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Why do we find ruins aesthetically attractive? Why do tourists visit them and governments conserve them? I believe that the aesthetic appeal and modern care of any ruin is specifically owed to Petrarch’s reaction to Rome’s ruins, which he was able to revivify and appreciate thanks to his engagement with Latin literary texts. His enthusiasm was infectious and ultimately generated what an English author has called ‘ruin-mindedness’, a love of ruins generally.
Roland Mayer is Emeritus Professor of Classics at King’s College London. He has written widely on a number of Roman authors, and he has compiled commentaries on works by Lucan, Horace, Seneca, and Tacitus. He has focused on philological, literary, and cultural issues, including reception.