Rome is like a cake. Beneath roads are old houses, a subterranean layer of history eroding away and returning to the Earth. Modern civilization is the frosting on top, a metamorphosizing, gelatinous mass of life shifting at the whims of the time. Some parts of this upper crust are the same as always. Bernini alleys, a coliseum built from money plundered from Jews, Salvi’s trevi fountain and more are relics of a different time.
You can pass an ATM on the corner and then find yourself standing before the looming, black and weathered Pantheon. History overflows in this city like water from a bucket. The past spills into the modern world, melding the two.
In other areas space has preserved history. After ducking your head through Christian catacombs, your skin damp and tingling from the cold, you can ferociously blink away the sunlight and step out on to the Appia Antica Way.
This cobblestone road beckoned warriors home, a red carpet for the conquering Roman Army. They would return to Rome via this path, laden down with plunder, slaves and greed. Horse hooves would resound off the cobbles, people could see them coming for miles.
And there I stood on this same cobblestone where a dominating military presence reshaped the world before succumbing to their own greed. They must have felt invincible, like heroes warring for the glory of Rome. They were spreading the light of Rome to the world, as if the world had been merely a petty scrabbling of beings crawling around on their bellies before Rome freed them with their sword and blood.
Then they flew too close to the sun. Their kingdom fell apart. The cycle of life buried them in the cake of civilization, giving way to the frosting of Mussolini and beyond.
The funny thing about legacies is that you think what you are leaving behind makes the world a better place, but it might not. You might be destroying life, not giving it. Or bankrupting future generations, not leaving behind a better country.
You may wake up one day and see that the Appia Antica victory road you built to glorify yourself may simply lead to evil.