The famous Roman Forum was our second site visit of the semester. The format of our course, The New Testament in the Eternal City, includes not only classroom lectures but also site visits each week. More than simply “fun field trips”, these site visits are an integral part of the academic component of our study abroad program. Each week the site is to be integrated with the content of the classroom lecture. And while we’re on site, there is even more academic input from me and the occasional guide who leads us. So, pens, notebooks and course texts are not left behind! Instead, the site itself becomes both our classroom and the focus of our study – our “text”.
Our lecture was on the Roman context of early Christianity and our trip to the Roman Forum gave us a feel for what it was like to live, work, shop, participate in politics, and pray in ancient Rome. The basilicas, government buildings, temples, and areas of commerce included in the Forum helped us to understand how it functioned as the political, religious, and social center of ancient Rome.
One of the advantages of studying the New Testament in Rome is being able to have an “up close and personal” experience of the ancient Roman Empire through the architectural and artistic remains of it that can be found throughout the city. Walking into the Pantheon, climbing the stairs inside the Colosseum, or trekking through the Roman Forum are all ways to experience the Roman context of early Christianity.
Here is what some of the students said in their essays about our Roman Forum visit:
“The Roman Forum, through its architecture and culture, can act as a ‘primary source’ when studying Christianity and the New Testament in particular.” – Alexandra Brady
“… with the erection of the Arch of Constantine, Christianity gained official notice in the Roman Empire. The arch, which honored Constantine’s victory over a rival emperor, seems to refer, however, to both Christian and Pagan beliefs.” – Chris Burrows
On our tour of the Roman Fourm we observed many situ artifacts in their original places that contribute much to the history of Christianity… One artifact that combined both religions was the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina originally build around 141 AD. ..In the 12th century AD this temple was converted into the church of San Lorenzo after the legalization of Christianity…” -Grace Maxim
“A visit in the modern day to the Roman Forum is interesting because you are able to see many of the Pagan remains from ancient Roman society, but you are also able to get a glimpse of their transformation. Many of the old Pagan temples, such as the Temple of Romulus, have been converted into Churches.” -Nick Berardi