Soon “Rome-sick” students will have an outlet for their nostalgia, as the University of Dallas faculty adds to their repertoire of publications with “People and Places of the Roman Past: The Educated Traveller’s Guide.”
Originally inspired by a former UD Rome course, the book combines 18 biographical portraits with their artifacts and sites of memories in Rome, according to editor Dr. Peter Hatlie, dean and director of the Rome Program.
This project is a collaborative effort, containing chapters contributed by several UD faculty members.
The book is unusual because it is rooted in the lives of these figures in Rome, rather than the geographical system used by most travel books. In “People and Places,” Hatlie said, “you’ll basically be following a person’s life journey, rather than a particular place in the city.”
“People and Places” will be published this semester as a collaboration between the University of Amsterdam Press and Arc Humanities Press. The presses describe the book as “written for travelers in search of inspiration and learning as they tour the streets, churches, museums, and monuments of the Roman past.”
While Hatlie spearheaded the project three years ago, he first “floated” the idea in 2014, according to Fr. Thomas Esposito, who contributed a piece on Saints Peter and Paul. The book’s subjects range from rulers to saints to authors and artists, all integrally connected to the city of Rome.
“The 18 [biographical] personalities we’re dealing with basically reflect the interests of the faculty, and I didn’t really have to twist anyone else’s arm, to tell you the truth,” Hatlie said.
Originally, the UD course included other European cities. When Hatlie took over the course and became Dean of the Rome program, he shifted the focus towards Rome in particular.
“Each semester the course would change, but the concept was the same – we want to take students to Rome, we want them to see things that they normally don’t see in the Core,” Hatlie explained. “The best way to do that is to match up beautiful and meaningful archaeological sites, works of architecture and art, and put that together with a biographical portrait.”
Although the course was phased out a few years ago due to budgetary constraints, the purpose of the course lives on through this upcoming book.
“The Core is very ambitious, but we still just barely scratch the surface, and maybe going way too deep is too boring, but I think this book is a good compromise,” Hatlie said. “It doesn’t give you a full-blown college course, but it allows an educated traveler to get a serious look at Rome without getting too scholarly.”
“The book promises to be a great encapsulation of our university’s devotion to Rome,” Esposito said.
In addition to UD’s connection with the city, Hatlie described his time living in Rome as a personal inspiration for “People and Places.”
“It’s kind of a cliché, but Rome is a layered city, and the longer you’re here, the more you can peel away the layers to discover more complexity. I think the book gives you a sense of that,” Hatlie said. “Very few places on the planet have such a continuous rich history, and it’s impossible to get a complete vision of it all because it operates at so many different levels.”
Associate Provost Dr. John Norris also reflected on levels in Rome in his section on St. Clement, whose church displays three literal layers of buildings going back to ancient times.
“It was remarkable to sit in the lower level and think that St. Clement himself may have celebrated Mass somewhere in that most ancient level, and that for 21 centuries it has been a place of Christian worship and reverence,” Norris reminisced.
Contributors to “People and Places” were particularly full of praise for Hatlie’s involvement in the book’s formation.
Norris wrote, “Dr. Peter Hatlie remarkably found the time and energy to put together a volume that represents what we do in our Rome program, a multi-disciplinary approach to sites that incorporates text and sites, history, philosophy, art, literature, and theology, making the stones speak.”
Once all the necessary signatures are collected, a hardcover version of “People and Places” will be available in late February or early March, soon followed by a paperback and digital version. “It turns out there’s a lot of work involved,” Hatlie quipped.