I started my research interested in the way the Romans treated the environment. This is a multi-faceted question. The modern way of thinking divides treatment of the environment into two parts: how cities effect the environment, and how the country is managed. Within both of these parts what is taken from the environment and what is put back into it are considered to determine the way it is treated. For instance, many resources are taken from the environment by a large city like New York. New York needs lots of raw materials such as trees, vegetables, grains, metals, oil, etc. to sustain the people who live in it. The people use these materials and create waste matter, garbage, and pollution, which are returned to the environment. This could be seen as a poor way to treat the environment. Within this system of thinking one can see a large separation in thought between the country and the city: the country is merely an input to the systems of the city.
This separation was not as prominent in ancient world thinking. Romans thought of the city as part of the environment. The country and the city were transient things to them. Within this idea of a unified environment was a lot of spirituality. Certain beliefs prevented rampant overuse of resources to prevail, they created natural boundaries to all human activity. Basically, they believed in the spirituality of places. There were gods in the rivers, gods in the mountains, gods in the city, and gods in the fields. All of these needed their due respect, needed their individual space, and could not be encroached upon by each other. Romans would not dare allow their cities to encroach on the countryside, in fear of offending the countryside’s gods; and they would not dare allow their farming to encroach on the mountains, in fear of offending the gods of the mountains. So, in general, they treated the environment well, but out of fear. However, with this fear came great reverence.
This realization led my research in a new direction: I wanted to understand this system of thinking. I wanted to understand the way the Roman mind saw Rome and the Roman countryside and saw spirituality in all of it. I chose to do this by studying the habits of the Roman people and the systems of their spirituality. The relationship between their actions and their thoughts could show their deepest beliefs. I examined this through Roman Art. Art is the extraction of what is seen as beautiful from the life and beliefs of any given time. All of the great Roman poets were born in a countryside surrounding Rome. The study of these poets and their poetry gave great insight into Roman valuation and the Roman’s relationship to their environment. In this paper I will show what I have learned about the Roman’s mind in relationship to Rome and it’s surrounding country through the study of the lives of various poets and their poetry.
Early Rome, Early Roman Art, Early Spirituality, and Nature:
The city of and country side surrounding Rome started as shanties on the surrounding hillside. The ancient city began for religious purposes, not out of necessity. The seven hills surrounding Rome were called the Septimontium – cult of seven hills. Meeting in the center, the priests would bless the crops on a Sabbath day for the coming harvest season. This lead many to call it the “Divine City.” The peasants turned this Sabbath day into a holiday with performance art of drama and satire. This is how Roman art was born, and it was based on spirituality of the natural cycle of the earth.
As the art of early Rome progressed it took on three distinct parts: form from the Greece, Romance from the language of Latin, and a mass of ideas from the growing city of Rome. This mass of ideas came from an infusion of all of Italy. One heavy influence on a lot of the later poets was that of the Celts. Their passion for the country influenced had a great influence on Rome’s great poets, who all originated from the countryside.
Rome came to mean a great deal to all of it’s great poets. All of Italy’s different ideas on life were made into a melting pot in the city’s forum; many rich patrons supported the great poets, giving them time and money to write; it also gave them some contrast to the country. All of this gave the poets great insight into the Roman mind.
Although Rome created its poets, it is the poetry of those poets that has lived on. In Roman Art we can see the beauty of Rome, Roman Landscape, and the Roman mind.
Virgil and Landscape