Ostia, Pompeia, SP: a tourist reflection

Image: Jacques-Antoine Volaire, 1729-1799
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By MARCO BUTI*

Human sacrifices, devoid of symbolism and magic, are planned in the discourses of transparency, austerity, competition, control, entrepreneurship, punishment, conformism

The two Roman cities share a high degree of preservation of their divergent urban structures. Ostia is much more determined by economic activity, due to its location at the mouth (“ostia”) of the Tiber River, which runs through Rome. Its geographical situation made it the main gateway for goods arriving by sea to the capital of the empire for centuries. But it hasn't become as disputed a tourist destination as Pompeii since the beginning of excavations, which are still ongoing.

The dramatic, spectacular element is missing, the destruction in an extremely short period, not only of the city, but of the lives of a large part of its inhabitants, by the eruption of Vesuvius. A very rare tragedy, attested by the cavities left by bodies in agony, where the spilled plaster made present forms that were more touching than works of art. Drama that stimulates the imagination, amplified by so many stories extolling human sacrifice produced by natural forces beyond any control, terrifying, luminous, contrasted, noisy, sublime. There is no denying the horrific real historical fact, and its reiteration through words and images draws tourists now, to the stage of the events of the year 79 AD.

The process that led to the abandonment of Ostia was quite different, but no less natural. The slow and discreet silting up, over the centuries, made the port function unfeasible, despite the initiatives of emperors Claudio and Trajano, who sought to keep the important economic function of the city active. Today, the mouth of the Tiber has moved about two miles beyond, with the beaches of modern Ostia.

Pompeii and Ostia Antica are equally preserved, but the lack of great historical news makes a visit to Ostia peaceful. The sudden interruption of everyday life attracts crowds to Pompeii, imagining a little-known real history, but which evokes great temples and monuments, pagan gods and sacrifices, fights to the death between human beings, great circus and architectural shows, religious persecutions, deaths and tortures, martyrs and heroes, powerful rulers and military, eventually cruel, wars, invasions, victories and defeats, the final fall of the great empire. The unspectacular silting up cannot compete for the tourist's attention with such images and narratives.

Life is what's happen to you while you're busy making other plans, suggested by John Lennon in the early 1980s, already during the Thatcher administration in the United Kingdom, shortly before Ronald Reagan's first term as president of the USA The course of common life tends to go unnoticed, as if history were reduced to great events , which cannot be denied. The murder, the terrorist attack, the fire, the sports victory, the election, the landslide, the ecological accident, the war, the robbery, the massacre, become images and speeches, focus of attention, diverted from the capillary network that the fed, and would give them a more real sense. Over the complex palpitation, a veil of doubts and misinformation is thrown, blurring the relations with the undeniable event. A better knowledge would demand a less accelerated time than that determined by contemporary audiovisual information, which prevents reflection.

But even this chaotic flow of information records the failure of world conferences on the environment. Even with superficial passing information, it would be possible to perceive that the threats come from decisions originating outside the public sphere, from the interests of large organizations, which do not maintain relations of law and citizenship with human beings. This obligation would fall to the states, which have been modifying constitutions to attract investment. Patriotism is mobilized for events such as elections and championships, while reasoning is not stimulated to perceive the economic roots of natural, educational, food, security, health and assistance disasters, rights in general. It is hardly believable that people who probably graduated from the best schools, in a position to make decisions based on economic rationality, based on the magic of projections, statistics, trends, graphs, averages and indicators, are incapable of perceiving the consequences on human beings and the world. real. The reasons that lead to a difference of more than 20 years in life expectancy in different neighborhoods of the same city – São Paulo – are certainly complex. But there would be a body of knowledge capable of proposing attempts at reasonable solutions, less easy and more intelligent than revolutions and attacks, more dignified and democratic than the flattening of existence, at the service of economic efficiency.

Human sacrifices, devoid of symbolism and magic, are planned in the discourses of transparency, austerity, competition, control, entrepreneurship, punishment, conformism. Slow, invisible, statistical, indirect death, the deliberate maintenance of conditions that shorten the life of a large part of society, the creation of risks to optimize economic performance, are crimes like executions.

You don't need the spectacle of a bloodthirsty emperor to have murderers.

*Marco Buti He is a professor at the Department of Plastic Arts at the School of Communications and Arts at USP.

 

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