all of the green

Stood the great love of his life, Antinous

With a beating heart and life in his eyes.

Tivoli as Text

Danielle Rodiguez of FIU at Tivoli

The town of Tivoli is by far my favorite place that the class has been to together by far. I am a huge nature lover and the outdoors is what really connects me with the world. As I have expressed before, history is extremely important and something everyone needs to know but walking through this Valley called the Valle of Gregoriana gave me a feeling of happiness and excitement. Although it was tough to hike down and up and around it is something I felt fortunate to do. We don’t see any of this beauty back home and so it was just so magical I even said, “This is so fricken awesome.” Once I got to the ground. I was so excited to keep going and discovering new things. As we got lower and saw the waterfall, the water would then go down into a black hole that many people have died in and were never found and that is why it has the nickname “The Valley of Hell.” Climbing into the caves was also something that I have always wanted to do. Right when professor Bailly asked if we wanted to go into it I was the first person behind him trying to keep my tears back because it was just so beautiful. It is so hard to put into words the feeling i felt that day but it is definitely something i will never forget and if I come back to Italy this will be a spot I come to no doubt. The next few weeks will be hard to beat this day and feeling.

In 105 BC they discovered that a major flood happened and wiped away dozens of houses, including the Villa Of Manilus Vopiscu. Then, from this day on they realized that floods were happening often and this would kill many people and cause great damage. Then again a major point in history was 1826 when the water was so high it destroyed the banks and left a major part of the town underwater. Then when Pope Gregory XVI was elected he decided to create a dam and during his power it was completed.

Rome as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Rome

Rome has been such a dream. The beautiful pictures and places that my grandma would always show me has finally came true. It’s a place more beautiful than I imagined it to be. Somewhere where people should visit at least once in a life time. It’s filled with such beauty, faith, and history.

One of the things that stood out to me the most and I would say made me emotional was the Escala Santa. These steps have not been open to the public for about 300 years and to see the amount of people go and express their faith was amazing to me. As we climbed up on our knees and touched the spots that supposedly jesus’ blood dropped it was such a sense of hope. It gave me chills.

Another amazing place was Appia Antica. To me like I’ve mentioned previously, outdoor activities are my favorite. The fact that it’s the oldest road/highway in Rome really made me have a big WOW moment. The church that we visited called “Domine Quo Vadis” was beautiful. It’s pretty much when Catholicism started and Peter decided not to be a coward anymore. The feet of Jesus was something that was so incredible to me as well. Also, the catacombs was something I had never seen before! To be able to see where these Martyrs died and all the different levels of tombs was incredible. Rome is definitely somewhere I need to bring my family to.

Pompeii as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Pompeii

The trip to Pompeii was very exciting. We got up early and spent three hours on the bus to get there. Once we got there we saw all these ruins that had been covered in ash by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. I thought it was extremely smart since they did not have light to put white stones in the ground called Cat Eyes so it can reflect and they can have a way to see. As we were walking I noticed these stone bar-like tables that were used for little fast food spots and that was genius to me. Pompeii had about 130 restaurants and 40 bakeries. What I enjoyed most was learning how they discovered the bodies in 1748. Everything was forgotten for about 1500 years until excavation workers discovered the bodies. They would pour plaster on it and then they found the bodies in the exact positions they were in when burned away. The Garden of the Fugitives was impressive. How they found all those bodies and preserved them. It was very emotional seeing family members hold onto each other in their last breaths. Another thing that stuck to me was the oldest surviving Roman amphitheater. The painting from The Villa of the Mysteries was something that is greatly appreciated from all around the world. It expressed female sexuality and it really stands out for how naturalistic it is. I personally think Pompeii is somewhere that is needed to visit, but I do not think that I connected to it as much as I would’ve liked to or that I connected to it as much as other places.

Italy as Text

Tivoli as Text

The way they lived

The catholic church believes that people should focus on the next life, not on this one. This mentality extends from the way of living to the works of art. But the villa of the church cardinal Ippolito II d’Este challenges this idea. The beautiful gardens are fully devoted to earthly pleasures, with its monumental fountains calling people to enjoy this life, with no reminders anywhere of the next life.

The gardens themselves are gorgeous, begging the person to stay and appreciate, but the man behind them poses interesting questions about religion. For years the catholic church taught its believers to focus on the next life, while the members of the church themselves did the opposite, amassing wealth and power. Villa d’Este is a grandiose reminder that the church members are just as human and just as flawed as anyone else, despite being seen as examples to be followed. Therefore, no matter what one’s faith is, a person should never accept what is told to them by officials of their religion as the pure truth without considering what they believe, and what the churches motives might be. Questioning institutionalized religion is essential for members of the faith, so they can better understand their religion, see when they or others are being manipulated, and also become more tolerant of people with different faiths. After all, every religion has its flaws, its dirty secrets, and its complications. Accepting one’s religions own faults will allow people to see behind other religions flaws, and hopefully lead to a more accepting future.

Rome as Text

Time Changes

A temple to all gods. That was the ideal of the Pantheon when it was built. A temple to one God. This is the current ideal of the temple. The Romans were polytheists, and had multiple temples dedicated to multiple gods. This gods were borrowed from the greeks, purely roman, or even deified roman leaders. By building a temple for multiple gods, with the spaces reserved for the god icons having the same size, the romans showed their respect for all the beliefs that existed in the empire.

After Rome fell, and christianity became the ruling religion, the pantheon was repurposed as a christian church. Many churches were built where old roman temples were. Unlike the Romans, christians believed in only one God, and are not accepting of religions which claim otherwise. Having different beliefs than those of the church lead to harsh punishment, and the accepting nature of the romans was lost. There is also the questions of appropriation. Due to a lack of respect for any religions other than their own, christians destroyed many pagan temples and their sculptures. But they also preserved a lot by making it their own. Christian churches have columns that belonged to roman temples, and have a similar shape to those of roman basilicas. By appropriating those aspects of roman culture as their own, the christians saved many structures which we now are able to appreciate, to the cost of destroying their history. The pantheon is a great example of that: the temple that was supposed to be dedicated to eight gods equally became dedicated to only one. Thanks to that, we can appreciate it in all of its beauty and grandeur, but stripped of its original gods. And, most importantly, stripped of its original meaning of acceptance and inclusion. As I walked into the pantheon, I felt overwhelmed. I could barely believe that it existed, in all its splendor, for over 2000 years. It served to show that despite of the different beliefs and the complications along the way, the essence of the pantheon was still there: a place of spirituality, to connect with your god, to worship.

Pompeii as Text

Ashes to ashes

Thousands of people stared at the sky on the year 79 AD, from the roman city of Pompeii. They stared as the Vesuvius erupted, projecting  a column of smoke into the air. They watched as the ashes started to fall. Many fled, but a couple thousand stayed, being burned to death by the heat from the eruption, or suffocated by the noxious fumes. They were covered by the ashes, forgotten for almost 2000 years, erased by the volcano. But their tragedy became a great source of our knowledge of Ancient Rome. The city of Pompeii, and its inhabitants, were frozen in time, their buildings and objects left behind as it was in the first century. This led to a greater understanding of their daily lives.

What fascinated me the most when visiting the city is how real Ancient Rome became as I walked down their streets, and how similar they are to us. The restaurant outside the gym, where romans could get what would be their equivalent of fast food, shows how we are all still human. We only hear the stories of the lives of the great, hardly ever of the common men. We hear of the battles and the victories, of the gods, of the architectural displays of power we can still see in Rome, such as the Colosseum. Seeing how they lived, walking the streets they walked, visiting their private houses gave me a better sense of what being a Roman was than I could ever get from history books or documentaries. Seeing how they lived made it much more difficult to see how they died. The figures made from the empty spaces in the rock capture the inhabitants of Pompeii in their last moment of life. Adults cover their children, people attempt to protect their faces somehow, perhaps afraid of death. Then and now, we are the same, from the way we live to the way we die, we are human. Seeing the humanity of the Ancient Romans makes Pompeii so special. Besides, natural disasters can happen anywhere, and the modern world is still young. Who knows if 2000 years in the future we won’t be buried in ashes ?

Madeline Pestana: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli as Text

Villa Adriana by Madeline Pestana of FIU

Progress or Regression?

Studying the Romans we’ve noticed in many ways how our society reflects those of Ancient Rome. Before the end of Ancient Rome in 476 C.E. it was normal, or rather expected, for emperors and men in general to have several sexual relationships outside of their marriage with females and/or males. These relationships were allowed as long as their partner belonged to a lower social class to avoid conflict with their wives. In this case, monogamy was not part of their culture. Is this behavior replicated in the US? In the 1800s it was not uncommon for a white slave owner to have sexual relationships with female slaves. These interactions occurred frequently and their wives, those aware of the relationship, would feel less threatened knowing her husband’s partner was a slave. Though monogamy was part of their culture, men took after the Romans in this aspect of relationships. Similar to Ancient Rome, Early America pardoned men for having sexual partners outside of marriage. However, the biggest difference was the partner’s gender: male and/or female. In Rome, homosexuality was as common as heterosexuality. Roman Emperor Hadrian was married to a woman and was also involved in a relationship with Antinous, a man. Hadrian was very open about his relationship with Antinous and since he belonged to a lower class, Hadrian’s wife was not threatened by their relationship. Therefore, Hadrian showered Antinous with gifts and allowed him to accompany him on his travels. The Romans were accepting of sexual fluidity and did not look down upon people’s sexual proclivities. On the contrary, during Early America homosexuality was frowned upon and it was difficult for people to express their sexual fluidity. It wasn’t until the 21st century that Americans have become more accepting of homosexuals, creating new norms and shortening the division between homosexuals and heterosexuals.

As we continue to explore the Romans, it is evident that we have adopted certain behaviors but lack their willingness to accept humans and their desires. Americans lack this ability but with time, it is beginning to change with the legalization of gay marriage, and the steady increase of human rights to all.

Rome as Text

Photo by Madeline Pestana

“La Passeggiata” by Madeline Pestana of FIU at Rome, Italy

     The passeggiata, an evening stroll, is an Italian custom designed to “reinforce a sense of belonging” according to author Giovanna Delnegro. This activity is intended to increase social bonding and as I’ve noticed, Italians will take advantage of any moment to exercise, also using this time to burn some calories. However, the most beautiful aspect of the passeggiata is not the opportunity for weight loss but its purpose in reinforcing the sense of belonging. Italians have immense pride for their country and express this feeling by integrating symbols and phrases into their society. The initials SPQR stand for Senātus Populusque Rōmānus, meaning Senate and People of Rome, in English. SPQR appears on most street corner, paintings, signs, and walls. Once you locate the initials, you’ll notice that they are everywhere. The image of Remus, Romulus, and Lupa Capitolina, the origin on Rome is replicated countlessly in art, logos, and apparel. It is evident that their pride is deeply rooted in present day. This being said, the passeggiata brings people together in the community to remind them who they are and where they came from. The repetition of symbols and phrases is a reminder of the principles Italy represents and with whom it all started.

During this time I’ve developed admiration for Italians and their community, which has lead me to think of my own traditions and how they all began. As an American, I am prideful of my country but have noticed that we lack activities that unite us a community on a daily basis. My family is from Cuba so our traditions originated in Cuba, not America. It is clear that the United States is a collection of several communities originating from different countries, but unfortunately we do not engage in community as a whole. This has left me wondering if there is a way of uniting the community as the Romans do.

Pompeii as Text

Picture by Madeline Pestana

“America, the New Rome” by Madeline Pestana of FIU

    Pompeii, the infamous ghost town harbors ancient traditions and remnants of what was that still is. Our society is greatly influenced by theirs in several ways, including gestures, gender roles, and business strategies. Exploring Pompeii we’ve discovered century old traditions that are currently still in practice.  

    On the foreground, upon entering one of the doorways read “Have” which translates to Welcome. An early record of this gesture making it over 2000 years old is an example of what was and still is. In front of homes a welcome mat is often placed at the foot of the front door. Businesses also have welcome signs for their customers or have a representative personally welcome them. When entering a new city or town, again, a welcome sign is posted. A ubiquitous gesture, often overlooked is over 2000 years old and in the city of Pompeii there is record of its earliest use.

    The earliest records/occurrences in history can sometimes be used to predict the future. During the Roman Era, more specifically during the time of Pompeii women had the ability to acquire wealth and property. The “Villa of Mysteries” was owned by a wealthy woman in Pompeii and within the walls of her home are famous frescoes, interpreted as ritual activities. In Hispanic families, women undergo “rituals” as well. On the day of her 15th birthday, it is customary for her parents to host a celebration known as a Quinceñera. On this night, her parents will publicly announce their daughters transition into womanhood by completing ceremonial activities. Leading up to this night the girl will experience changes within herself and on the night of, she will wear a gown, very similar to a wedding dress, and have a ceremonial change of shoes where the father replaces his daughters flat shoes for high heels. Throughout the night, she also performs several dances and by the end of the night, she will have entered womanhood. The frescoes found on the walls of the Villa of Mysteries illustrate a young girl’s journey as she completes a ritual. In the last scene, the girl is dressed in an elaborate clothing to represent the end of the ritual. This fresco from the Villa of Mysteries shows that gowns or elaborate clothing and rituals are continually used to describe a women’s transition from one role to another. The Villa also foreshadows the future of the U.S in regards to women’s rights. The Villa was inferred to be owned by a married women. Around the mid-1800s women are given the right to own property in their own name in the US. The Villa is a representation of the rituals and liberation of womanhood.

    On the other hand, typically fast food and exercise are not paired together. The Romans in Pompeii and the owners of Chick-fil-A on Flagler and 87 Avenue in Miami thought otherwise. Touring the ruins, we discovered a bar with bowls carved into it where food would be served. This was the Roman version of fast-food. One bar in particular was built across the street from a gym. The idea of using hungry athletes to advance the restaurant business began with the Romans. The tired athletes from LA Fitness are tempted to eat from  Chick-fil-A after a tough workout because of its close proximity. The idea is clever (to have restaurants located in front of or next to gyms), but after learning about the Romans, our ideas are no longer clever, instead, they’re imitations of what once was.

Gabriela Gonzalez: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli as Text

Water is Power

As my time exploring Italy continues, it is incredible to see the pride Italians have for their country. The importance of water seems to be the common factor as we visit historical sites, engulfing ourselves in the history of one of the greatest civilizations to ever exist. I find myself admiring the intricacy of the attention to detail Ancient Romans had. Every brick laid, every arch that stood, every marble slab set in place, had a purpose. I will never cease to be amazed by the innovative ideas and engineering of the Romans as they aimed to reach perfection. Among the many great accomplishments the Romans attained during their survival, some of the more obvious ones are a fair/just system of government, outstanding artwork and engineering; but what we often seem to disregard is how important water was to Ancient Rome. Water symbolizes many things from fertility, to fear, and most importantly survival. I always knew water had been important to the Romans in the way that it was important to all civilizations as a result of the existence of structures such as aqueducts intended to transport water to all its people. What I had not considered, however was that water could have a deeper meaning as well.

Our first day of class while walking through Rome, I was pleasantly surprised to know that there were public fountains scattered all over the city in order to provide clean drinking water to all for free. Survival. What an amazing concept! I happily accepted this gift from the Italians and refilled my water bottle multiple times in the days that followed. When it was time to head over to Tivoli, that’s when my perception of water changed significantly. When the class reached the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, we were told not to look out any windows in order to preserve the experience and be surprised once we reached the outside part of the villa. I was speechless at the sight of the numerous fountains and small streams decorated with statues, redistributing the water. The loud roar of the fountains sounded like music to my ears as the mist gently left droplets on my skin. Tranquility. This villa was built as an homage to beauty, pleasure, and the beauty of pleasure; the symbolism of the spewing water representing the interaction of male/female pleasure, combined with the statues of men and women truly highlighted these themes.

Shortly after we continued our excursion as we headed to the Valley of Hell. Fear. At first the scenery seems tranquil and beautiful, begging the question of why this is synonymous to a hellish place. I quickly realized why many Romans feared this place as the steep paths of slippery rock and uneven ground decorate the site while leading to a magnificent waterfall. We learned that this began to be called the Valley of Hell due to the fact that so many had perished in said valley. Although people feared the water when it would flood surrounding infrastructure, it did not stop them from acknowledging the power of this valley. Power. We climbed and climbed (82 flights according to my health app) until finally we reached the entrance to Hell. This cavernous fear monger was petrifying to see. One wrong step and you could fall to your impending doom. But at the same time it was intriguing to explore as we all made our way to the inside of the cave to snap pictures while enjoying the roar of the water in the background.

Water is power. But it is also tranquility, beauty, survival, and fear. Water was extremely important to the Romans and this notion was magnified during our trip to Tivoli. Most importantly it is still important today in these ways and many more. This begs the question of comparison to the United States and how little we seem to value our water. Water is sometimes taken for granted because it always just seems to be available especially living in Miami, but when I think about those who don’t have access to clean water such as residents of Flint. Michigan I am saddened by the government’s disinterest in their well-being. The Romans may have done many controversial things but the government never failed to provide for and consider its people.

Roma as Text

“La Lupa Capitolina” by Gabriella Gonzalez of FIU at Capitoline Museum, Roma.


I am Lupa. Over centuries my story has been told and my image has been reproduced. Allow me to tell you what happened on that fateful day when I met the twins.

It was a day like any other; I was scavenging for food for my pack alongside my mate when we separated and I wandered down to the Tiber River to quench my thirst. I heard a sound and my muscles tensed as I thought a predator was lurking about. That’s when I saw the strangest thing – a floating basket. I had seen one of those where the two-legged ones would sometimes dispose of their garbage. I felt a pull in the pit of my stomach and curious to see what was inside, I quickly chased it down as the current continued to carry it. I clamped onto the handle with my teeth and placed it onto the river bank. Soft whimpers echoed in my ears so I quickly nudged the blanket with my nose to see what was inside. Two-legged ones. But very small ones. “They must be pups”, I thought. I turned to leave them in the basket but just as I was going to step back, they locked their eyes with mine and I could not bring myself to do it. I grabbed the basket and took it to the den nearby, where I had suckled my own pups, years before. Now they were fully grown and trying to be like their father, the alpha. It felt nice to care for pups once again as my last litter had already joined the pack.

Clamping onto the scruff of their necks, I removed the two legged pups and set them down on the cool dirt. They scrambled and fussed until I allowed them to suckle on my breasts, hoping this would calm them down. The whimpers seized and I continued to care for them as my own pups. I stayed in that den for what seemed to be hours when I realized I had separated from my pack. I ran out as the small ones slept, and found my mate, telling him what had happened. When we returned to the den with the rest of the pack I saw a two-legged one – Faustulus, I had heard others say – grab the pups. We hid in the bushes as the shepherd Faustulus grabbed them. He had kind eyes. Saddened to see them go, I never forgot about the twin pups. I would not see them again for many years…

The years passed, and I began to deteriorate with age. One day when I was resting near the Tiber River, always reminiscing on the day I found the two-legged pups when I heard rustling in the bushes. I turned around and found two tall and handsome, young two-legged ones facing me. Immediately I recognized their eyes. Those same eyes full of power and strength had stopped me dead in my tracks, years before. They ran to embrace me and said “Lupa, we are Remus and Romulus! We now know who we are and the great favor we owe you. Thank you for saving our lives and for caring for us as your own. We will spend the rest of our lives trying to repay this favor. Please allow us the honor of sharing our story so that everyone can see what you have done.” I smiled weakly and said “My pups, I know you will do many great things in your life and restore things as they must be. I would be honored to be part of your legacy.”

Although centuries have passed, and my physical body is no more, Remus and Romulus have made my memory immortal. My two-legged pups, Remus and Romulus*, the founders of Rome.

Pompeii as Text

“Ruins of Pompeii” by Gabriella Gonzalez of FIU at Pompeii, Italy.

A Letter From a Survivor

My beloved Aurelia,

 It has been five moons since I last saw you. Five moons ago I kissed you and our son goodbye before leaving to work. I was out at sea in Napoli when I saw a plume of smoke coming from the mountain. I was both fascinated at the sight and terrified as I had no idea if this darkness was an omen from the gods or perhaps a hiccup from the earth. My captain redirected us to the nearest island as the wind had begun to carry the smoke towards us, filling our lungs with darkness. It has been four moons since we’ve been on this island hiding away from the thick smoke. We have taken turns heading out to bring supplies to the rest of the crew but I feel numb. Seeing the liquid flames ooze into our city I can only hope that you and our son were able to escape. I tried to search for you when the masses of people began to pour in to the harbor fleeing Pompeii. I am hopeful that you both made it safe and I long for the day that we are able to be reunited. 

Yours truly, 


When I first entered the city of Pompeii I did not know what to expect. I had spent much of my childhood watching documentaries and listening to my teachers talk about the volcanic eruption and how it was a city trapped in time. Little did I know that it would be an understatement to the reality of this city’s tragic past.

Pompeii was a city ahead of its time that granted women the right to own businesses, to earn money and have rights, much like the rest of Ancient Rome. It had its own amphitheater, luxurious villas, and approximately 140 restaurants, 50 bakeries, and 30 brothels. Pompeii was a social city, if nothing else. It wasn’t as grand as Rome, however the fascination with Pompeii lies in its preservation despite its total destruction. In 79 AD, around the time the Colosseum was finishing its construction, Mount Vesuvius erupted. No Pompeiian knew what this was or even that they lived near a volcano, for that matter, as it had never erupted in their lifetime.
I find it fascinating that we can pinpoint the exact date, down to the month and day, that this tragedy occurred due to Pliny the Younger’s recount of the volcanic eruption.

While walking through the skeletal remains of a great city I couldn’t help but to imagine what life must have been like over 2,000 years ago. Where would I have lived? Who would I have married? What would my occupation have been. As we’ve visited numerous cities and sites of ruins I find myself trying to imagine myself as one of its residents but I sometimes find it hard to connect. The fact that Pompeii was practically left frozen in time so that the way it is now is how it stood in 79 AD, is mind boggling to me but makes it easier to relate to the fragility of life. For this reason I chose to include a fictitious letter from what I can only assume would have been a reality for thousands of families who were separated from their loved ones. Despite being a city of approximately 20,000 people, of which 17,000 were believed to have fled at the first sign of danger, around 3,000 chose to stay. This statistic is hard to wrap my head around because logically one would assume that fight or flight instincts would kick into high gear and everyone would leave. Upon further reflection, however, it would be unfair to assume that those who stayed were dumb or ignorant. As we discussed in class, maybe the ones that remained were unable to leave. Perhaps they were old or ill, or even just unwilling to leave their belongings.

Human nature is a curious thing. Similar to what the Pompeiians may have been forced to do, whenever a hurricane or disaster strikes, an outsider may find it easy to say “just leave your things and run!” This is definitely much easier said than done as people (I’m guilty of this too) find themselves “waiting it out” or not wanting to leave their material objects behind. This becomes more complex when you take into account that the Ancient Romans in their ferocity and intensity also had a longing for the well-being of their loved ones. From elaborate statues commemorating lost ones, or even headstones remembering the lives of their spouses, I think it’s easy to say the Romans were passionate people in all versions of the word.

It begs the question, are we really any different from the people of the past? Or are we just reliving the same lives in a different time? As this class continues I find myself more and more certain that human nature in all its entirety can be flawed and delicate, but resilient and ingenious regardless of where it lies on the universe’s timeline.

Mozelle Garcia: Italia As Text 2019

Tivoli As Text

The Foreigner

Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Tivoli Italia, Instagram @mozelleg99

I hear the birds on the summer breeze, picturing a life of leisure and ease

philosophy by day, debauchery at night 

who could possibly stop me? my soldiers win every fight.

But judge me they may, judge me they do;

those pesky native Romans, the ones who 

do not dare to see beyond their gleaming white city,

do not care to accept those from different places.

Even if for them I’ve battled and gotten my hands dirty,

a Spaniard like me could never have their good graces.

So here I’ll live, here I’ll stay

In my brilliant villa far away.

Where I can read on my own and narrow my guests to

those who love the same pleasures that I do.

Exercise and bathing,

fishing and star-gazing.

And a view from atop the hill

where I can see the city which I must visit,

take my place for which many would kill.

Being Emperor of Rome won’t be all bad, will it? 

The issue of a leader not being accepted by much of his or her people has not gone away in civilized society. We need only look to the many Americans who continued to question President Barack Obama’s birthplace even after proof of his natural born status was publicized, and of course how many people were doubtful of his competency because of his race. With this they allowed their prejudices to impede them from forming opinions that were actually based on the quality of his leadership. 

The Big Ideas

Hadrian ruled after Trajan, during the “Pax Romana,” a period of peace which lasted 200 years. During this time Roman citizenship was granted to more and more people, increasing opportunities for trade and the connectedness of the empire as a whole. Instead of making new conquests, Hadrian toured the empire and learned from the different cultures within it. This can be seen by the various different architectural styles that made up his villa in Tivoli. While Hadrian may have had his flaws, his place of birth should not have been used to drive him away from the people he meant to rule over. Still, the result of that was a gorgeous and unique residence with features that exemplify the best of ancient Roman utilities. After having the opportunity to tour the villa, who can complain?


Rome as Text

Nothing Gold Can Stay – Colosseum

Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Rome Italia, Instagram @mozelleg99

Knowledge of works like the Flavian Amphitheater, called “Colosseum” by the public who associated it with a colossal sculpture that used to be just outside of it, has fluctuated through history. The Romans in 79 CE certainly knew where it came from and what it was for – the Emperors Vespasian and Titus wanted to give back to the people part of the pleasures which the overly lavish Emperor Nero had reserved for himself. The Colosseum was a place where Roman citizens could gather to watch gory spectacles. Wild animals tearing at each other, feral with fear and goaded on by the roar of 50,000 or more people stomping, clapping, shouting. Men would be thrown to the animals too, condemned prisoners with nothing left but the right to die. Not to be forgotten are the Gladiators, not quite like the modern celebrities of today who are idolized for their artistic pursuits, rather they were more like the animals, made famous by their actions when they were cornered with no choice but to fight. And fight they did; battles that ended with blood soaking into the sand of the arena.

And suddenly there I was, the only battle raging  seemingly a fight for a space to take pictures. Many people visit wonders like this just to check them off a list, but while at the Colosseum I had a battle within myself to see past the magnificence of the architecture and rather consider the price it cost. To capture this I chose a picture from outside the Colosseum, taken from high up in the Roman forum where one can see that I wear a bronze ring bought in the gift shop. It shines in the sun, like I imagine the real thing once did when it was covered with polished white marble. This visit was one of the first excursions of our entire trip, and so with this ring I will carry the Colosseum with me everywhere we go. It’s metallic glaze has already begun to rub off, staining my hands dark green with tarnish. It’s transformation reflects that of the real thing perfectly, as the words of Robert Frost prove true once again; nothing gold can stay.

The ring will be a reminder of the roots of all Rome, a place built on war and conquest, run by political masterminds who transformed the republic into an empire. They did this by distracting the public from the real problems by providing something cool to look at. We can call them masterminds, because their goals are still accomplished today. Witnessing the Colosseum is overpowering, and it is what many people imagine when they think of Rome. It gives the people today the impression that the Romans likely would have wanted it to give, that they were a powerful and advanced people capable of great feats. But it’s our job to remember that everything is not always what it seems, and that’s the mindset we must have even when contemplating less famous works moving on.


Pompeii As Text


Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Pompeii Italia, Instagram @mozelleg99


This is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper – T.S. Eliot.


When people think of a volcano they think of lava flowing, rampant and out of control, burning the trees and covering the earth in hard new rock. But it wasn’t like that in Pompeii. The eruption there was not sudden, but slow and deceptive. Everyone pictures volcanoes exploding with a bang, but in Pompeii the estimated 2,000 people who stayed behind as the rocks rained from the grey sky were killed in a much slower way. The most striking image in my exploration of Pompeii was that of the ancient man who sat down and tried to cover his face as the fumes cut off his breathing forever. Or perhaps he prayed in vain, wondering what he and his people had done to offend Vulcan, the Roman god of volcanoes, but then again most of them hadn’t even known that Mt. Vesuvius held that heated fury within it before it was too late.


I imagine that the people felt the effects of the fumes before they hit fully – giving them just enough time to know they messed up by staying, just enough time to panic and feel the fear. They perished not with a bang, but with a whimper.


It was hard walking through Pompeii and seeing all of the places people used to live. Seeing animals and little children frozen in time was one of the hardest parts as well – they had no choice but to stay. We look at Pompeii and we can appreciate the historical value of the perfectly preserved city, with the paintings and mosaics of many houses and villas intact, and the evidence of the civilized society rampant in all the fast food places and chariot traffic regulations. At the same time we sympathize with the dead, but we cannot speak badly on their behalf when really, we haven’t gotten much better. It’s so easy to see people’s mistakes in retrospect. Every time a disaster occurs today people come out with claims of what they would’ve done differently. But it’s no help after the fact. The decimation at Pompeii occurred 1,940 years ago, and we’ve come a long way since then, like how we can monitor seismic activity and offer faster transportation. Still, that doesn’t change the fact many people today can try as much as they like to be proactive with natural disasters, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. 14 years ago Hurricane Katrina ravaged all of New Orleans and it was the low income individuals with no place to go and no possibility of finding another future if they left their only properties and possessions behind, that suffered the most. The city is still not fully rebuilt. Pompeii was forgotten through the years after it was destroyed, only the records of Pliny the Younger who saw the destruction himself can help us to know what happened. The same thing occurs in developed countries all the time where the media will cover an event nonstop until the next one comes along, no one pays any more mind, but the issues persist there. I think that the history of Pompeii should serve as a lesson to the people today of the importance of taking the wrath of nature seriously, but also of having sympathy for victims with no control, and enough compassion to follow up and be certain that no city is forgotten. We can do better than that.