Finally Tom McMahon's magic carpet ride through ancient mythology brings us to the Trevi Fountain. Apart from the humorous anecdote in this last paragraph of his own experience at the fountain in 1967 leading a group of 16 and 17 year olds, it's not so much a commentary on the Trevi Fountain but on the influence of the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate on helping form the beliefs we hold today.
Let's meet scholar and Emperor Julian born circa 332ce...
Our magic carpet finally touches down near the Trevi Fountain. Our guide Beenherebefore tried to sell us some pornographic cards* but when he realized we were people on an historical search for gods he quickly switched to data copied from Wikipedia.
The Trevi Fountain The fountain at the junction of three roads (tre vie) marks the terminal point of the "modern" Acqua Vergine, the revived Aqua Virgo, one of the ancient aqueducts that supplied water to ancient Rome. In 19 BC, supposedly with the help of a virgin, Roman technicians located a source of pure water some 13 km (8.1 mi) from the city. (This scene is presented on the present fountain's façade.) This Aqua Virgo led the water into the Baths of Agrippa. It served Rome for more than four hundred years. The coup de grâce for the urban life of late classical Rome came when the Goth besiegers in 537/38 broke the aqueducts. Medieval Romans were reduced to drawing water from polluted wells and the Tiber River, which was also used as a sewer. The Roman custom of building a handsome fountain at the endpoint of an aqueduct that brought water to Rome was revived in the 15th century, with the Renaissance.
South of the Danube and the Alps the swelling tribes, later known as The Barbarians, had already entered the Empire by peaceable immigration, even by royal invitation. Augustus had already begun the policy of settling barbarians within the frontier to replenish vacant areas and legions that the infertile and unmartial Romans no longer filled. (Sounds like today's U.S. immigration fiasco ... question: how will Jesus' followers respond?)
There's one of Rome's most friendly emperors, talking with the people at the old Trevi. It's the year 362 c.e. and Ammianus describes Julian as "of medium stature ... smooth hair ... bright eyes, full of fire, keen of mind ... neck thick, shoulders broad ... strong, a good runner". We know that early in life Julian sought education, an avenue that led him eventually into the emperor's palace. Julian studies Plato and barely escapes death for his humane thinking. Julian is pardoned by emperor Constantius. Julian deeply studied pagan learning, religion and thought. He compared polished pagans – heirs of a millennium of culture – with the grave theologians who had surrounded him in Nicomedia or those pious statesmen who had thought it necessary to kill his father, his brothers, and so many more and he concluded that there was no beasts more ferocious than Christians. He wept when he heard the temples overthrown, of pagan priests proscribed, of their property distributed to eunuchs. Once a baptized Christian, Julian accepted initiation onto the Mysteries at Eleusis. Henceforth this highly educated reformer will be historically known as Julian the Apostate.
When one educates oneself about religion and the gods one can find stiff opposition from those who fix themselves in unmovable positions. Does this sound like a familiar story? Our magic carpet log book has names like Roger Haight, booted out a few years ago (2003?) for his thinking of Jesus, 22 priests of the Washington Archdiocese were outed because they opposed Humanae Vitae in 1968, and hundreds of other names and careers destroyed by Roman ignorance and fear ... Yet... Let's be mindful of what Sister Hebenebins told us in Second Grade that the priest is always right ... let's look at the sacredness of tradition and what people thought was of god thousands of years ago ... Nothing changes! And again as the old Italian said "if Latin was good enough for Jesus at the last supper it is good enough for me today!. Knowledge is like the aqueducts that served Rome for 400 years and only the ignorant barbarians make change. Something is screwy here!
The** in the introduction is there to remind me to tell you a story of our pilgrimage to Rome in 1967. Our youth group of 33 stayed at the Michelangelo Hotel and these 17-19 year olds came and went to St. Peter's on their own. A group of six young women came racing toward me as I ventured toward the sacred site under which the institution claims Peter's bones are buried. They were laughing and wanting to tell me of their encounter with a sidewalk salesman who had approached them, flashing down his right arm loaded with pictures of naked women. When they refused him he closed up the right arm and flashed down his left, loaded with holy cards. The girls had been refused entry into St. Peter's because their skirts were not long enough. We had previously visited Moscow finding the people so family orientated and beautiful, so sexually modest. I often wonder today how many of those teens, now mature women and mothers, take part in any Roman religious practices today?
Comments (mine and yours) can be found in the Catholica Forum at:
Tom in San Jose, Ca., remembering the Trevi where we all threw in our coins in 1967. Hats off to Julian whom the people called the new Caesar. 05May2012
What are your thoughts on this commentary?