de nobis fabula narratur

In university, I minored in Classical Studies.

Seems strange. Indeed, why would I—a woman of color who is deeply conscious of colonization and the roots of white supremacy—choose to study Greek and Roman history of all things?

Ah, well, it was an accident.

At Volubilis: ancient Roman ruins near Moulay Idriss, Morocco.
At Volubilis: ancient Roman ruins near Moulay Idriss, Morocco.

I chose to take classics classes because my university offered them draped in the things I love most: storytelling theory, mythology, etymology, art, and social justice. I studied Latin because I love words and I have a desperate need to know the roots of things. I studied Homer because I love stories and I believe in the power of oral tradition. I saw The Odyssey and The Iliad as partners to the great indigenous original stories. I wrote an award-winning manuscript called Tapestries: Threads of Female Agency in the Classical Novel, a treatise of poetics founded on feminism and mythic tropes.

For me, these parts of my education were a doorway.

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I do not place western history on a pedestal. I criticize it and I uplift marginalized histories. And I believe that to criticize anything, you must understand it.

I believe in woven histories. As I wrote in Tapestries, “The etymology of the word ‘text’ hearkens back to the Latin word for weaving.” The texts we study are all threaded together—wherever we are in space or time, some bit of storied fabric always stretched into some other bolt of chronicle.

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The things that have shaped landscapes of the world are not always as pretty as they seem on tourists’ postcards. These photographs were taken not in Rome—a place I studied when I was nineteen—but in North Africa, my current home. They are by Moulay Idriss Zerhoune, in a place called Volubilis (called “Walili” in Arabic), where ancient Roman ruins still stand. Volubilis was an ancient Phoenician and Carthaginian settlement ruled by Rome. It’s gorgeous. Yet, as I moved through the crumbled marble and stone, I couldn’t help but think of the ravages of colonialism in all the forms it’s taken throughout human history.

The most important part of my classical education was not my ability to name each column we came across (Corinthian, Ionic, Doric) or my ability to recognize rooms in the midst of broken relics (Bathrooms have mosaics of sea creatures on the floor. Basilicas have pillars and platforms arranged in specific ways). These are nice party tricks, but most meaningful is my ability to speak frankly about the ways in which history and power have created certain skewed stories—and how we can use our knowledge of them to change those stories.

Oasis by Volubilis
Oasis by Volubilis

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And so, I will continue to write new stories. My new stories take the old stories into account. I use them as foundations and inspiration, but also as ground I can build over. Structures of power decide who becomes “legend” and “myth.” Voices like mine have not been centered throughout history. My stories, and the stories we choose to uplift, can change that. Will change that. I am deliberately placing myself right in the center of these histories, physically and symbolically and significantly. When the sun rises again, the light will be elsewhere.

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Sunset in Moulay Idriss Zerhoune
Sunset in Moulay Idriss Zerhoune

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9 thoughts on “de nobis fabula narratur

  1. This was beautiful doll!! I agree, we may not like r agree with things as they were in the past, but we must know the past to know where we’d like to take the future. The past is very tainted for many people, but knowing these things well, gives us a better insight in stomping them out for the future. These are gorgeous photos…you look wonderful, so beautiful xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Julie,

    I really enjoyed reading this – particularly about your comments on roots and origins. The idea of stories woven into a tapestry of historical consciousness is thrilling. Your words have refreshed my joy at learning and wonder, and perhaps thrown one or two new things to ponder as well.

    Thank you.

    Kind regards,

    Einstein’s Barber
    (Tony)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful post Julie! Your words as well as your photos were beautiful!
    You are definitely right in pointing out that “history” is a narrative woven by people who intentionally recorded events to their advantage. You never get the full story with just one text or one point of view, even holy texts like the Bible have been changed, re-written, and tampered with throughout time.
    Like you, I found that studying the Western world so closely at university opened my eyes to how subjective our understanding of the world is as Americans and how important it is not to take something as truth just because it’s in a published book.
    Keep sharing your story with the world!!!

    Like

    1. Hi Lena! Thanks for stopping by! Morocco is absolutely amazing. There are new adventure every day–I can hardly keep up sometimes! I hope your day is shining brightly.
      Love,
      Julie

      Like

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