This Mini Pod reviews the big questions that always lurk in the background of this podcast series and also introduces a new interactive map.

Show Notes

In Tuesday’s podcast, which I called “Culture Wars in Rome,” I suggested that Rome raises some grand and current questions that we should be excited to consider. It does so because it contains a visible, physical record of deep disputes between pagan aristocrats, devout Christians, and modern secularists. Some insisted on an ethics that stressed the citizen’s devotion to his country, others called for pious devotion to a God that transcended politics and all worldly cares, and others fought to advance democracy, keep religion out of politics, and increase our material prosperity. These points of view, along with others, raise important political, moral, and theological issues and are signs of an overarching larger question that keeps coming back: How should human beings live in society? Is individual liberty the most important goal, or are there perhaps duties to God, country, or our fellow man that must be encouraged? What should we human beings aspire to?

St. Peter’s Basilica takes a stand on these questions, and so do many of Rome’s other major monuments. They are not just technically impressive works of art, they speak to the vast questions that we sometimes think we have settled but which get reopened in times of crisis, which surprise us by their regular return.

So this was the very general point behind my last podcast, and it is usually present in some form, often lingering on the margins, in every podcast in this series. The great German writer, scientist, and traveler, Johan Goethe, once said, “I hate everything that merely instructs me without stimulating or quickening my thinking.” Visiting Rome well requires a lot of mere instruction, a lot of names and dates, especially for those of us not as brilliant or well-educated as Goethe, but thinking of Rome as the battleground of deep disagreements over conflicting ideas of justice, man, and God is a good way to rise above mere “instruction” and to stimulate and quicken our thinking. Good questions do this much more than easy answers.

So much for my ode to the Big Questions, to which I return regularly. But this is just one of my occasional Thursday Mini Pods, and I’m here also to say something short and simple. I’ve made a friend who is very good at making interactive maps, and he has made one for this podcast series. This is a map you can use to walk around Rome and find what you are looking for, and it also has pins on it that mark the locations of our published podcasts. If you are in the city, you can easily hunt down the sites that have associated podcasts, and you can see if by chance, there is a podcast about something you have stumbled on.

The map has a few more options if you view it on a larger screen. For example, you can choose between two different map backgrounds: one is less crowded, so the street names and main contours of the city stand out; the other has a few more destinations on it, both cultural and commercial, so you can see their locations complete with labels. Neither is as crowded as a Google Map.

A different filter allows you to look for either main episodes or mini pods; it also sorts sites by whether they are more Ancient, Christian, or Modern.

Another button is labeled “Advice and Overviews.” It lists the pods that are general overviews and are not pinned to any specific location. As for Advice, this will go to a future pod that is strictly practical, but so far, all my practical advice seems painfully obvious—such as, “during the hot months in Rome, save your strength by always walking on the shady side of the street”—but this is so trivial I can’t bring myself to fill a podcast with such things, even if it’s crazy that huge groups of tourists sweat in the sun when shade is available.

I’ve thought it best to eliminate these choices when the map is viewed on the small screen of a cell phone, just to keep the screen from becoming too crowded. The resultant map looks good, and the pins are easily visible, even if there are fewer options.

The map is one of the major tabs on my website. Just go to Get Ready for Rome Dot Com, and click the tab that says Map.

If you have suggestions for further improvements, on this or anything else, please send them to wayne at get ready for Rome dot com.

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