Coming on top

The Roman theatre in Malaga, built on Phoenician ruins, standing in the shadow of the Alcazaba

History doesn’t have time for housekeeping and tidying up. History is messy and expedient. A city’s ruins are another’s foundations. Time conquers and consumes, but it also makes room for more.

History loves layers. The hardest thing is to knock something out of existence. Destruction is seldom complete.

The cities of the ancient Mediterranean are such layered loci of endurance, hotspots of memory and civilisational density. When the Romans burned Carthage to the ground and razed it off the map in 146 BC, the memory of the Punic city endured. We’re still talking and blogging about it. Carthago delenda est, but it is never quite deleted.

Every attempt to erase something out of history and time was met with the stubborn resistance of memory. Humanity’s greatest gift and achievement is its ability to remember. To preserve, in the smallest and unlikeliest of places, on the dusty shelf or in the ground, the traces of the past, layers of existence that history can’t unburned itself of. Make no mistake, there is no such thing as the silence of the past – only unheard voices and yet untold stories.

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