Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Rome. By then I’d already read some Roman history and had a detached appreciation for the Eternal City. Walking through the ruins was a different experience altogether. My writing often reflects the two extremes of my imagination and our modern reality.
The glory of Rome faded well over fifteen hundred years ago. The city today is still impressive, but a visit to the Colosseum only shows the bones left behind. Imperial Rome is reduced to a tourist attraction and lives only in obscure literature (or fiction if you write like me). That doesn’t stop me from taking building fantasies from what remains.
What it means for me:
The picture above is from one edge of the Roman Forum, specifically the back of the Curia Julia (the senate house). This building was once the scene of political intrigue and pivotal moments in Roman history. Today its a crumbling shell of long faded grandeur, but that isn’t why it is important to me.
The ruins of Rome, (or a dozen other places that inspire me) are important not because the were once more imposing, but because they are a physical link to the events that shaped human history. I love ruins because my mind can recreate the splendor they once held, fill in the missing scenery with imagination, and bring the past (or some version of it) to life again.
How I use the past for today:
The skeletal remains of the past come to life in my writing, and with those images, I can build new settings. I can recreate what ancient events may have been like, or extrapolate new scenarios based on those events. Ruins are a canvas for my words to paint new images that may thrill and amaze my audience.
Ruins are a common ground other people can relate to before I add a heavy dose of the fantastic. Rome is a personal favorite because I have read so much about its people, places, and its history. That history echoes into the modern day as we grapple with issues the Romans dealt with long ago.
Rome wasn’t all glamor and prestige. It also saw crime, poverty, and corruption. The messy and undesirable parts of the city are just as important to me as the triumphs and monumental architecture that has survived. Rome is an expression of the human condition locked in fallen stones and rebuilt plazas. Tourists come to gawk at the bones (or the art, the architecture, the religious sites, the modern city, or whatever draws them there). For me, Rome is the muddled ideal of what humans are capable of when we work together.