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Voices: In Pompeii—Scholars or Tourists?

by Geoff Calvin '08
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Walking in the city, the early morning sun growing hot, what strikes me is the enthusiasm of our group. We struggle to keep up with our instructor, distracted by the many sites we recognize from our classes. After a semester of learning about this ancient city, every building that we pass, every street we walk, feels familiar.

Later in the day, presentations begin. One of our speakers falters, unable to answer a question about the Roman altar. Another member of the class, who wrote his paper about altars, effortlessly explains the features of the altar. Other students offer their own opinions. The questions keep coming as the debate evolves under the pounding sun.

We notice that other groups of tourists listen without question to their tour guides, even when the guides grossly over-simplify the complexity of Roman society, or otherwise misrepresent information about the site.

Later, we reflect upon the difference between scholars and tourists.

Geoff Calvin ’08, blogging about Professor Jeremy Hartnett’s class’s first day visiting ancient sites in Pompeii, the Bay of Naples, Rome, and Ostia, the conclusion of his course on Italy and Roman Urbanism.

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