ταῦτα μὲν τὰ περὶ  Ἰταλὶαν γενόμενα.

Because the proximity of the Crypta Romana to the Antro della Sibilla, and the possibility that Vergil alludes to it in his description of the entrance to the Underworld (he mentions a tunnel before the sacrafice scene that opens up the underworld; it could be interpreted as though Aeneas and the Sibyl anachronistically descended to Lake Avernus through the Crypta Romana, or at any rate make one think of it), I went to Lake Avernus in the hope of getting a closer look at the tunnel (you can only see the entrance from above on the Cumae site). I knew I wouldn’t be able to get into the tunnel; it collapsed during WWII fighting, unfortunately. I just wanted to get a look at it so I could see if anything about it matched up with the text, and to take some photographs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get near the actual Crypta Romana. Some locals from the vineyards around the lake explained that the cave was on the private property behind a dilapidated mansion on the shoreline, and that it was closed because it was very dangerous. No one was around the mansion (my Blue Guide confirmed that the tunnel should be back there), so I couldn’t ask if I could see the cave, but the fenced-off area behind it looked inhabited, so I didn’t really want to risk scaling the walls and getting shot. I suppose that’s what makes me an aspiring philologist, not an archaeologist.

Luckily, the tunnel to Lake Lucrinus was approachable, although it was of course locked. Since it was part of the same defensive system, I believe it is representative of what the Crypta Romana must have been like inside: big and creepy.

For the rest of my pictures from Lake Avernus, (the relevant ones have fairly useful captions) you can take a look at the album here.

I spent the second day studying just the Antro della Sibilla, the Cave of the Sibyl. Here’s some background information on the cave. The passage, called a dromos, was cut sometime around the 6th or 5th centuries BCE (just for fun, most scholars like to give conflicting accounts), and its trapezoidal shape is reminiscent of Mycenae, but also of Etruscan tombs at Cerveteri.

The dromos, eroded down to its current opening.

The dromos, eroded down to its current opening.

Compare/contrast: a trapezoidal door to an Etruscan tumulus at the Cerveteri necropolis.

Compare/contrast: a trapezoidal door to an Etruscan tumulus at the Cerveteri necropolis.

In the 5th c. BCE, the Greeks at Cumae (the city was colonized by Pithekoussai [Ischia] in the 8th c.), with some help from Hieron of Syracuse, defeated Etruscan invaders in 474. Some scholars believe that the dromos was cut in the period following the conflict, since the stonecutters could have been Etruscan slaves, hence the trapezoidal style. The cave would then date to roughly a half century after a Greek restoration of the temples on the acropolis. Others think that the Oscan-Samnites, who conquered Cumae in 421, had the dromos cut. At this point, the scholarship diverges even more. Some archaeologists want the dromos to have been cut for a religious function; as a seat for the Sibyl there, who would have been controlled by Hera Catachthonia (an underworld version of Hera). I like that theory because it would make everything so simple, but I cannot fully believe it without more evidence. The suggestion that seems more likely to me is that the dromos was cut as part of a defensive system for the acropolis. The defensive works could have been undertaken by Cumae after they defeated the Etruscans, or else by the Oscan-Samnites, who would have been preparing for the Roman invasion. Whatever the case, the Romans conquered Cumae, and in 334 its inhabitants received citizenship without voting rights. Fast forward a few hundred years, and Octavian is fighting a war with Sextus Pompey. Cumae becomes his base city. Generals Agrippa and Cocceius fortify the acropolis, and the Antro della Sibilla becomes a storage facility. The three lustral basins in the east wall are converted into cisterns, fed by pipes built into the walls. Roughly perpendicular to the entrance of the Antro della Sibilla, the generals dug a tunnel to Lake Avernus, now called the Crypta Romana.

The Cumae entrance to the Cryta Romana.

The Cumae entrance to the Crypta Romana.

Lake Avernus was then linked to Lake Lucrinus by another tunnel, giving the Romans access to the Porta Julia. After his victory, Augustus monumentalized the acropolis. He renovated the so-called Temple of Jupiter and the Temple of Apollo, as I discussed in the previous post. He also restored the so-called Antro della Sibilla, apparently even reinstating a Sibyl there (I have no idea how he pulled that one off). The move is similar to his recreation of the Sibylline Books (they burned in a fire in the earlier 1st c. BCE), which he placed in the Temple of Palatine Apollo.

Now for my findings. The entrance to the Antro della Sibilla has been eroded significantly, but in its original position, it would have stood just a few meters from the Crypta Romana. As I mentioned above, the Crypta Romana leads to Lake Avernus, which happens to be the fabled location of the underworld, so the path to a place associated with war is also the path to the land of the dead. In this land, Aeneas discovers the greatness of his future race. It seems possible that Vergil used the coincidences of topography and strategic building to comment on a somewhat cyclic relationship between war, death, and power. After all, one of the first things the Sibyl prophesies is war. Therefore, it is also appropriate that her cave played a role in a war, just as the greatness of Roman destiny overshadows all else.

In my previous post I mentioned the lunar calendars on/in the cave, but I neglected to mention that, to the south of the Temple of Apollo, there are remains of a much smaller structure thought to be a temple of Artemis/Diana.

The remnants of the suggested Temple of Artemis/Diana

The remnants of the suggested Temple of Artemis/Diana

The Sibyl in Vergil belongs to both Apollo and Diana Trivia, but Apollo’s role is the only really significant one in the Aeneid. The Apollo-Diana tension that seems to appear here (it does elsewhere in the Aeneid) might end up being relevant to my paper, since it could be related to one aspect of her character, namely her chastity and Apollo’s revenge for it.

Most of my findings are in photo form, documenting the Roman fortification of the cave, the lunar calendars, the proximity of the Crypta Romana, and the position of the Temple of Apollo right above the cave. The pictures also show the various parts of the cave. Here’s a sample that should illustrate the points I have already discussed:

The oikos, the room at the end of the cave. The adyton is on the left, but it isn't really visible in this picture.

The oikos, the room at the end of the cave. The adyton is on the left, but it isn't really visible in this picture.

The adyton, from which the Sibyl supposedly delivered her prophecies.

The adyton, from which the Sibyl supposedly delivered her prophecies.

One of the three cisterns in the eastern gallery.

One of the three cisterns in the eastern gallery.

A water-channel installed during Octavian's campaign against Sextus Pompey.

A water-channel installed during Octavian's campaign against Sextus Pompey

I know I said that I would post my results from each day (12/21-23/2008), but my hostel lied about having internet access, and I couldn’t find an internet cafe. As a result, I wrote everything up by hand and never really organized it, so now is my opportunity to do so. Here’s the basic synopsis: On Saturday, I left Rome for Naples, and I arrived there at night. I spent all day on Sunday at the Cumae site, patchy/confusing transportation time excepted. My focus that say was on the Temple of Apollo so-called Temple of Jupiter. I devoted all of Tuesday to the cave of the Sibyl. Because of my findings, I actually went to Lake Avernus on Wednesday. I departed Italy early Thursday morning; I had done everything I needed to, and Italy, being extremely Catholic, was shutting down for Christmas – the already poor transportation to the archaeological sites was going to turn into a total nightmare, anyway, and the site was going to be closed on the 24th and the 25th. There was nothing left for me to look into, so I am satisfied with how it went.
To begin with, here’s the relevant part of my research proposal:

The Cumaean Sibyl is my intended topic of senior research. I plan to begin my paper with historical background on the Sibyl and a description of her influences on Rome, mainly through the Sibylline Books. From this point, I would like to transition to philological analysis and focus on how Vergil adapts the historical Sibyl to the context of the Aeneid. I am particularly interested in how Vergil’s Sibyl receives her prophecies from Apollo instead of speaking her own prophecies as other traditions say she did. I also plan to use the fourth poem of the Eclogues in my analysis of Vergil’s Sibyl. My hope is to establish a link between the role of the Sibyl and the role of the poet, and discuss any implications which Sibylline prophecy holds for imperial Roman politics. At this point, I intend to transition to a discussion of the Sibyl’s role in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Because Ovid reconsiders Vergil’s characters and imparts to them an even greater literary and political significance, I expect that the discussion of Ovid’s Sibyl will be the culmination of my research project.
After completing my fall 2008 study abroad program in Italy, I would like to conduct research for my thesis project at the Antro della Sibilla, the cave in Cuma (a town north of Naples) where the historical Sibyl resided. I plan to study the layout of the site and take photographs for the background information section of my paper. My most important goal, however, is to collect evidence for an argument which I plan to develop in my paper. As I mentioned before, Vergil’s Sibyl delivers her prophecies under the inspiration of the god Apollo. Nevertheless, Vergil also describes how the Sibyl would write down her prophecies on leaves, which would then be scattered by the winds, rendering them useless to the person consulting the Sibyl. Prophecy involving leaves recalls Dodona, the location of an oracle of the Greek god Zeus, whom the Romans, including Vergil, associated with the Roman god Jupiter. The same hill which holds the Antro della Sibilla also contains on it the ruins of both a temple to Apollo and a temple to Jupiter.
The existence of the two temples is significant to my research because both gods share the domain of prophecy, but Jupiter is Roman god, while Apollo was adopted from the Greeks. In Vergil’s lifetime, the emperor Augustus had relocated the Sibylline Books within Rome from the temple of Capitoline Jupiter to the temple of Palatine Apollo. In effect, the possession of a vision of Rome’s future transferred from the most powerful native deity to a god of a conquered people. Therefore, I believe that Vergil connected the symbolic significance of the relocation of the Sibylline Books to his literary Sibyl. Right before Aeneas, the protagonist of the epic, invades Italy, he must consult the Sibyl when she is speaking under the influence of Apollo, not prophesying through Jupiter’s leaves. The Sibyl’s different types of inspiration by the two gods who also happen to have temples on her hill is possibly then a commentary Roman imperialism and the implications of the absorption of foreign cultures.
I plan to study the relationship between the location and characteristics of each of the three sites in order to find support for my argument. I expect that differences in the elevation, size, and architectural characteristics of the two temples will reveal the ways in which the Romans perceived the importance of each of the two gods in the context of the other buildings which share the hill.

That’s what I was doing in Cumae.

As I mentioned above, I devoted my first day to the so-called Temple of Jupiter and the Temple of Apollo. I was immediately glad that I studied the site in person, or else my entire thesis would have been thrown off by a bad assumption. As it turns out, the Temple of Jupiter, although it does sit higher on the acropolis than the Temple of Apollo, has no visual impact whatsoever; a trail winds back along a gradual slope that eventually leads to the top, where the temple is shrouded by ilex trees.

The hill on the left is where the so-called ToJ is. To the right of the rock on the right in the foreground of the picture and a little higher up is the Temple of Apollo. Downhill, behind and to the right of the observer, is the Forum. See what I mean by "no visual impact"?

The hill on the left is where the so-called ToJ is. To the right of the rock on the right in the foreground of the picture and a little higher up is the Temple of Apollo. Downhill, behind and to the right of the observer, is the Forum. See what I mean by "no visual impact"?

Even assuming that the top of the hill had been cleared of trees back then (unlikely, the area was even then known for ilex forests), the distance makes it invisible to someone standing in the Forum of the town (or roughly thereabouts; the Forum is currently closed). There’s another big problem; there is really no evidence that the temple was in fact a Temple of Jupiter. In the 18th Century, some scholars decided that the lofty position of the temple meant that it belonged to the sky-god. That’s barely a reason to name it the Temple of Jupiter, but the name, like so many others in archaeology, became conventional anyway. There’s already a Capitolium in the Forum, so it’s not like Jupiter was underrepresented in Cumae. The structure itself is difficult to study because it was converted into a basilica, which caused some significant changes, then it was burned in the the Neapolitan invasion. Part of the podium is the only remnant of the Greek phase, and the remaining opus reticulatum walls are from the Augustan phase. There’s not so much as a single Corinthian column to suggest even the possibility that the temple belonged to Jupiter.

The remnants of the so-called Temple of Jupiter. Lame.

The remnants of the so-called Temple of Jupiter. Lame.

As I am about to discuss, the Augustan renovations to the Temple of Apollo were much more impressive, and the fact that the ID of the Temple of Apollo is secure, while the ID of the Temple of Jupiter is obscure, is telling in its own right; The Temple of Apollo was far more important. As for my question as to whether there is a shift in emphasis from Jupiter to Apollo, I seriously doubt it. Livy, writing a bit later than Vergil, tells the story of the Sibyl and Tarquinius Priscus, in which the Sibylline books are written on palm leaves. My gut instinct (versus my informed academic opinion) says that he must have had another source than Vergil; why would the leaves get mixed up by the winds if the Sibyl could put them in book format? Anyway, my point is that there is an emphasis on Apollo, but no conscious detraction from Jupiter’s status.

My suspicions concerning the Temple of Apollo seem to have been correct – the temple does sit right on top of the Antro della Sibilla; although erosion caused the current entrance to the cave to be located several meters from the space directly below the temple, the remains of the cave’s walls can still be observed until they terminate almost directly under the terrace supporting the temple.

This picture is taken at roughly the vantage point from the bottom of the Augustan ramp in front of the TOA (the ramp is now blocked off). The green bit of stone that cuts the bottom of the photo in half is where the entrance to the Antro della Sibilla used to be. The white fence parallel to it demarcates the Crypta Romana.

This picture is taken at roughly the vantage point from the bottom of the Augustan ramp in front of the TOA (the ramp is now blocked off). The green bit of stone that cuts the bottom of the photo in half is where the entrance to the Antro della Sibilla used to be. The white fence parallel to it demarcates the Crypta Romana.

The original Greek temple was peripteral and set on a large stylobate on a north-south axis. Augustus actually reoriented the temple to an east-west axis, placing a massive porch on the front of the temple, creating what is called a transverse cella, which means that the front of the temple sits on the long, rather than the short, side of the rectangular inner chamber of the temple. Transverse cellae are extremely rare in Roman architecture; the only examples I can think of off the top of my head are the Temple to Veiovis and the Temple of Concord in Rome. The objective seems to have been to make the temple dominate the acropolis. From the forum and the road running down the opposite mountains, the temple would have been clearly visible to anyone approaching the city.

The Augustan-age entrance to the TOA: a really big porch.

The Augustan-age entrance to the TOA: a really big porch.

Due to the sheer size of the temple, I believe that the colossal temple to Apollo that Vergil describes Daedalus building is actually a hyperbolic reference to the Augustan Temple of Apollo at Cumae. McKay (A.G. McKay, Cumae and the Phlegraean Fields (Hamilton, Ontario: Cromlech Press, 1972)) theorizes that the doors of Vergil’s Temple of Apollo at Cumae are a reference to the bronze doors on the Temple of Palatine Apollo in Rome (162-4), where Augustus placed the restored Sibylline Books. Interestingly, at the same time as Augustus renovated the two temples, he monumentalized the Antro della Sibilla and restored the cult activity there. Just as he had the Sibylline Books recreated, he also had the Sibyl recreated, so to speak. Nevertheless, there is an issue of dating that matters in my project: Did Vergil write about Cumae in response to Augustus’ restorations, or did Augustus restore the acropolis because Vergil wrote about it so movingly. I read one article that suggests the latter, but I am not entirely convinced. I’ll conclude this section with a quote from the signs around the archaeological park, which are actually from a legitimate source: “The temple, in fact, became the symbol of the alliance between Apollo and the gens Iulia, which according to the Sybilline [sic] oracle was destined to dominate the world.”

Although my focus on this day was the two temples, I noticed something interesting on the western outer wall of the Antro della Sibilla. In three different spots, lunar calendars are cut into the stone.

A lunar calendar on the outer west wall of the Antro della Sibilla.

A lunar calendar on the outer west wall of the Antro della Sibilla.

Apparently, the west side is where the moon would have rose, so it is appropriate. Some of my research linked these to cult activity related to either Artemis or Hera. There is, after all, evidence that Hera was the inspiring deity for the Sibyl before Apollo. Since I am a little uncertain as to the exact direction in which I am taking my paper, I couldn’t say if this will ultimately be relevant to my project, but it is noteworthy all the same.

This concludes the overview of my findings from Day 1.

The End?

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Ten minutes ago, I handed in my final exam. My choice of two out of six possible essays, covering two different themes that both spanned from 8 BCE to 5 CE: complete. How does a semester of travel, learning, claustrophobia, bonding, loneliness, friendship, loving and hating everything, turbulence, loss, stress, deadlines, failures, and growth end with adding my name and assigning a number to each of the final ten pages that cover some of the best and worst days of my life, all disguised in the objectivity of an essay about the facts I learned on those days?

As we walked out of room, the tumult of cheering, screaming, and congratulations ensued, but all I could manage was a smile. I cannot begin to describe the stress of the past two weeks, but upon its release, all I felt was empty, and quite alone. It’s a typical experience for me; I always feel a loss of purpose at the end of a semester. This semester, however, is the biggest thing I have ever done, and something I had to work for with a lot of effort. I learned that getting something you worked for does not mean that one escapes the person she was when she worked for it; that is, a success doesn’t mean happiness. I may be in Rome, but I am still myself, and everything that is me accompanied me. I couldn’t run away, but now I know that if I had been able to, none of this would have meant anything.

The Four Rivers fountain by Bernini has been restored, and the scaffolding is gone. Piazza Navona looks spectacular, and there’s a carousel and a fair for Christmas. I went gift-shopping there yesterday after the Thucydides exam; I needed something to lift my spirits after the end of such a great class. I ran into a Centristo, and we went to the Pantheon (a personal favorite) again, and eventually walked to S. Maria in Trastevere to see the sixth-Century CE mosaics. We had to stay on the fringes of the church as we were admiring the art because an orchestra of school-age students was practicing. Watching all the parents scurrying around, some taking pictures or videos, some talking, others watching intently, really brought me back to my early days in band. I went to a Catholic school, and we always had Christmas concerts. It’s weird to think how long it has really been since I was just like those kids.

I’m not going to Venice today. Tonight is the closing dinner, and I am going to do the difficult thing and stay here and experience the end of the program, and all the goodbyes that I would have run away from. Marijke put it correctly; running away from the end and pushing everyone away is such a typically-Susie thing to do, and I was on the verge of doing it again. It’s going to be hard for me, but I have lived in this city and with these people for four months now, and I need to say goodbye to both. There is one person in particular to whom I owe a real farewell, and I think that she, more than anyone else here, was the one from whom I was running away.

I’m in the middle of my Thucydides essay right now. It’s the fourth essay I’ve written in a week, so naturally the quality isn’t what it could be. I never made it to Venice because the Art History midterm got moved up to Monday. There’s supposed to be major flooding there right now. I might still go after my last exam on Thursday. I heard they’re giving out rain-boots and other incentives to support their tourism industry.
Whatever happens, I’m leaving for Naples on Saturday. At that point, this blog will take on a new function: documenting my findings from the Cumae acropolis. I suppose I should say some things before the change.
Looking over this blog, it appears to be on the negative side. It’s not unusual for me, but it also gives a distorted image of what it has been like here. The truth is, this is the best thing I have ever done. I worked really hard so I could get here. I can’t say that I’ve had a profound self-discovery experience of any description, but I learned some stuff; isn’t that worth something? I’ve had an amazing time. I simply am not gifted at rehashing my everyday life in entertaining ways, so I was ultimately unable to convey all the good things that happened here. Furthermore, I prioritize mental and emotional happenings over physical ones. That is, I am more concerned with my interaction with my environment than my environment itself. In fact, I am not quite sure that I can separate myself from an experience at all. Still, that means that anything I write won’t be relevant to anyone but me. I think it’s been useful for me, though. Anyway, I started this hoping to be able to write a proper travel narrative that documented everywhere I went, but it proved to be a little too much for me. Isn’t this post also evidence of that?

Although I have two essays to finish today, I need to take a break right now. This week, it began. As I was walking down the road out of Ostia, I realized that it was the last time I would be there. Since that moment, the realization that there are only two weeks left has thrown me into a rather turbulent state.
I’ve definitely improved at Greek this semester, which is probably my biggest achievement. I still suck at it, but now I suck less. I also have gained a lot of context for my Latin literature studies. I have seen the places and monuments that I have learned about since I started Latin in 8th grade. I really can’t even begin to describe how much Classics-related knowledge I have gained.
Ultimately, I was not able to connect with any of the other students here. It has been a constant source of frustration for me; sometimes, it gets hard to enjoy things alone. Of anything this semester, I view my near-isolation as my greatest failure. How can someone live in such close proximity to other people, but feel no lonely? Nevertheless, I have spent so many hours with these people – in the Centro, crammed on a bus, attending all-day lectures, etc. – that I have still developed a mechanical solidarity that overrides the frustration. My group as a whole is great. Our inside jokes, our group dynamic, and our memories have formed for our sum a collective personality that cannot be preserved in that one page of names in the Centro book that we will be reduced to. Everyone seems to feel it. Often I have had remarks about what the next group will be like. People seem particularly interested in how the next group of students will interact with the professors; some have expressed jealousy. No one likes to be forgotten, or, maybe worse, to be compared to someone else and come up short.
Part of me is ready to go home. I am excited about going back to my own school, and I have so much to look forward to. On the other hand, I have been somewhat free for the past three months. I have the ability to jump on a train and go anywhere I please. Although I rarely use that ability, I love knowing that I have it. I know that I will feel trapped when I go home. I also know that, right now, I am a part of something that won’t exist anymore in two weeks. It has made its impact on our identities, but it will nevertheless be reduced to a memory. It’s going to be a loss I’ll feel deeply. If I can, that is. Even when I have rapid emotional fluctuations like I am now, they are so much duller than they used to be. That has been one of the biggest changes I have undergone here. I don’t even know how it happened. I have had so much pain in the past three years – so many ups and downs, always felt to the most extreme extent – but, somehow, I just stopped feeling very much. I hover around my baseline mood now. I can’t feel very happy, but, at the same time, I don’t really hurt anymore. That’s in reference to one specific aspect of my life, but, to a lesser extent, it has pervaded the rest. Still, the strongest thing I feel is a crushing perception of being alone.
I am considering going to Venice next weekend. My parents gave me some money to have fun with, and I have always wanted to go to Venice. I can study for exams on the train, and, besides, I am not much good at studying anyway. I usually don’t even try to. Here, we have so much material that I have to. Even so, my studying generally extends to reading over my notes, then just thinking about all of it. I can do that in Venice just as well as in Rome. At the same time, I feel a little miserable about it. I asked around, but no one wants to go. The truth is, they wouldn’t want to go with me, even if it were not the weekend before exams. I don’t blame them. Still, I am annoyed with myself for a bad habit I have developed. At the risk of sounding completely insane, I frequently daydream about conversations with people who have left my life, especially when I am travelling alone. If I go, I’ll probably spend the whole time doing that. I really, really want someone (that’s intended to be somewhere between a quidem and an aliquis, but definitely not a quisquam…) to come with me.
*Title from Blink-182, “Adam’s Song,” Enema of the State – quite possibly one of the best songs ever written, and a personal favorite.

Today I found out that the paper I wrote on the pronoun form tune in Vergil’s Aeneid got accepted at a conference. Everyone who put up with me stressing about it when I was still working on it earlier this semester was really nice about it. As for me, I’m excited, but really nervous. I share my professor Joel’s philosophy on this sort of thing: “Don’t f*** it up.” Unfortunately, f****** it up is what I’m best at.

Right now, I’m working on my epigraphy project. As it turns out, there is hardly any scholarship on the poem in my inscription. The closest thing to a proper commentary is a translation with notes, and there are very few of those; I think I have them all. The green-and-yellow Hellenistic Anthology omits my poem, probably because it is missing in one of the papyri. Therefore, unless I am missing something, I am the first person to write a real commentary on the poem. Not good. I spent three hours of the day agonizing over how to render two out of three forms of ἐάω that appear. Total headache. See, ἐάω means allow, but because it is kind of in the sense of “let it go,” it can also mean “leave off of.” In other words, its second definition comes close to a contradiction of the first. I’m citing other translations in my discussion, but they tend to conflict with each other. Then, my pal Callimachus decides to throw in a crazy sort of indirect question, just for me to interpret what it is doing. My project advisor basically left that one to me. Not that she didn’t know what it meant: the issue is that it could potentially refer to the speaker or the addressee, so it’s kind of my job to figure out which is best. She said I had her full confidence; I wish I had mine.

*12/2: There is some commentary out there. I was looking for commentaries on Callimachus, but, as it turns out, the epigrams are usually published in editions of the Palatine Anthology.

Sanctuary

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Quaedam: How are you?
me: Fine.
Quaedam: Are you lying?
me: Yes.
Quaedam: Do you want to talk about it?
me: No.
Quaedam: Are you going to be okay?
me: Of course.
Quaedam: If you want to talk, I’m here.


It’s happened about three times before, but, last Thursday, it ended differently. I’m not used to having someone that honest around. It’s disconcerting in some ways, but it is oddly reassuring. The thing about a truly honest person is that she breaks through one’s insecurity; if she didn’t mean something, she wouldn’t say it. Many people claim that characteristic, but few people actually possess it. It involves the ability to say “you’re completely wrong” when someone is, rather than glossing the situation with a compromise answer. I’ve never really encountered that before, and it’s something I will miss when this is all over. Regardless of what I said in my last post, I’m not ready for it to be over. I dislike change, anyway.
I’m in Suetonius now. Obviously, I’m only auditing, since it is past halfway through the semester. I’m glad I accepted the offer; I feel happier already.
We leave for Campania on Saturday. I suppose I am looking forward to it, but someone I relied upon quite a bit through the trying aspects of the Sicily trip will not be there. My interaction with this particular person consistently has been something I cannot explain. I often have nothing to say, but amid the silence I have an odd feeling that this person understands me. I am not sure how that is, but I perceive it.
When we get back from Campania, there will be four weeks left. Four weeks until I return to the world I wanted back last week. The world without someone, whom I don’t think I will ever see again. It hurts.
Despite all the books and lectures, as always (it seems), interaction with another person has taught me more than anything. I want to be able to say, “Thanks to you, I can walk on my own now,” but the stubborn part of me wants to insist that the person walk with me instead of helping me up, then leaving. Forget stubborn; it’s downright selfish. Not only that, it presumes a level of equality that we simply don’t have.

My Blaqk Audio shirt is gone, a good friend of mine has been sick, and my dog is dead. There, I just put all the negativity right out there. My favorite shirt? No idea where it went MIA, but it never resurfaced after Sicily and Germany. My friend in Germany doesn’t have it. Considering that I don’t own a lot of clothing in general and the washing machines here are decimating everything I brought with me, it’s annoying. My friend’s situation is her own. As for my dog, she had been sick for the past few weeks, and even though I felt this was coming, it doesn’t make it any easier. I haven’t even heard the full story, but in addition to the illness, there was something wrong with her leg. The vet had her on pain meds, but she was up for several nights crying, and they don’t think she had slept in days. It’s not entirely clear to me whether my family took her to the vet the last time for the purpose of having her put down, or if they took her there for an appointment and the vet suggested it.
I am not sure how I feel about euthanizing animals. On the one hand, it cuts short a long and painful death, but on the other hand, can one always be sure that the animal really wasn’t going to recover? Moreover, a human being can make the reasoned decision “I want to die,” but it is impossible to know whether an animal is capable of desiring death. Will and consent involve reason, which an animal lacks. I am not saying that I wanted my dog to suffer – I am just expressing my ambivalence. Debating morality isn’t going to change the fact that she won’t be there when I get back, anyway.
At the moment, I am feeling ready for this to be over. I want my life back, but more than that I want my identity back. I have no sense of self here, which I suppose is caused mainly by having what I always refer to as a context-dependent personality. I amused by people who talk about travelling to find themselves – if anything, I’ve become more lost. In addition, I don’t even have the one thing that makes me worthwhile. I didn’t take Latin this semester, for the first time ever – there were two classes that it was more advisable for me to take instead, so there was no room in my schedule. Academically, I’m nothing without Latin.
On Thursday, I got to hang out with one of my classmates from Mary Washington, who is in the ICCS: Sicily program. He had about a 12-hour layover, and due to the Centro’s bad visitation (or lack thereof) policy and our ignorance of the fact that Termini closes late at night, we ended up staying up all night walking in Rome. It was interesting to compare experiences, not to mention a relief to see someone from my world.
Mary Washington is really where my life has been for the past two and a half years (I was a transfer). I’ve never had the kind of college experience that one sees in movies and that society seems to expect, but I like the one I have had. I’m not ashamed to say I’m not very bright, so I have had to work really hard. There have been a lot of assignments that an intelligent person could do in about three hours, but I sit there staring at for hours with no idea how to go about completing it. Nevertheless, I consistently chose to sit there as long as it took to get it done. I guess what I am trying to convey is how college has been the first time I have really, wholeheartedly committed to something. Ultimately, I fell short of it; I didn’t get the 4.0 overall. Neverthless, I have found a place where I have built something, no matter how relatively insignificant.
More importantly, I am content there, and I feel like I am a part of something. Incidentally, I don’t believe in happiness as anything other than a fleeting emotion, so I can’t make a sweeping statement like “I have been happy in college.” The best I can ask for is to be content, and I’ve had that. Nevertheless, I have met people whose presence and company does fill me with genuine happiness, and maybe that has been the most worthwhile part of it all.
Of course, the painful part of the current situation is that the first semester back will be the last semester there. I’ll graduate to being nothing again, and I suppose I will inevitably lose the people who made a difference.

*Post title appropriated from the song “Brothers on a Hotel Bed” by Death Cab for Cutie, Plans. If you don’t have this CD already, get it. Trust me on this one.

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