HEC Student Competition, Second Place: Sarah Fuller’s “The Layers of History”

This spring, we held our first Humanities & Ethics Center Student Competition. We invited Drury students to submit a reflection, of no more than 300 words, on a record of the human experience that has affected them.  
A “record” here could come from any of the following categories: books,  films, essays, historical objects, religious texts & objects,  artworks & digital media, languages and cultures, authors, philosophers, religious or historical figures, monuments, or memorials.
During four Mondays of the summer, we will be publishing one of the four winning entries on our blog. Below is Sarah Fuller’s “Layers of History,” which won second place ($50). Additional winners include Bre Legan whose discussion of the film Her who won first place ($75). Reflections by Madison Stehle, who wrote on a history class in Spanish and Picasso’s Guernica, and by Olivia Thompson, who wrote on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s poem “La Marioneta,” tied for third place ($30 each). 
We are proud to present their work to our readers, and delighted to have such strong students in the Humanities at Drury.

Second Place: Sarah Fuller, “The Layers of History”

“Rome is a lasagna,” my tour guide told me when we entered this ancient city. “There are layers upon layers of history buried here.”

This metaphor holds true.  

In the Vatican we stand above the dead Popes, generations of holy men lay under our humbled feet.

I could almost hear their whispers. Their Latin prayers.

In the Roman Forum the ancient Pagan houses of the Gods stand forgotten (and newly remembered) under the weight of the Catholic churches which were built over top. Even the Colosseum stands under the weight of time. New layers were built over the old as the sacred fighting grounds were adapted for different purposes while the trial of time went on.

In the Roman Catacombs layers of tunnels under the ground house human bodies from hundreds or thousands of years ago. No one knows quite how deep it is, they say. It is here that I feel it the most; these abstract layers of history.

‘Rome is a lasagna,’ thought I, ‘and the risotto are the dead and the forgotten.’

The catacombs are cold, as if the skeletal hand of Plutois guiding your shoulder through the home of his peaceful subjects. With each layer he takes you farther into Hades, the underworld. Helios cannot penetrate down here, there is no room for his rays.

Down here you stand or sit or kneel next to the bodies of our ancestors. I wonder, is there some relative buried hundreds of feet below me?

Hush! If I am quiet I can hear the dead hum.

What a strange, sublime feeling comes when you stand in such a place. You exist, in this moment, at the mercy of human history.

You are planted between human mortality and immortality.