One of the amazing things about Rome was how the various sites and monuments were located all over the city and so many sites contained "levels" of use. For example, adjacent to the bus stop where our hotel shuttle dropped us off and picked us up was the "theater of Marcellus." It was built by Augustus to honor his nephew, and later also his son-in-law, Marcellus. The building was built in the first century B.C. and later had some restoration work done to match the architectural style although different materials were used, and finally some apartments were built on top. It seemed surreal to see such "layers" of use for so many buildings. In the photo above you can see an area of extensive repair to the Colosseum.
After walking through the forum one afternoon we noticed an ancient building that was obviously at least three layers. We commented on who would do such a thing as to just build on what were obviously well preserved ancient ruins. Imagine our surprise later that evening to discover that the building we saw was still in use as the City Hall of Rome. It had been the "tabularium" in ancient times; and the genius who renovated it to modern use? Michelangelo!
Because the march of time is relentless, buildings get used, then reused, destroyed, used as "quarries" for new projects, etc. Under the moderns roads of Rome there are wonderful ancient sites waiting to be explored, but the roads have to be given priority.
These "layers of history" do not just apply to buildings and monuments, but also to ideas. Among those "layered ideas" are modern systems of government, law and even religion. Walking around Rome you could see the conflict that Christianity had with the dominant culture as it came to be more prominent in the empire. Christians must use wisdom and prayer as we hold on tightly to the biblical witness of Jesus, and apply that story to the world we now live in. It is not an easy task, but it must be negotiated for the faith to remain vital and vibrant!