This morning we tagged along with the college students as they visited the Ara Pacis, the Augustan alter to peace. It is housed in a beautiful, light-filled, contemporary building (with an awesome fountain out front – after the students left, Fletcher and Lola Gray had a grand time splashing in the water!) After viewing the alter, we spent some time in an exhibition downstairs featuring Mussolini era architecture. It was an interesting exhibit. Fletcher was fascinated by his first exposure to Fellini films (just snippets – we will have to view a full film at some point soon) and Lola loved the giant heads.
We are so lucky to be able to join the university group on these outings! I’m not sure the Ara Pacis would have been on my radar otherwise, and I’m certain I would have missed much if not for being able to listen in on Dr. Murphy’s lectures. I love knowing that the swags of garland hung with cow skulls inside the alter are more than just decoration, but are referencing the way a sacred space would have been created. Or the fact that the Ara Pacis is one of the only depictions of children found in Roman art, a bit of advertising for the fact that the government was giving tax breaks to the upper class for having more children. These are the things that make history come alive, the stories that make the things we see more than just beautiful objects. I don’t know how much of the details the children will remember, but I hope these trips are at least fostering in them something of a sense of wonder, a knowledge that there are stories there to be found and the curiosity to seek them out.