The world is in a state of upheaval at the moment, and we’re all looking for things to make us feel less anxious. Maybe Classics can help.
Today’s interview is with Jamie Heath
Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?
I think this is editing the question slightly as it’s not a source, but a view. My go-to when I needed to feel better during my year in Rome was the view from the Via Monte Tarpeo, overlooking the Forum – it was my happy place. I can only look at pictures of it now, but I took around 300, so I’m not spoilt for choice.
When did you first come across this view?
When I visited Rome in 2013 with my parents as a 21st birthday present, and we visited the Capitoline Museums, it was late in the evening in November and we didn’t walk round the back of the Museums to see the view. I then saw multiple photos and clips of the view over the following years and when I went back to Rome in 2017 during my postgraduate degree, I made sure to go and see it in person, get some photos for myself.
Can you tell me a bit about this view and its context?
Via Monte Tarpeo slopes down the back right side of the Capitoline Hill towards the Forum Boarium. The view from the top allows you to see a large portion of the remains of the Forum; from the podium of the Temple of Concord on your left, and the Basilica Julia on your right, all the way to the Arch of Titus and the Colosseum beyond. In my opinion it’s better than the view from the other side on Via di San Pietro in Carcere, as it just seems to be more open.
What is it about this view that appeals to you most?
It just has that calming aura, despite all the chaos in the history of the Forum, and the hustle and bustle of the modern archaeological park. There’s just something about sitting on the wall and looking out over the architecture that just instils a sense of calm in me. Someone once asked me if I picture it as it was in its heyday, because I know the context and the history, but I don’t; I don’t add or remove anything from the view. I just used to sit and watch the world go by, watch the light change colour and fade as the sun sets on the other side of the Capitoline. I wouldn’t class myself a spiritual person, but I don’t think it is possible to sit there and not get goosebumps, feel a tug in the gut. You can’t view the Forum from there and not feel as if the energy or power of the importance of the spot and its history are washing over you.
And finally… what do you do, outside of Classics, to cheer yourself up?
There isn’t a lot that I do that can’t connect back to Classics in some way, but I’d say one thing is my watching of the content of American internet-based company Rooster Teeth, especially their Achievement Hunter group. Since college their videos have been my go-to if I need cheering up, or to distract myself from things making me upset or anxious.
Jamie is a graduate of the University of Roehampton (BA Classical Civilisations), and the University of Reading (MA City of Rome). He volunteers for the American Institute of Roman Culture (@SaveRome) as their Twitter Engagement Officer, and for Butser Ancient Farm, where he helped lay the reproduction mosaic in 2018. He spent a year living in Rome working for a tour operator, during which he amassed a large collection of photos which can be viewed on his Flickr account. His own personal Twitter is @MumblerJamie. His original Classics interest was Greek mythology, but eventually Rome took hold, and now his interests are more the early Roman imperial period.
Catch up with all the Comfort Classics interviews here.