Elsewhere, there are a number of statues, including this elegant woman or goddess.|
What comes across to me in this setting is how similar the ancient Romans are to us today. Whether engaged in commerce or the arts, or wondering about the meaning of life and death, these folks had the same kinds of interests and questions that we do. It turns out that the passage of about 2000 years does not make much of a difference in underlying concerns.
Yet ancient Ostia fell away. No society is guaranteed permanence. Thinking of my home town of Boston as an example, are we still in the ascendant, or have we begun our decline? We are too close to the situation to know, just as the Ostians of 200 AD could scarcely have known that their city would be shutting down 200 years later.
Is it unthinkable to hypothesize that a great city could become irrelevant in the course of a couple of centuries? How could the home to great universities, hospitals, museums, and businesses wane in influence and prosperity? Beyond environmental hazards, the key threat is a deterioration in sense of community. If complacency, arrogance, and ad hominem attacks take the place of intellectual modesty, respectful curiosity about the other person's point of view, and manners, the kind of selfless behavior that is necessary for a community's well-being takes flight.
Whether you live in Boston or elsewhere, please take time this Thanksgiving to give thanks for the opportunity to live in a safe and vibrant place, but please recommit, also, to the virtues and behaviors that will provide the basis for its growth and sustenance as a caring community.