In the presence of Minerva

We spent our second day in Rome walking in the heat amongst the throngs of tourists. But we are not really tourist stock and we usually prefer observing people and eating good food than sightseeing. We did sit in the shade of the Colosseum and debated whether to go in or not. Waiting in line in the heat discouraged us some. As I sat on a stone wall looking at the structure, I realized that the very ground I was standing on was soaked in blood. This structure that everyone was marveling at was built of stone and blood: blood of slaves and martyrs and prisoners. Blood for entertainment. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be in its walls anymore.
Every ancient structure was essentially re-baptized and converted to a Christian devotion towards the end of the Empire. We visited the Pantheon that used to be a temple to Roman deities and had been re-consecrated as a Christian Church. It is built according to divine proportions and respects sacred geometry. Lets just say that the ancient ones knew what they were doing…
Our bus was leaving in 2 hours and we weren’t sure where to go to escape the heat anymore. By chance, we passed by the Museum of Ancient Rome. We decided to seek refuge there. It was a stark contract to the outside world: it was cool and only a handful of people walked its halls. A lemon garden grew in the middle. We walked among marble statues of ancient Roman families. You would think that after a couple statues they would all look the same. But I couldn’t get enough of it. These were the remnants of families, of heros, of real people. And they looked so much like me: the same neck line, the full hips, the small stature. I felt like I knew them.

My husband took a picture because he thought she looked like me.

There were sacred bathing vessels. At one end, I saw what was supposed to be a devotional home altar. I put my hand on it and withdrew it right away. I realized that I had no idea what had been offered on it. Despite its marble whiteness, I felt that there might have been blood sacrifices. Not human, I don’t think, but likely animal ones.
The most impressive piece at the museum was a 10-foot statue of Minerva. The inscription said that due to its size, it must have been a cult statue in a temple as opposed to a house statue. I could only dream of all the ritual, offerings and devotions that this statue must have witnessed. I felt the sacred priestesses dancing in front of it. Objects retain the events that they have witnessed. This statue was still alive from all the greatness it had witnessed. I came away from the museum feeling like I had found a piece of truth about myself, reconnected to a forgotten part of my own experience.

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