Conditions in Imperial Rome are full of contradictions. The size of the population and the architectural grandeur evident in the region are contrasted by the overcrowding of the cities. Affirming the notion that the law of change continues to operate throughout time even through the period of antiquity, within the Roman towns during the Second Century A.D., class stratification exists. The townsman enjoyed all forms of goods and resources of the earth whereas peasants knew of nothing except unending labor. Such stratification seems to me to defy the ideas imbibed, as one perceives the Column of Trajan.
The column of Trajan is erected at the center of the city of books. Carpocino notes that the column was erected by Trajan to represent his warlike exploits as well as to extol his clemency and might to the skies (9). As one perceives the column, one sees that a relief separates the two series of records. As I reckon, this relief represents the significance of the column itself. The figure of Victory resides in between the columns, such a figure stands a sign that Rome has enabled the spread of civilization with the word and the pen.
As was noted by Adams in Exploring the Humanities, the Roman Empire has placed upon itself the necessity to pacificate and civilize the world. The figure of Trajan thereby serves as an enlightening figure as far as it serves as a spiritual justification for the acts of the Roman Empire within and outside its walls. The figure thereby like any form of art form serves as a symbolic figure that opts to symbolize the ideals of the Roman Empire, ideals which enabled the stratification within society and enabled to a certain extent the inequality produced by the availability of the word and the pen to a few.
As was stated at the beginning of this narrative, such conditions were caused by the physical impact of territorial expansion. Rome became a large, densely populated, and grand city starting from the fourth century BC. From that period onwards, the construction of the city of emperors continued to increase whilst in the process leading to the creation of the glorious structures within the ancient city such as the Roman Forum, the Colleseum, the arch of Titus, and the structure mentioned above, that being Trajans column. It is important to note that such a contrast as to the symbolisms that represent the Roman Empire and the current conditions within the city were also physically visible. Consider for example that the dwellings within the city were also separated from the public structures.
To be in Rome, during thus period, was an experience that appealed to all of the senses. Within the streets, one felt the power of the crowd, the touch of tiger skin rug, and the diversity of various ornaments available for trade. The grandness of Rome was evident, as one perceives Hadrians Pantheon. Hadrian was one of the five good emperors of the Roman Empire and his reign brought not only prosperity but also a deeper appreciation of fine arts, especially architecture. Upon entering the Pantheon, I was astonished by its majestic structure, which fused together two great civilizations; the Romans and the Greeks. The Pantheon combines a clearly Roman cylindrical structure with the splendid outer colonnade of Greek inspiration.
This was understandable because of the fact that the emperor Hadrian was very appreciative of Greek culture. One may indeed feel a certain sense of serenity within the confines of this concrete dome. This may have been the effect of its vaulted roof. It resembled the heavens. From below, the oculus at the center of the vaulted roof created a much more peaceful effect. The oculus was the only thing that admitted light inside. The Pantheon was indeed, an epitome of the empires grandiosity: A grand structure for everything divine. As one departs from the serenity of the Parthenon, one however perceives the contagious development of corruption within the streets of the great city. Such a contagion will later lead to the demise of the Roman Empire.
In sum the experience taught me that the glory of Rome is somewhat blemished by the conditions that existed within its walls. Although the beauty of the structures remain within the city walls, we should never forget that such a beauty was partly determined by the existence of a worldview that favored the domination of the few for the profits of those in power. Such an experience affirms Aristecles perception of Rome
About her [Rome] not only is it impossible to speak properly, but it is impossible even to see her properly¦(I)t requires some all-seeing Argos¦For beholding so many hills occupied by buildings, or on plains so many meadows completely urbanized, or so much land brought under the name of one city, who could survey her accurately? (qtd in Hope 69)
Adams, Laurie. Exploring the Humanities: Creativity and Culture in the West. New York: Prentice Hall, 2006.
Carpocino, Jerome. Daily Life in Ancient Rome: The People and the City. Ed. Henry Rowell. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2007.
Hope, Valerie. The City of Rome: Capital and Symbol. Experiencing Rome: Culture, Identity, and Power in the Roman Empire. Ed. Janet Huskinson. London: Routledge, 2000.