Roman emperors didn’t know everything, but good lord, they knew about real estate. Yeah, they acquired everything from the Scottish Borders through North Africa and past Syria and Iraq…but that quantity. Let’s talk quality.
The island of Capri (home of capri pants and insalata di Caprese) is a paradise off the coast of Naples. Volcanic mountains that fall right into the Mediterranean are as dramatic and beautiful as the world gets. Augustus build a palace at the very zenith of the highest mountain (complete with huge cisterns to catch rainwater for the baths). It took a solid 45 minutes of strenuous vertical climbing to get to the place from which both Augustus and Tiberius ruled the Roman Empire.
What struck me, after I caught my breath and stopped sweating, was that this was a great place to see what you, as emperor, commanded…and this was just a tiny peace of the homeland. It was awe-inspiring…which it was meant to be. We’ll see that again and again: awe matters with the emperors.
The opulence of what the emperors experienced came at a tremendous cost of slave labor and lives. Tonight, Dominic was talking about Paul’s declaration of “dying and rising with Christ” meaning that early Christians died to the life of the culture at large, namely that which the Roman Empire valued: the patronage system and patriarchy. Marcus worked with Paul’s concept of there being neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female, which totally upsets the applecart of the ancient world order.
The most impressive part of Capri wasn’t the Villa Iovis (Augustus’s palace, named to honor Jove) but rather the natural surroundings created by God and entrusted to us as stewards of the earth (and heirs of God, as Paul says). Tomorrow, we’re off to the catacombs in Rome.