Roman mosaics from the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid

Two weeks ago I returned to Madrid to visit the new Archaeological Museum. Spain’s National Archaeological Museum reopened to the public six months ago after a massive six-year revamp that aimed at offering a state-of-the-art space for its collection of ancient artefacts. A total of 13,000 objects are on display in 40 rooms in a neoclassical building in the heart of Madrid.

National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

The museum spans the history of humans on the Iberian peninsula. The periods covered range from prehistory to the nineteenth century and include Iberian pieces such as the famous Lady of Elche and Lady of Baza sculptures, Roman and Greek works, Egyptian mummies and Moorish objects. The displays also include exquisite mosaics gathered from excavated Roman villas across Spain.

Mosaic with the Labors of Hercules, 3rd century AD, found in Liria (Valencia), National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Mosaic with the Labors of Hercules, 3rd century AD, found in Liria (Valencia)
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

This 3rd century AD mosaic, made of limestone, was found in 1917 in Lliria (Roman Edeta) near Valencia. The central panel shows Hercules, dressed in women’s clothing and holding a ball of wool, beside the Lydian queen Omphale wearing the skin of the Nemean Lion and carrying Heracles’ olive-wood club. Around the central panel are vignettes depicting the twelve labours of Hercules.

Detail of the mosaic with the Labors of Hercules, 3rd century AD, found in Liria (Valencia), National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Detail of the mosaic with the Labors of Hercules, 3rd century AD, found in Liria (Valencia), National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

A splendid 2nd century AD mosaic from Palencia depicts the Gorgon Medusa and the four seasons. The Medusa mask and the images of the four seasons are surrounded by birds, sea lions and sea horses. They symbolize fertility and the harmonious evolution of the year.

Mosaic of Medusa and the seasons, ca. AD 167-200, found in Palencia National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Mosaic of Medusa and the seasons, ca. AD 167-200, found in Palencia
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

Medusa was a popular image in many Roman homes as it was thought her ability to turn people to stone would ward off evil and wrong doers.

Detail of the Mosaic of Medusa and the seasons, ca. AD 167-200, found in Palencia National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Detail of the Mosaic of Medusa and the seasons, ca. AD 167-200, found in Palencia
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

In Tudela, excavations have unearthed exquisite mosaics that adorned one of the largest Roman villas to be found in the northern peninsula. The mosaic below depicts a dolphin surrounded by plant motifs with intertwined garlands and branches with flowers and fruits. They symbolise the abundance and fertility of nature.

The Plant Mosaic with dolphin, 4th century AD, found in the Villa del Soto de Ramalete (Tudela, Navarre) National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

The Plant Mosaic with dolphin, 4th century AD, found in the Villa del Ramalete
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

Detail of the Plant Mosaic with dolphin, 4th century AD, found in the Villa del Soto de Ramalete (Tudela, Navarre), National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Detail of the Plant Mosaic with dolphin, 4th century AD, found in the Villa del Soto de Ramalete (Tudela, Navarre), National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

Another mosaic from Hispania depicts the Genius of the Year. It holds its attributes, a cornucopia (horn of plenty) and snake. The Genius of the Year favoured the passing of seasons and harvests. Genii were viewed as protective spirits, they protected the house and its inhabitants.

Mosaic with Genius of the Year, late 2nd century AD, found in Aranjuez National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Mosaic with Genius of the Year, late 2nd century AD, found in Aranjuez
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

The concept of time has always held a great interest for humanity and under the Roman empire it took a very particular meaning. The Empire was likened to the universe and the Emperor likened to the master who regulated the universe. The passage of time and the succession of days, months and seasons illustrate the eternal renewal of the universe, and thus, the Roman empire (Source: Tunisian Mosaics: Treasures from Roman Africa, Aïcha Abed, 2006 Getty Conservation Institute). The mosaic below depicts a calendar with illustrations of the months and the seasons set amid bucolic and mythological scenes.

Mosaic of the seasons and the months, 3rd century AD, found in Hellin (Albacete) National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Mosaic of the seasons and the months, 3rd century AD, found in Hellin (Albacete)
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

Mosaic of the seasons and the months, 3rd century AD, found in Hellin (Albacete) National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Mosaic of the seasons and the months, 3rd century AD, found in Hellin (Albacete)
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

Each month is represented by a sign of the zodiac and a tutelary deity or a deity whose birth is associated with that month. There are also allusions to religious festivals. The mosaic celebrates the renewal of the cycle of nature which, aided by the gods, would provide the villa’s owner with sustenance and wealth.

The following mosaic, found in Fernán Núñez in the province of Córdoba, depicts the moment when Europa, daughter of Agenor, king of Tyre, is being abducted by Zeus in the form of a bull.

Mosaic depicting the abduction of Europa by Jupiter, 3rd century AD, found in Fernán Núñez (Córdoba) National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Mosaic depicting the abduction of Europa by Jupiter, 3rd century AD, found in Fernán Núñez (Córdoba)
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

Such mythological images and stories accompanied the owners’ dinner parties and their guests. They decorated the floors or walls of their triclinia (dining rooms). A typical mosaic for a Roman triclinium had a small pictorial section (emblema) at its centre which the guests could admire during the meal. Zeus and his amorous conquests made a fine conversation piece.

Although most of the mosaic collection is from Spain, the National Archaeological Museum of Spain has acquired several smaller mosaics from Italy. The following mosaic, discovered in Rome in the mid-seventeenth century, depicts a Nilotic scene. Nilotic landscapes on mosaics and paintings portrayed life on the Nile river in Egypt and were abundant in the Roman world.

Nilotic mosaic, late 2nd century AD, from Italy National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Nilotic mosaic, late 2nd century AD, from Italy
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

In this mosaic, a crocodile is trying to devour a man. Made of small, closely set tesserae called opus vermiculatum, it demonstrates the Roman fascination with Egyptian exoticism.

The museum also exhibits a pair of gladiator mosaics that were found on the Via Appia in Rome. Dating from the 3rd century AD, the first mosaic depicts the fight of two equites who can be identified by their small round shield. The lower scene depicts Habilis and Maternus, flanked by two lanistae (referees). In the upper scene, Maternus lies in a pool of blood, about to be dispatched by his opponent. The crossed-out O beside Maternus’ name symbolises death.

Mosaic depicting the fight between two murmillo gladiators named Simmachius and Maternus, 3rd century AD National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Mosaic depicting the fight between two equites named Simmachius and Maternus, 3rd century AD
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

The other mosaic depicts a lanista officiating a gladiatorial contest. He is clearly identifiable in a white tunic holding his staff and gesturing to the gladiators. The secutor Astyanax and the retiarius Kalendio are engaged in a fight to the death. The lanista cheers them on. The outcome is shown above and confirmed by the inscriptions; the word VICIT appears beside Astyanax meaning he is the victor. Beside Kalendio’s name is a crossed-out O, an abbreviation for Obiit meaning “he died”.

Mosaic showing a retiarius (net-fighter) named Kalendio fighting a secutor named Astyanax, 3rd century AD National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Mosaic showing a retiarius named Kalendio fighting a secutor named Astyanax, 3rd century AD
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

The most popular sport in Rome was chariot racing, even more popular than gladiatorial combats. Men went to the races and bet on which horses would win. The museum houses three small mosaics depicting scenes of chariot races. The first one below depicts a quadriga of the factio prassina (four-horse chariot of the green faction). The green team is victorious as the charioteer is holding a palm leaf.

Mosaic depicting a quadriga of the factio prasina (‘the greens,’ representing the spring), 3rd century AD, from Rome National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Mosaic depicting a quadriga of the factio prasina (the greens), 3rd century AD, from Rome
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

The driver’s clothing was color-coded in accordance with his faction, which would help distant spectators to keep track of the race’s progress. The second mosaic below depicts a quadriga of the factio veneta (four-horse chariot of the blue faction) whilst the third one depicts a quadriga of the factio russata (four-horse chariot of the red faction). Both teams are shown as the winner of the race.

Mosaic depicting a quadriga of the factio veneta (the blues), 3rd century AD, from Rome National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Mosaic depicting a quadriga of the factio veneta (the blues), 3rd century AD, from Rome
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

Mosaic depicting a quadriga of the factio russata (the reds), 3rd century AD, from Rome National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

Mosaic depicting a quadriga of the factio russata (the reds), 3rd century AD, from Rome
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid
© Carole Raddato

While the mosaics are the most impressive exhibits of its Roman section, the National Archaeological Museum also has an excellent collection of Roman portraits (including one of Hadrian), jewelry, weapons, ceramics, and inscribed bronze tablets that served as official announcements of new laws (Lex Salpensana, Lex Coloniae Genitiuae Iuliae).

FURTHER INFORMATION
Opening hours: Tue-Sat, 9.30 am – 8 pm / Sundays and public holidays, 9.30 am – 3 pm Closed: Mondays / 1 and 6 January, 1 and 15 May, and 24, 25 and 31 December
Address: C/ Serrano, 13 28001 Madrid

Website

Posted in Archaeology Travel, Gladiator, Museum, Roman art, Roman Mosaic, Spain | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Looking for Roman bridges in Provence, France

“Pontem perpetui mansurum in saecula mundi” (I have built a bridge which will last forever) – Caius Julius Lacer, builder of the Alcántara Bridge

Ancient Roman bridges represent one of the greatest wonders of the Ancient World. They are an exceptional feat of Roman construction and I hold a certain fascination for these impressive ancient structures. Naturally I always look for traces of Roman bridges while travelling. It was in Portugal that I really got excited about these engineering marvels. The country is indeed filled with perfectly preserved Roman bridges (see post here).

Last Summer I travelled to Provence in France and was asked by Ancient History Encyclopedia to write a piece on the 10 must-see ancient sites in Provence. Here I want to talk about the Roman bridges in this southern region of France where many have survived the centuries. Some are still in use today, some 2,000 years after they were built.

≈ The Pont Flavien

The Pont Flavien, with its surviving triumphal arches at each end, is one of the most beautiful surviving Roman bridges outside Italy.

The Pont Flavien, Saint-Chamas © Carole Raddato

The Pont Flavien, Saint-Chamas
© Carole Raddato

The Pont Flavien stands near the modern town of Saint-Chamas and consists of a single arch spanning the Toulourde River on the Via Julia Augusta. The name “Flavien” refers to a local Roman-Gaul aristocrat called Lucius Donnius Flavius, and an inscription on the bridge itself states that it was built at his instigation. In translation, it means:

Lucius Donnius, son of Caius, Flavos, flamen [priest] of Rome and Augustus, has ordained in his will that [this monument] be built under the direction of Cauis Donnius Vena and Caius Attius Rufius.

As the inscription indicates, the bridge was constructed at Flavos’ instigation following his death. It was completed around 12 BC. The bridge measured 21.4 metres long by 6.2 metres while the arches are at either end each stood 7 metres high.

The Pont Flavien, Saint-Chamas © Carole Raddato

The Pont Flavien, Saint-Chamas
© Carole Raddato

Following excavations, one can see the remnants of the Roman road with ruts worn by chariots and carts. The bridge was heavily used until fairly recently but it is now reserved for pedestrian use only.

The Pont Flavien, Saint-Chamas © Carole Raddato

The Pont Flavien, Saint-Chamas
© Carole Raddato

The Pont Flavien has been subjected to repetitive damages. In the 18th century, the western arch collapsed destroying the Roman lions on top of the pediment (the only surviving original lion is on the right-hand side of the eastern arch). Then the same arch was damaged by a German tank during the Second World War and finally collapsed when it was hit by an American truck. It was rebuilt in 1949 and some years later.

The Pont Flavien, Saint-Chamas © Carole Raddato

The Pont Flavien, Saint-Chamas
© Carole Raddato

≈ The Pont Julien

The Pont Julien, owning its name to the nearby city of Julia Apta (modern-day Apt), whose territory it was built upon, is a beautiful three-arched bridge spanning the Calavon River. Today, it is close to the town of Bonnieux.

The Pont Julien, Bonnieux © Carole Raddato

The Pont Julien, Bonnieux
© Carole Raddato

It was originally built in 3 BC on the Via Domitia, an important Roman road that connected Italy and Spain through the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis. (Gallia Narbonensis encompassed Roussillon, Languedoc, and Provence in southern France). The stone bridge replaced an older bridge built of wood and stone. It was probably destroyed by the torrential  waters of the river. Only a few blocks at the base at the based of the piles remain from that period as well as some gashes in the rock.

The Pont Julien, Bonnieux © Carole Raddato

The Pont Julien, Bonnieux
© Carole Raddato

With its three large arches (16.2 metres for the central arch, one of the biggest preserved from Gaul) its piles with holes and its roadway higher above the water, the new bridge provided a better drainage and a safer passage. The Pont Julien is perfectly preserved and remained in use until a neighboring bridge was built in 2005. However, it is now reserved for pedestrians and cyclists only.

The Pont Julien, Bonnieux © Carole Raddato

The Pont Julien, Bonnieux
© Carole Raddato

≈ The Pont romain de Viviers

The Pont romain de Viviers crosses the Escoutay River on the right bank of the Rhône near the town of Viviers in Ardèche. It was built in the 2nd or 3rd century AD on the road that linked the ancient city of Vivarium to Alba Helviorum (modern-day Alba-la-Romaine). The city of Viviers takes its name from its Latin name “vivarium”, meaning “fishpond”. This name was given to the Roman town because of the abundance of fish cruising the waterways around it.

Pont romain de Viviers © Carole Raddato

Pont romain de Viviers
© Carole Raddato

With its eleven spans, the Viviers bridge is approximately 108 meters long and 4.50 meters wide. Deeply damaged by severe flooding it has been repeatedly repaired or partly rebuilt. Repairs are attested from the 16th century to the 20th century.

Pont romain de Viviers © Carole Raddato

Pont romain de Viviers
© Carole Raddato

≈ The Pont Tibère

The Pont Tibère (Tiberius Bridge) is a Roman bridge crossing the Vidourle river in Sommières in the Gard department. It was built under the reign of Tiberius on the Via Luteva linking Nemausus (Nîmes) to Tolosa (Toulouse).

The Pont Tibère, Sommières © Carole Raddato

The Pont Tibère, Sommières
© Carole Raddato

It initially consisted of 17 arches, of which only 7 are now visible. It had a total length of 190 meters. During the Middle Ages, numerous arches were absorbed into the city’s structure. Today they serve as cellars.

The Pont Tibère, Sommières © Carole Raddato

The Pont Tibère, Sommières
© Carole Raddato

≈ The Pont Ambroix

The Pont Ambroix or Pont d’Ambrussum was a 1st-century BC Roman bridge which was part of the Via Domitia. The Ambroix Bridge is unquestionably the most spectacular ruin of Ambrussum, a Gallo-Roman archaeological site which has revealed an exceptional collection of buildings from the Gallic and Roman periods.

The Pont Ambroix, Ambrussum
© Carole Raddato

The Pont Ambroix is an impressive work of engineering, which allowed the Via Domitia to cross the Vidourle River. It is thought to have had 11 arches and to have been over 175 meters in length. Unfortunately, the ravages of time and the numerous floods took out all but one arch. Two had stood as recently as 81 years ago — which are reflected in Gustave Courbet’s famous 1857 painting of the bridge — but a violent flood in 1933 left only one arch standing.

The Pont Ambroix, Ambrussum © Carole Raddato

The Pont Ambroix, Ambrussum
© Carole Raddato

≈ The Pont romain de Vaison-la-Romaine

One of the best examples of Roman bridge-building skill is still standing to this day in Vaison-la-Romaine. The Roman bridge — built in the first century BC — spans the Ouvèze River, linking the lower part of the city to the upper medieval part of town. The bridge is unique due to its semicircular 17 meters arch. The bridge has been in continuous use since it was built and has already survived a direct bomb hit in World War II, as well as an attempt by the Germans to blow it up. It has also survived a devastating flood, which caused great damage on September 22, 1992.

Roman bridge of Vasio Vocontiorum, Vaison-la-Romaine © Carole Raddato

Roman bridge of Vasio Vocontiorum, Vaison-la-Romaine
© Carole Raddato

Related posts:

10 Must-See Ancient Sites in Provence, France (written for Ancient History Encyclopedia)

Looking for Roman bridges in Lusitania (Portugal)

Posted in Archaeology Travel, France, Photography, Roman Bridges, Roman engineering | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

A journey to Terracina on the Riviera of Ulysses

Following my visit to Minturnae (see previous post here), I continued my journey north along the Appian Way to reach Terracina, a picturesque town on the Tyrrhenian coast situated approximately half-way between Rome and Naples.

Legend has it that Odysseus sailed here on his travels and surrendered to Circe’s enchantment. Circe is said to have lived on Mount Circeo, a promontory stretching-out into the sea best visible from Mounte San’t Angelo above the town of Terracina. Nowadays the area is called the Riviera of Ulysses.

Mount Circeo as seen from Terracina, Italy

Mount Circeo as seen from Terracina, Italy
Wikipedia

After occupation by the Ausoni, Terracina was taken over by the Etruscans, followed by the Volsci in the 5th century BC who called it Anxur (the name of Jupiter as a youth -Iuppiter Anxur or Anxurus- god of the city) and made it a fortress against the Romans. In 329 BC, however, the city became Roman under the name of Colonia Anxurnas. It was later renamed Tarracina (a name probably derived from its Etruscan origin). A few years later, the Via Appia joining Rome with Capua was built, climbing to Tarracina on its way South.

Like Minturnae, Tarracina experienced a long phase of intense building from the time of Sulla (c. 138 BC – 78 BC) to Trajan (ruled AD 98-117) and Antoninus Pius (ruled AD 138-161). Much of the acropolis development dates to the time of Sulla, including the Forum Aemilianum. It was  named after Aulus Aemilius, a local wealthy man who ordered its construction.

Forum Aemilianum (Piazza del Municipio), Tarracina (Anxur), Terracina, Italy

Forum Aemilianum (Piazza del Municipio), Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

The present Piazza del Municipio lays over the ancient forum. Its pavement is well preserved and it is still possible to see the inscription ” A. Aemilius A. F. Stravi(t)” in letters which were once filled in with bronze (Aulus Aemilius paved this – CIL 10.6306).

Forum Aemilianum (Piazza del Municipio), Tarracina (Anxur), Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

Forum Aemilianum (Piazza del Municipio), Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

At the north end of the forum, the 11th century cathedral (consecrated to San Cesareo in 1074) is built upon the site of a temple identifiable as the Temple of Rome and Augustus whose column drums were reused in the building.

The Cathedral of Terracina built built upon the site of a Roman temple  whose column drums were reused in the building, Tarracina (Anxur), Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

The Cathedral of Terracina built upon the site of a Roman temple, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

Side wall of Cathedral of SS. Pietro e Cesareo with a remaining column from the Temple of Rome and Augustus still visible, Terracina (Anxur), Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

Side wall of the cathedral with a column from the Temple of Rome and Augustus still visible, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

A fine stretch of the Via Appia, which served as decumanus, is still preserved on the north side of the forum.

Forum Aemilianum, stretch of the Via Appia, Tarracina (Anxur), Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

Forum Aemilianum, stretch of the Via Appia, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

The access to the forum was preceded by a quadrifrons (four-sided) arch, which served as entrance to the forum. One side of the arch was discovered inside a destroyed medieval building under which lays a well-preserved stretch of the ancient Via Appia.

Remaining side of the quadrifrons (four-sided) arch under which lay a well-preserved stretch of the ancient Via Appia, Tarracina (Anxur), Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

Remaining side of the quadrifrons (four-sided) arch under which lay a well-preserved stretch of the ancient Via Appia, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

On the orders of Trajan, the Via Appia was brought down to sea level by cutting through the cliff along the coast. The Via Appia used to cross the hill at the back of the promontory by a steep ascent and descent. An attempt was made in 184 BC to get round it but it was probably not until early in Trajan’s time that a cut made in the Pisco Montano finally solved the problem (see image here). The depth of the cut is indicated by marks on the vertical wall at intervals of 10 Roman feet; the lowest mark, about 1 m above the present road, is CXX, corresponding to 36 meters.

It was probably following the road cut that some of the most important buildings of the imperial period were erected in the lower town by the harbour (amphitheatre, baths, etc.). However little is now visible, and its site is mainly occupied by a new quarter built by Pope Pius VI. Little remains of the ancient harbour constructed by Antoninus Pius and the area has been largely silted up.

Massive remains of another temple identified as the Capitolium (since it has a triple nave) lie next to Piazza del Municipio. Built іn opus reticulatum ca. 50-40 BC, the temple wаs dedicated tо the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Juno аnd Minerva). The temple was discovered by chance; in fact the site was brought to light only after the World War II bombings.

The Capitolium (temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno аnd Minerva) dating back to ca. 50-40 BC, Terracina (Anxur), Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

The Capitolium dating back to ca. 50-40 BC, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

Restored between 1946 and 1948, the Capitolium still preserves its high podium, part of the access stairs, a column in Tuscan-Doric style as well as the remarkable remains of the walls of the three cellas in two-coloured opus reticulatum.

Remaining column in Tuscan-Doric style Capitolium (temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno аnd Minerva) dating back to ca. 50-40 BC, Terracina (Anxur), Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

Remaining column in Tuscan-Doric style Capitolium, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

The cellas the of the Capitolium (temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno аnd Minerva) dating back to ca. 50-40 BC, Terracina (Anxur), Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

The cellas the of the Capitolium dating back to ca. 50-40 BC, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

Opus Reticulatum on the cellas of the Capitolium dating back to ca. 50-40 BC, Terracina (Anxur), Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

Opus Reticulatum on the cellas of the Capitolium dating back to ca. 50-40 BC, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

The cellas are 9.25 m long each and half as wide. Underneath a door leads to the favissae, the rooms where the votive offerings were kept.

The podium of the Capitolium with the door leading to the favissae (the rooms where the votive offering were kept), Terracina (Anxur), Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

The podium of the Capitolium with the door leading to the favissae, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

Another important public edifice was the theatre. It had a splendid natural background, the Tyrrhenian Sea and the sight of Mount Circeo.

The area of the Roman Theatre built during the 1st century BC, Terracina, (Anxur), Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

The area of the Roman Theatre built during the 1st century BC, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

The ruins of the Roman Theatre built during the 1st century BC, Terracina, (Anxur), Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

The ruins of the Roman Theatre built during the 1st century BC, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

A statue of the Greek playwright Sophocles (the so-called Lateran Sophocles) was found amongst the ruins of the theatre. The statue was displayed in the Lateran Museum in Rome before being transferred to its present location in the Museo Gregoriano-Profano in the Vatican.

The Sanctuary of Jupiter Anxur is perhaps Terracina’s most famous historical site. It dates back to the fourth century BC, though much of the development belongs to the first century BC at the time of the Roman general Sulla. Built on Mount Saint Angelo (known as Mons Neptunius in the Roman era), about 270 metres above sea level, the complex is large and spectacularly sited, dominating the shoreline and sea. From here one can admire the extraordinary panorama, which to one side gives onto Mount Circeo, on the other, onto the Fondi Plain.

View of the Fondi plain from the Sanctuary of Jupiter Anxur, Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

View of the Fondi plain from the Sanctuary of Jupiter Anxur, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

The best view of this sanctuary is from the sea or from the beach. If you are fortunate enough to be floating on a boat somewhere near Terracina, you will see, from a distance, the great substructures of the Sanctuary of Jupiter Anxur (see image here).

The sanctuary was surrounded by a defensive wall and nine round towers built to keep the Via Appia under control and as well as to keep Sulla from advancing onto Rome during the wars between Marius and Sulla.

Defensive wall, the so-called Temple of Jupiter Anxur © Carole Raddato

Defensive wall, the so-called Temple of Jupiter Anxur
© Carole Raddato

The temple has long been assumed to have been dedicated to Jupiter Anxur (Jupiter the young) who was the city’s protector, although recent studies and discoveries of votive objects attribute it to Venus.

The most impressive remains are those of the underground passageway, the cryptoporticus, resting on twelve massive arches in opus incertum on the south and west sides.

The 12 pillared arches of the cryptoporticus of the so-called Sanctuary of Jupiter Anxur, Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

The 12 pillared arches of the cryptoporticus of the so-called Sanctuary of Jupiter Anxur, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

The 12 pillared arches of the cryptoporticus of the so-called Sanctuary of Jupiter Anxur, Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

The 12 pillared arches of the cryptoporticus of the so-called Sanctuary of Jupiter Anxur, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

The sanctuary was built on a number of terraces. Above the cryptoporticus stood the place of worship, the principal temple, as well as the favissa (votive deposit) and the rock of the Oracle.

The ruins of the podium of the so-called Temple of Jupiter Anxur, Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

The ruins of the podium of the so-called Temple of Jupiter Anxur, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

Only the high podium of the temple remains. The temple was reached by a flight of steps at the center. The cella was almost square while its outer walls carried six engaged Corinthian half-columns; a deep porch with six columns along the front and four down the sides (see reconstruction below).

Reconstruction of the main temple and the rock of the Oracle of the so-called Sanctuary of Jupiter Anxur

Reconstruction of the main temple and the rock of the Oracle of the so-called Sanctuary of Jupiter Anxur

The rock of the Oracle of the so-called Temple of Jupiter Anxur, Terracina, Italy © Carole Raddato

The rock of the Oracle of the so-called Temple of Jupiter Anxur, Terracina, Italy
© Carole Raddato

The upper terrace with its U-shaped ambulatory (see reconstruction below) was used for military purposes. The area was kept under control by a contingent of 80 soldiers led by a centurion. The soldiers stationed here had a separate life from the sanctuary but a small temple in antis was built for their religious needs.

Reconstruction of the so-called Sanctuary of Jupiter Anxur

Reconstruction of the so-called Sanctuary of Jupiter Anxur

Further images of Terracina can be viewed from my image collection on Flickr.

—-

Sources: Wikipedia, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, The Appian Way: From Its Foundation to the Middle Ages, edited by Ivana della Portella

 

Posted in Archaeology Travel, Italy, Mythology, Photography, Roman Temples | Tagged | 2 Comments

Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Head of a diademed goddess

This week’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a head of a goddess made of Pentelic marble. She is wearing a diadem in her wavy hair that are centrally parted and dressed in a chignon at the nape of her neck. It was found in a cryptoporticus near the circular temple dedicated to the Venus of Knidos.

Bust of a diademed goddess, found at Hadrian's Villa Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome © Carole Raddato

Bust of a diademed goddess, found at Hadrian’s Villa, Hadrianic period
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome
© Carole Raddato

The head of this female deity was made separately for insertion onto a larger than life-size body. The type is known from other copies of the Roman period deriving from a Greek, probably Attic, model in the severe style (470-460 BC).

This head is on display at the National Roman Museum – Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome.

Posted in Hadrian, Hadrian's Villa, Museum, Roman art | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Exploring Minturnae, a forgotten ancient city on the Appian Way

On a recent trip to Italy, I visited the Archaeological Area of Minturnae, a little-known but impressive archaeological site along the Appian Way.

Minturnae was originally an Auruncian city (of which no archaeological traces have been found), one of the three towns of the Aurunci which allied themselves with the Samnites and made war against Rome in 314 BC. After being defeated by Rome the city suffered severe repression and was burned to the ground. The Romans settled in the area and built a castrum along the river Liris after realising the strategic and commercial importance of its close location to the sea.

The military settlement grew into a Roman colony in 296 BC and became an important trading port of the Mediterranean as well as a fortified commercial centre along the Appian Way.

A stretch of the Appian Way passing through the ancient city and serving as its decumanus maximus, Minturnae © Carole Raddato

A stretch of the Appian Way passing through the ancient city ( decumanus maximus) and the reconstructed monumental colonnade, Minturnae
© Carole Raddato

In the 1st century BC Minturnae was a flourishing city provided with a Capitolium (temple dedicated to the triad of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva), a forum and a theatre. During the Imperial era a new forum was built, surrounded by public buildings such as a Basilica, thermal baths, an amphitheatre and a macellum (market).

Today there are still significant Roman remains scattered on both sides of the Appian Way.

Plan of the Archaeological Area of Minturnae

Plan of the Archaeological Area of Minturnae
http://www.agerminturnae.org/

On one side of the ancient road one finds the ancient theatre, the Republican forum, the Capitolium and the temple of Augustus.

The Republican forum and the Roman theatre, built in the late Republican ear or at the beginning of the Empire, Minturnae © Carole Raddato

The Republican forum and the Roman theatre, built in the late Republican era or at the beginning of the Empire, Minturnae
© Carole Raddato

The Roman theatre, built in the late Republican ear or at the beginning of the Empire, Minturnae © Carole Raddato

The Roman theatre, built in the late Republican era or at the beginning of the Empire, Minturnae
© Carole Raddato

The theatre, built during the reign of Augustus, had a capacity of 4,500.  It underwent several restorations and reconstructions, the latest of which is thought to date to the 4th century AD. Statues from the scaenae frons have been recovered including one of Augustus and another of Livia. They are on display in the Antiquarium inside the theatre.

The Roman theatre, view on the temples and Republican & Imperial forums, Minturnae © Carole Raddato

The Roman theatre, view on the temples and Republican & Imperial forums, Minturnae
© Carole Raddato

The podium of the Temple of Augustus, built at the beginning of the Imperial age right alongside the Capitolium,  Minturnae © Carole Raddato

The podium of the Temple of Augustus, built at the beginning of the Imperial age right alongside the Capitolium, Minturnae
© Carole Raddato

The ruins of the Capitolium (temple dedicated to the triad Jupiter, Juno and Minerva), an Etrusco-Italic type temple built ca. 191 BC,  Minturnae © Carole Raddato

The ruins of the Capitolium (temple dedicated to the triad Jupiter, Juno and Minerva)
© Carole Raddato

The Capitolium was an Etrusco-Italic type temple with three separate cella which was built soon after BC 191. It is located in the southern part of the Republican Forum and borders the Via Appia.

The Republican forum, Minturnae © Carole Raddato

The Republican forum, Minturnae
© Carole Raddato

On the other side of the Appian Way were the macellum (market), behind which was a large bathing complex, and the tabernae (room shops). Recent excavations have also revealed the Imperial forum which includes the Basilica, the Curia and the public latrines.

The macellum (market) and the tabernae dating to the Hadrianic period (117-138), Minturnae © Carole Raddato

The macellum (market) and the tabernae dating to the Hadrianic period (117-138), Minturnae
© Carole Raddato

The macellum was the emporium of the city where local and imported food poured into the nearby port. The building dates from the Hadrianic period with subsequent intervention during the Antonine era.

The macellum dating to the Hadrianic period (117-138) and the reconstructed monumental colonnade, Minturnae © Carole Raddato

The macellum dating to the Hadrianic period (117-138) and the reconstructed monumental colonnade, Minturnae
© Carole Raddato

The bath complex developped behind the macellum. The examination of the building techniques let archaeologists think that the thermae may have been built during the reign of Hadrian. We can clearly see the caldarium and the tepidarium as well as the natatio (swimming pool) divided into two baths.

The tepidarium, the warm bathroom of the baths complex heated by a hypocaust (underfloor heating system), Minturnae © Carole Raddato

The tepidarium, the warm bathroom of the baths complex heated by a hypocaust (underfloor heating system), Minturnae
© Carole Raddato

The natatio (swimming pool) of the bath complex, Minturnae © Carole Raddato

The natatio (swimming pool) of the bath complex, Minturnae
© Carole Raddato

Black & white mosaic in the caldarium of the thermae depicting cupids pressing grapes, Minturnae © Carole Raddato

Black & white mosaic in the caldarium of the thermae depicting cupids pressing grapes, Minturnae
© Carole Raddato

Opposite the Republican forum lays the Imperial forum. It is a big square paved in Coreno stone. On the eastern side of the forum stood the most representative buildings of the public life of the settlement: the Curia and the Basilica. The Basilica was built during the reign of Hadrian.

The ruins of the Hadrianic Basilica of the Imperial forum, Minturnae © Carole Raddato

The ruins of the Hadrianic Basilica of the Imperial forum, Minturnae
© Carole Raddato

The latrines, located in the Imperial forum, Minturnae © Carole Raddato

The latrines, located in the Imperial forum, Minturnae
© Carole Raddato

A remarkable exhibition of archaeological materials, stone inscriptions and statues can also be seen in the Museum inside the ancient theatre.

Just outside the archaeological site, visitors can marvel at the 150 majestic arches of the very fine aqueduct. It was built between the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire in opus reticulatum. The aqueduct entered the city at the west gate bringing water from the Monti Aurunci 11 km away.

Aqueduct near Minturnae © Carole Raddato

Aqueduct near Minturnae
© Carole Raddato

3D reconstructions of the buildings of Minturnae done by the Istituto Tecnico Statale Costruzioni, Ambiente e Territorio Geometri di Formia can be seen online (website).

Further images of Minturnae can be viewed from my image collection on Flickr.

Posted in Aqueduct, Archaeology Travel, Italy, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A tribute to Augustus

This week marks the bimillennial anniversary of the death of the first Roman emperor, Augustus. He died on 19th August AD 14 at the age of 75 after a 41-year reign, the longest in Roman history.

Augustus left his mark on Rome and western civilisation like few others. He vastly expanded the Roman Empire, established a period of relative peace known as the “Pax Romana” (or “Pax Augusta”), a period of immense architectural and artistic achievement whose effects were felt far beyond the capital. His legacy is perhaps best represented in the abundance of statues that were erected throughout the empire during and after his reign.

Augustus of Prima Porta, discovered  in the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta © Carole Raddato

Augustus of Prima Porta, discovered in the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta
© Carole Raddato

Portraits of Augustus were used as symbols of his political propaganda. Abandoning the realistic style of the Republican period, his portraits always showed him as an idealized young man. This would set the standards for imperial portraiture used by Roman emperors over the next three centuries.

The Roman historian Suetonius (The Lives of the Caesars , Book II, “Augustus”) describes Augustus as

“remarkably handsome and of very graceful gait. His teeth were small, few, and decayed; his hair, yellowish and rather curly; his eyebrows met above the nose; he had ears of moderate size, a nose projecting a little at the top and then bending slightly inward, and a complexion intermediate between dark and fair.”

Suetonius also mentions that Augustus cared so little about his personal appearance and particularly his hair, that sometimes he would have two or three barbers working on it together to save time. However most of the portraits of Augustus idealize him dramatically, and he does not age over the length of his reign.

More than 200 images of Augustus survive, more than of any other emperor. The longevity of his reign, his popularity during his lifetime, his deification after his death, and the tendency of following emperors to be identified with him (including Hadrian) are factors that guaranteed an abundance of portraits of this man.

In addition to the famous statue of Augustus from Prima Porta (a larger-than-life, idealized statue of him in military dress – image above), here is a selection of 12 of Octavian-Augustus finest surviving portraits:

1. Bust of Octavian

Bust of Octavian, probably created ca. BC 31 after his victory at the Battle of Actium Rome, Musei Capitolini © Carole Raddato

Bust of Octavian, probably created ca. BC 31 after his victory at the Battle of Actium
Rome, Musei Capitolini
© Carole Raddato

2. Head of Octavian

Head of Octavian, dating to the Triumvirate at the time of the Battle of Philippi (42 BC), the oldest portrait known Museo Archeologico Statale di Spoleto © Carole Raddato

Head of Octavian, dating to the Triumvirate at the time of the Battle of Philippi (BC 42), the oldest portrait known
Museo Archeologico Statale di Spoleto
© Carole Raddato

3. Equestrian statue of Augustus

Fragment of a bronze equestrian statue of Augustus dating from the end of the 1st century BC © Carole Raddato

Bronze torso from an equestrian statue of Augustus dating from the end of the 1st century BC
National Archaeological Museum, Athens
© Carole Raddato

4. Bronze head of Augustus

Bronze head from an over-life-sized statue of Augustus, found in the ancient Nubian site of Meroë in Sudan, 27 - 25 BC © Carole Raddato

Bronze head from an over-life-sized statue of Augustus, found in the ancient Nubian site of Meroë in Sudan, BC 27 – 25
British Museum
© Carole Raddato

5. Augustus as Pontifex Maximus

Augustus as Pontifex Maximus, late Augustan period, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome © Carole Raddato

Augustus as Pontifex Maximus, late Augustan period
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome
© Carole Raddato

6. Veiled head of Augustus

Veiled head of Augustus, end of 1st century BC Ancona, Museo Archeologico Nazionale delle Marche © Carole Raddato

Veiled head of Augustus, end of 1st century BC
Ancona, Museo Archeologico Nazionale delle Marche
© Carole Raddato

7. Cameo of Augustus

Cameo portrait of Augustus, about AD 14-20 British Museum © Carole Raddato

Cameo portrait of Augustus, about AD 14-20
British Museum
© Carole Raddato

8. Bust of August wearing the Corona Civica

Bust of Augustus wearing the Corona Civica, ca. BC 29 Rome, Musei Capitolini © Carole Raddato

Bust of Augustus wearing the Corona Civica, ca. BC 29
Rome, Musei Capitolini
© Carole Raddato

9. Statue of Augustus from Arles

Marble statue of Augustus, found in the Roman theatre in 1750 Arles, Musée de l'Arles et de la Provence antiques © Carole Raddato

Marble statue of Augustus, found in the Roman theatre in 1750
Arles, Musée de l’Arles et de la Provence antiques
© Carole Raddato

10. Augustus Bevilacqua

The so called “Augustus Bevilacqua”, bust of the emperor Augustus wearing the Corona Civica, Glyptothek, Munich © Carole Raddato

The so called “Augustus Bevilacqua”, bust of the emperor Augustus wearing the Corona Civica
Munich, Glyptothek
© Carole Raddato

11. Bust of August wearing the Corona Civica

Bust of August wearing the oak crown discovered on the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan, BC 19-18 Toulouse, Musée Saint-Raymond © Carole Raddato

Bust of August wearing the oak crown discovered on the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan, BC 19-18
Toulouse, Musée Saint-Raymond
© Carole Raddato

12. Posthumous portrait of Augustus

Posthumous portrait of Augustus, discovered in Saintes (France), ca. AD 40 Saintes, Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Posthumous portrait of Augustus, discovered in Saintes (France), ca. AD 40
Musée archéologique de Saintes
© Carole Raddato

Augustus was an important role model for Hadrian. He had a portrait of the first Princeps on his signet ring and kept a small bronze bust of him among the images of the household gods (Lares) in his bedroom. In restoring Augustan buildings at his own expense in Rome and in the provinces – ie. the temple of Augustus at Tarragona- Hadrian was able to revive the memory of Augustus and associate himself with that name. (Souce: Anthony R Birley, Hadrian: The Restless Emperor)

He wished to be seen as the new Augustus. The imperial coinage of Hadrian drastically abbreviates Hadrian’s titulare. Instead of the usual “Imp. Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Aug.”, he would soon be presented simply as “Hadrianus Augustus”.

Antoninus Pius, who was perhaps motivated by a desire to be publicly associated with the first emperor, restored the Temple of Divus Augustus built to commemorate the deified first Augustus. The restored temple was shown on coins which depict it with an octostyle design with Corinthian capitals and two statues – presumably of Augustus and Livia – in the cella. The pediment displayed a relief featuring Augustus and was topped by a quadriga.

Temple of Divus Augustus on a coin of Antonius Pius issued circa AD 158

Temple of Divus Augustus on a coin of Antonius Pius issued circa AD 158

Many more portraits of the Emperor Augustus can be viewed from my image collection on Flickr.

Posted in Augustus, Museum, Photography, Roman Portraiture, SPQR | Tagged | 5 Comments

The Nervan-Antonines in Cologne

Built in 1974 over the remains of a Roman villa, the Romano-Germanic Museum in Cologne houses an extensive collection of Roman artefacts from the Roman settlement of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (named after Agrippina the Younger, born in Cologne), the capital of the Imperial Province of Germania Inferior. The museum houses the largest worldwide collection of Roman glasses including the Cologne cage cup and the miniature portrait of Emperor Augustus in turquoise glass. It is also home to the world famous Dionysus mosaic and the Sepulcher of Poblicius.

Reconstructed plan of the Roman city of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (Cologne) in the 3rd/4th century AD, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne © Carole Raddato

Reconstructed plan of the Roman city of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (Cologne) in the 3rd/4th century AD, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne
© Carole Raddato

In addition to the everyday life artefacts of Roman Cologne, the Romano-Germanic Museum exhibits numerous portraits of members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty (including Augustus and his wife Livia Drusilla) and of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty.

The Nervan-Antonines are well represented as it was in Cologne that Trajan accessed to the imperial throne. The then governor of Germania Inferior received the message just a few days after Nerva’s death in February AD 98. The messenger was none other than his cousin and successor Hadrian, who at the time was stationed as a military tribune at Moguntiacum (Mainz) in Germania Superior. Hadrian’s first visit to Colonia Agrippinensium as emperor was in the late spring of AD 122 on his way to Britannia. During his time in the capital, Hadrian probably stayed with his close friend, Aulus Platorius Nepos, the then governor of the province. More than a decade later, between AD 134 and 138, Hadrian’s tour of the German provinces was commemorated on the imperial coinage (see here).

  • Nerva (ruled 96 – 98)
ortrait of the Emperor Nerva, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne © Carole Raddato

Portrait of the Emperor Nerva, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne
© Carole Raddato

  • Trajan (ruled 98 – 117)
Portrait bust of Trajan (?), Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne © Carole Raddato

Portrait bust of Trajan, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne
© Carole Raddato

  • Hadrian (ruled 117 – 138)
Marble head of Hadrian, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne © Carole Raddato

Marble head of Hadrian, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne
© Carole Raddato

  • Antoninus Pius (ruled 138 – 161)
Bronze head of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne © Carole Raddato

Bronze head of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne
© Carole Raddato

  •  Marcus Aurelius (ruled 161 – 180)
Statue of a Roman citizen of the second quarter of the 2nd century A.D., a portrait of the young Marcus Aurelius was added by a neo-classical sculptor sometime before 1818, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne © Carole Raddato

Statue of a Roman citizen of the 2nd quarter of the 2nd century AD, a portrait of the young Marcus Aurelius was added by a neo-classical sculptor sometime before 1818
Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne
© Carole Raddato

Head of Marcus Aurelius, 140/145 A.D., Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne © Carole Raddato

Head of Marcus Aurelius, 140-145 AD, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne
© Carole Raddato

  • Lucius Verus (ruled 161 – 169)
Head of Lucius Verus, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne © Carole Raddato

Head of Lucius Verus, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne
© Carole Raddato

  • Commodus (ruled 177 – 192)
Head of Commodus, 170-180 AD, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne © Carole Raddato

Head of Commodus, 170-180 AD, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne
© Carole Raddato

Many more portraits of members of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty can be viewed from my image collection on Flickr.

Related posts: The Nervan-Antonines in Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome / The Nervan-Antonines in Copenhagen

The Nerva–Antonine dynasty, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne © Carole Raddato

The Nerva–Antonine dynasty, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne
© Carole Raddato

Posted in Germania, Germania Inferior, Germany, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Museum, Nerva–Antonine dynasty, Roman Portraiture, Trajan | Tagged | 1 Comment

Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Marble relief depicting a youth with his horse

This week’s masterpiece from Hadrian’s Villa is a bas-relief representing a boy with a horse, probably Castor taming his horse, accompanied by a dog.

Boy with horse (possibly Castor), marble relief from Hadrian’s Villa, 125 AD, British Museum © Carole Raddato

Boy with horse (possibly Castor), marble relief from Hadrian’s Villa, 125 AD, British Museum
© Carole Raddato

This marble slab was carved using the flat ancient style in the manner of Greek works of the 5th century BC.  It was found in an area of Hadrian’s villa known as the Pantanello (Little Bog) by Gavin Hamilton in about 1769, and subsequently formed one of the Townley Marbles collection bought by the British Museum. The discoveries at the Pantanello were considerable. Many sculptures and architectural fragments that are now in major international collections were found including a colossal head of Hercules and two busts of Hadrian.

Source

Posted in Hadrian, Hadrian's Villa, Roman art | 1 Comment

The Painted Tombs of Paestum

With its three magnificent large Doric temples, Paestum became a well-known site thanks to the 18th century engravings by Piranesi and Goethe’s impressive descriptions in his Italian Journey. However Paestum is also renowned for its tombs decorated with painted scenes. During excavations in the 1960s, around 200 richly painted tombs from the Lucanian period (4th century B.C.) were discovered in a small necropolis about a kilometre north immediately outside the city walls.

The tombs were painted on the inside with scenes depicting funerals and the passage of the dead into the underworld. They were executed on site right after the four slabs had been put in place in the pit. These paintings were executed using  a technique resembling fresco. A thin layer of plaster was applied to a smoothed travertine slab. This style of tomb decoration blossomed under the Lucanians, a native people from mainland Italy who took over the city around 400 B.C. The scenes depict funerary games and rituals; the deceased on his/her deathbed, chariot racing, hunting scenes and duals between men.

One particularly richly decorated tomb is the so-called Tomb of the Diver. The tomb, which dates to around 480 B.C., is unique in the Greek colonies in Italy.  The significance of this particular tomb is that it contains the only example of Greek wall painting from the Archaic, or Classical period to survive in its entirety. It is made of five limestone blocks forming the four lateral walls and the roof, the floor being excavated in the natural rock ground. The paintings on the four walls depict a symposium scene, while the cover slab shows the famous scene that gives the tomb its name: a young man diving into a curling and waving stream of water, the passage from life to death.

Here is a series of images from the Paestum Archaeological Museum collection of paintings, starting with some pictures of the Tomb of the Diver.

The Diver, painting from the covering slab of the Tomb of the Diver, 470 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

The Diver, painting from the covering slab of the Tomb of the Diver, 470 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Fresco painting from lateral walls of the Tomb of the Diver depicting a symposium scene, 5th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Fresco painting from lateral walls of the Tomb of the Diver depicting a symposium scene, 5th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Fresco painting from lateral walls of the Tomb of the Diver depicting a symposium scene, 5th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Fresco painting from lateral walls of the Tomb of the Diver depicting a symposium scene, 5th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Detail of fresco from west walls of the Tomb of the Diver depicting a a cortege of guests, 5th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Detail of fresco from west walls of the Tomb of the Diver depicting a a cortege of guests, 5th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a chariot race, from the Necropolis of Gaudo, 340-330 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a chariot race, 340-330 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a man on a chariot, 350-330 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a man on a chariot, 350-330 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a man racing a chariot past the winning post, 3rd century BC, PaestrumPaestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a man racing a biga race, 3rd century BC, PaestrumPaestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of 2 warriors fighting, 3rd century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of 2 warriors fighting, 3rd century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a two men fighting, 3rd century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a two men fighting, 3rd century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a duel and boxing contest, 3rd century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a duel and boxing contest, 3rd century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a lion hunt, 3rd Century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a lion hunt, 3rd Century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a hunting scene, 370-360 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a hunting scene, 370-360 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a hunting scene, 2nd half of 4th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a hunting scene, 2nd half of 4th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a rooster, about 350 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a rooster, about 350 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a duel judge by a sphinx, a flute player and two women weeping, 340 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a duel judge by a sphinx, a flute player and two women weeping, 340 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting the deceased on her deathbed (prothesis), 340 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting the deceased on her deathbed (prothesis), 340 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting the deceased's departure for the underworld, 340 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting the deceased’s departure for the underworld, 340 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting the goddess Victory on racing biga, 330-320 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting the goddess Victory on racing biga, 330-320 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Further images of the painted tombs of Paestum can be viewed from my image collection on Flickr.

Posted in Italy, Magna Graecia, Museum | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Animula vagula blandula… Hadrian’s farewell to life

Originally posted on FOLLOWING HADRIAN:

On this day ante diem VI idus quinctilias (July, 10th) in 138 A.D., Hadrian died after a heart failure at Baiae on the Bay of Naples.

He lived 62 years, 5 months, 17 days. He reigned for 20 years, 11 months.

Marble bust of Hadrian, from Hadrian's Mausoleum, National Museum of Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome © Carole Raddato

Marble bust of Hadrian, from Hadrian’s Mausoleum, National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome
© Carole Raddato

Hadrian spent the last moments of his life dictating verses addressed to his soul. According to the Historia Augusta, Hadrian composed the following poem shortly before his death:

“Animula, vagula, blandula
Hospes comesque corporis
Quae nunc abibis in loca
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
Nec, ut soles, dabis iocos.”

—P. Aelius Hadrianus Imp. (138)

These five lines defied translation. Nobody knows what they really mean, yet there have been forty three translations from the best English-speaking poets. Anthony R. Birley writes: “Few short poems can have generated so many verse translations and such copious academic debate as these five lines—a…

View original 363 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment