“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.”
― Niccolò Machiavelli
Standing on Palatine Hill last week, I tried imaging six-storey gleaming marble arches and gilded statues in place of the weathered foundations, chipped arches and shattered marble floors built in the centuries following Rome’s founding in the eighth century B.C.
Now wandered through by wheezing, sweaty tourists, almost nothing remains of the Western Hemisphere’s seat of power more than two thousand years later.
The following day, upon visiting the Vatican City, I finally grasped the magnitude of gleaming marble arches and golden statues, because the grandeur of what had existed millennia before now surrounded me in all its glory. All the power that Rome had held first as a republic, then as an empire had been transferred to the Church, along with all its treasure, resources and excess.
In the centuries following the evolution from Caesar to Pope, from King of Rome to spiritual leader, many other Western empires have risen and fallen as well.
My point is, short-term, there is a perception that nothing changes: that once power is held, it can never be loosened, relinquished or degraded.
On Palatine Hill sits a 20th century palace. Now a museum, it was built as home for a man who thought himself a modern-day Romulus. Someone who felt he was worthy of residing on the site of Rome’s emperors. That man was Benito Mussolini.
I recommend a trip to Rome to walk literally from ruins to riches. After a day or two, you will realize that the current sites of 21st century power are not inundated with selfie stick-selling vendors and masses of tackily-dressed travellers. But one day, they will be.