In one of his letters to Giovanni Colonna, Petrarch recalls his visit to Rome and the ruins that he saw:
Here was the castle of Evander, there the temple to Carmenta; here the cave where Cacus dwelt, there the She-Wolf nursing her twins…. Here the spot where Remus crossed over, there the site of the circus races and the rape of the Sabine women….
Quite interestingly, merely four centuries later, it is by observing the very same ruins that Gibbon started writing his book on the decline and fall of the Roman empire, where he developped the argument that the history of the later empire, after the “golden age” of Marcus Aurelius, was a thousand years of decline, due mostly to the expansion of christianity in the Empire. Gibbon’s work is a work of nostalgy, as if he were lamenting the fall of the empire, blaming some or other groups for its eventual demise. More and more, the ancient world, and Rome in particular, would be identified with purity and perfection, against which, in the colonial era, everything would be judged.
The ancient world had become the criteria of civilization, and the West was its diffusor throughout the world. Classical architecture, the Classical capital and the Classical temple become symbol of European and American power in the world. Everywhere Westerners went, they brought with them these Classical features. The European colonial mission of the 19th century was justified as a continuation of Rome’s mission in the Western Mediterranean.
As a result of such identification, everything that did not conform to the ways practiced in the West was seen as wrong and degenerate. Even Greek became victim of this pretension: the British scholar Roger Ascham wrote concerning the pronounciation of modern Greek that