Long live the Republic! Long live Italy!
With these words the newly-elected 12th President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, ended his inauguration speech earlier this week. After a very short campaign season and voting process (according to American standards), Mattarella was inaugurated as president on February 3rd. He succeeds President Giorgio Napolitano, who had served two terms in office.
The day of the presidential inauguration was full of pomp, circumstance, and ceremony. The process is known as the “insediamento” or literally the “seating of the president” – taking his seat of office – or to put it more ceremoniously, “enthronement’. It is full of rituals, flags, and anthems that all symbolize the transition of power to someone new.
Since we had just visited the Roman Forum last week while studying the Roman context of early Christianity, it was difficult not to compare these presidential festivities with some aspects of the ancient Romans’ display, affirmation, and use of imperial power.
The Military was, of course, involved at various points of the day, including a cannon salute, wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and a military jet fly over. There was also a motorcade parade through the streets of Rome when President Mattarella rode in a special car usually used for the June Military parade.
These events reminded us a little of the Roman Emperors riding in their chariots through the streets of Rome or the procession of returning Roman generals parading their spoils of victory under the forty Arches in the Roman Forum when they came home from war.
President Matarella’s visits to the Parliament and Senate, and his taking possession of the presidential palace, reminded us of seeing the Roman Senate building in the Forum and the Rostrum where speeches were delivered and received by the Roman people. Indeed, being in Rome for these 21st century events of Italian politics helped us to make a connection to what we were learning in the classroom and on-site, while exploring the Roman context of the New Testament.
Here are a few of the students’ reactions to our Roman Forum site visit:
“Visiting the Forum has been one of my favorite sites because of the history behind the ruins and the ease at which I can grasp its significance. The additions and restoration of certain parts of the site are interesting because they contribute to the rich history that the location and city represent.” – Miguel Bermudez
“The left over ruins of what was once the Roman Forum are a reliable source available for us to help us better understand the significance of life in ancient Rome since every event of importance took place in the heart of the eternal city… public speeches, trials, elections, ceremonies, funerals, and other public functions.” -Alexa Lombardo
“Formerly known as the beating heart of Rome, where religious, political, and commercial life converged, the Roman Forum and its ruins trace the history of Rome from the time of the city’s development through the Middle Ages.” – Kathleen McGinty
“Our class trip to the Roman Forum was very enlightening and filled with so much ancient history… With monuments like those in the Forum, we are able to learn about the lives and beliefs of those earliest Christians.” -Caitlin Lehane