History is like a river. It is not one event, one date, then another event and another date they way that we often learned it in grade school. It is an everflowing progression into the future, one time period, one moment forming the foundation for the next.
This progression was very obvious to me as we did the tourist dance in Rome.
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Catacombs were abundant, tucked away under neighborhoods, houses, markets and parks. We found pieces of ancient Roman aqueducts hidden in residential neighborhoods, far from the typical tourist beat.
This “layering” of history was easy to see when we visited the Basilica San Clemente Rome, not far from the Colosseum. The Basilica that is here today was built on top of an 4th century church which is still intact and whole underneath the church of today which was built in the 12th century (the old church was used as the foundation for the new).
The Basilica got even more interesting as we delved further into its depths. We continued down further still, into the musty damp recesses of the lower layers of the excavation (indeed, we were down so deep that at one point, we heard and saw running water which I can only assume was an underground river and that we were close to the level of the water table).
Deep below the hustle and bustle of today’s Rome lay hidden a Pagan temple built by those who worshiped the god Mithras, built in the 1st century. The altar to Mithras is still there and on it, you can see depictions of Mithras slaying a bull.