Roman Forum This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

      I walk through the ruins of the Roman Forum. What I see is real but unreal, present and yet so distant. Plaques lying on the rocks and handrails remind me of modern reality, but there is something so much bigger and more ancient here. A feeling of history prevails in my heart and lingers in my mind. It reminds me of what happened here so long ago, long before it was a tourist attraction.

I see people of all nations, colors and sizes walking the cobblestone streets. They are all here for the same reason: to catch a glimpse of the past. I pass tour groups with guides telling them about Caesar’s house and the Temple of Vesta. Children, talking quickly in Italian, rush past me, squealing with joy as they hurry to see the next ancient building. A band of Japanese tourists, all with cameras flashing, try to keep up with their tour guide while snapping pictures. There are also Americans, people from a continent not even known to the Old World until a millennium and half after the rise of Rome.

There is something more I see, though, something that only appears in the mind. The columns become just some of many in the gigantic temples and buildings all around me. The ruins are whole and the midday sun gleams off their marble surface. The sights and sounds become not of this day where tourists prevail in the Via Sacra but of a busy day in the bustling center of the greatest empire in the world. Servants hurry by to complete their errands, senators strut past in crimson-bordered togas, and merchants peddle their goods. I am at the Arch of Titus and stop a moment to gaze in wonder at the artisan’s skillful hands as they carve yet another tale of triumph into its face before it is dedicated in A.D. 85.

Maybe today isn’t just another unimportant chapter in the lives of the ancient Romans. Maybe today is the day Marc Antony stood on the Rostra, the speakers’ platform, and spoke his eulogy for Caesar. Maybe the sedan chair that passed by me contained a Vestal Virgin, or the empress herself. Perhaps the emperor has come to speak to the Senate about another war with the barbarians, or to complete his plans to add yet another monument to his city.

As I stride toward the Arch of Titus, carried forward by the crowd, my adrenaline starts to pump in anticipation of today’s gladiatorial matches. Maybe someone will be put to death in the Colosseum today. Or perhaps today is just today, and I’m just another American tourist in the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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