A silly question, on its face, I know! Here’s what brings it up: I was near the end of a NYT-zine puzzle about Rome being called ‘the eternal city’ and the writer being quoted said her parents had two different reactions to that title for Rome on their visit. (The puzzle was an ‘Acrostic, in which one moves letters from clue words up to certain numbers in a blank above). Her mother’s was that one must build well to last for eternity, the father’s was that you lay a few bricks and have eternity to finish in.
Being the person I am, and even further estranged by education and first and third ‘careers’ stressing words, their meanings now and before, I went to my huge unabridged (old though it is, dated in –get this!–the previous century) for what follows:
‘infinite time; duration w/o beginning or end’
Rome’s government as an Empire was established in 27 BC. so it fits the ‘w/o end’ part (though now a city only) but not the ‘w/o beginning’ part. So to be exact, or ‘persnickety’ if you prefer, Rome, which ‘wasn’t built in a day’ as most of us have heard before, both reactions, by mother and father, are doomed to be mistaken.
I grant that a load of wisdom, or at least a morally valuable reaction such as the mother’s is more easily acceptable, or ‘true’ than the father’s. Hers teaches us a ‘lesson’ like those we began hearing in, say, the first grade, while his is doomed from the start, since if eternity is w/o end Rome will never be finished! It does portray the father, or maybe the husband, as he appears in some of the cartoons–one who hasn’t mowed the yard, or taken out the garbage.
Speaking of puzzles, what is the answer to the title above. Best I can do is it’s a period of time–no, that’s not true–it’s something with no beginning and no end.
Like space itself. Inside of which our Earth in its kind of atmosphere sus taining life floats, rotating as it revolves.
All of which is to prepare you for my claim: Rome isn’t ‘the eternal city’ excepting the pope—the implied meaning of calling Rome the eternal city is its location for the original Christian Church for, as the New Testament states, the only eternal city is named ‘Heaven’, not ‘Rome’.
Am I going too far with this: Rome is called the Eternal City because it puts believers in mind of Heaven? So it gets its name from the very fact that it is not the eternal city?
And what, then, about these words: ‘In the Beginning . . . . ‘?