The Labours of Hercules reliefs from the Villa Chiragan, Musée Saint-Raymond Toulouse (France)

In honour of Twitter’s international Museum Week (#MuseumWeek), I invite you today to discover some of my favourite sculptures from the collections of the Musée Saint-Raymond in Toulouse (France). The museum is among the best and richest archaeological museums in France and visitors can discover the Roman town of Tolosa (Toulouse in Roman times), the sculptures discovered at the Villa Chiragan and the remains of a necropolis from late antiquity. Its collection, spread over three floors, gives a fascinating glimpse of the history of Toulouse and its area.

Known since the 16th century, the first excavations at the Villa Chiragan were conducted in 1826. The villa was occupied for over four centuries, from the end of the 1st century BC to the early 5th century. Dozens of Roman marble portraits were unearthed as well as a unique ensemble of reliefs depicting the twelve labours of Hercules. The reliefs date from the end of 3rd century AD, during the time of the first Tetrarchy (‘Rule of Four’) instituted by Emperor Diocletian. The empire was effectively divided in two, with an Augustus and a subordinate Caesar in each part. Diocletian appointed fellow officer Maximian as Augustus of the West.

The Labors of Hercules, marble relief discovered at the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan, end of 3rd century AD, Musée Saint-Raymond Toulouse Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Labours of Hercules, marble relief discovered at the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan, end of 3rd century AD
Musée Saint-Raymond
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Labours of Hercules, marble relief discovered at the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan, end of 3rd century AD, Musée Saint-Raymond Toulouse Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Labours of Hercules, marble relief discovered at the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan, end of 3rd century AD
Musée Saint-Raymond
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The emperor Maximian (286-305) was also referred to by the title of Herculius as he was under the protection of the hero Hercules. This connection between god and emperor helped to legitimize the emperors’ claims to power and tied imperial government closer to the traditional cult. A marble head of Emperor Maximian was discovered on the site of the Villa Chiragan. The emperor is depicted with similar features as Hercules; the head becomes narrow at the top, small eyes with a piercing look, prominent cheek bones, hollow cheeks, a strong lower jaw, and a very thick neck. This physique is close to that of his heroic protector Hercules.

Marble head of Maximianus Herculius, discovered at the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan, very end of 3rd century or very beginning of 4th century AD, Musée Saint-Raymond Toulouse Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Marble head of Maximianus Herculius, discovered at the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan, very end of 3rd century or very beginning of 4th century AD, Musée Saint-Raymond
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The labours of Hercules reliefs appear to celebrate Maximian’s political actions and imperial victories in an allegorical manner. Such a program could have been ordered by a relative of the Emperor or by the Emperor himself. This means that the villa was a imperial domain during this period.

Hercules battling the Lernaean Hydra

The Labours of Hercules, marble relief discovered at the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan, Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra (2nd labour), end of 3rd century AD, Musée Saint-Raymond Toulouse Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Labours of Hercules reliefs, Hercules battling the Lernaean Hydra (2nd labour)
Musée Saint-Raymond
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

To read about Hercules’ 2nd labour: The Lernean Hydra

Hercules capturing the Erymanthian Boar

The Labours of Hercules reliefs, Hercules capturing the Erymanthian Boar (4th labour) Musée Saint-Raymond Toulouse Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Labours of Hercules reliefs, Hercules capturing the Erymanthian Boar (4th labour)
Musée Saint-Raymond
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

To read about Hercules’ 4th labour: The Erymanthean Boar

Hercules cleaning the Augean stables

The Labours of Hercules reliefs, Hercules cleaning the Augean stables (5th labour) Musée Saint-Raymond Toulouse Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Labours of Hercules reliefs, Hercules cleaning the Augean stables (5th labour)
Musée Saint-Raymond
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

To read about Hercules’ 5th labour: The Augean Stables

Hercules slaying the Stymphalian Birds

The Labours of Hercules reliefs, Hercules slaying the Stymphalian Birds (6th labour)
Musée Saint-Raymond
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

To read about Hercules’ 6th labour: The Stymphalian Birds

Hercules capturing the Cretan Bull

The Labours of Hercules, Hercules capturing the Cretan Bull (7th labour) Musée Saint-Raymond Toulouse Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Labours of Hercules, Hercules capturing the Cretan Bull (7th labour)
Musée Saint-Raymond
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

To read about Hercules’ 7th labour: The Cretan Bull

Heracles capturing the Mares of Diomedes

The Labours of Hercules, marble relief discovered at the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan, Heracles capturing the Mares of Diomedes (8th labour), end of 3rd century AD, Musée Saint-Raymond Toulouse Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Labours of Hercules reliefs, Heracles capturing the Mares of Diomedes (8th labour)
Musée Saint-Raymond
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

To read about Hercules’ 8th labour: The Horses of Diomedes

Hercules fighting the Amazons

The Labours of Hercules reliefs, Hercules stealing the apples of the Hesperides (11th labour) Musée Saint-Raymond Toulouse Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Labours of Hercules reliefs, Hercules fighting the Amazons (9th labour)
Musée Saint-Raymond
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

To read about Hercules’ 9th labour: The Belt of Hippolyte

Hercules fighting the three-headed monster Geryon

The Labours of Hercules reliefs, Hercules fighting the cattle of Geryon (10th labour)
Musée Saint-Raymond
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

To read about Hercules’ 10th labour: Geryon’s Cattle.

You can also read an interpretation of this unique relief here and learn why the monster in this relief is represented as a Roman soldier.

Hercules stealing the apples of the Hesperides

The Labours of Hercules reliefs, Hercules stealing the apples of the Hesperides (11th labour) Musée Saint-Raymond Toulouse Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Labours of Hercules reliefs, Hercules stealing the apples of the Hesperides (11th labour)
Musée Saint-Raymond Toulouse
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

To read about Hercules’ 11th labour: The Apples of the Hesperides

Hercules capturing Cerberus

The Labours of Hercules reliefs, Hercules capturing Cerberus (12th labour)
Musée Saint-Raymond
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

To read about Hercules’ 12th labour: Cerberus

A marble statue of Hercules resting was also found at the Villa Chiragan (although it may have been executed before the Labours reliefs). This statue is one a number of copies of a bronze statue created by Lysippos in the late fourth century BC. At the end of his twelve labors, Hercules is exhausted. The statue shows the tired hero leaning on his club, which is partly concealed by the skin of the Nemean lion. Behind his back he holds the golden apples of the Hesperides, one of Hercules last labours.

Marble statue of Hercules leaning on his club, which has the skin of the Nemean lion draped over it, 2nd - 3rd century AD, Villa Chiragan, MSR, Musée Saint-Raymond Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Marble statue of Hercules leaning on his club, 2nd – 3rd century AD, Villa Chiragan
Musée Saint-Raymond
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Musée Saint-Raymond, Toulouse
Opening hours: The museum is open every day from 10am till 6pm.
Admission rates: 4 € fee (permanent collection) / 8 € fee (with exhibition).
Free for students, teachers at the Fine Arts School of Toulouse, and youth under 18 years of age.
A guidebook is available in three languages : french, english, spanish.
Address: 1 ter place Saint-Sernin 31000 Toulouse

Website / Twitter / Facebook

MSR, Musée Saint-Raymond, Toulouse © Carole Raddato

MSR, Musée Saint-Raymond, Toulouse
© Carole Raddato

Posted in France, Museum, Mythology, Roman art, Roman villa | Tagged | 1 Comment

7 Roman wonders from the Corinium Museum in Cirencester (UK)

This week is Twitter’s international Museum Week (#MuseumWeek), which celebrates the many museums, galleries and cultural institutions that make valuable contributions to the arts, history and culture around the world. More than 2,200 museums, galleries and cultural institutions from over 64 countries will come together on Twitter for #MuseumWeek including the Corinium Museum in Cirencester in the UK (@CoriniumMuseum).

I re-visited the recently refurbished and extended Corinium Museum last month, and today I invite you to discover 7 ancient Roman treasures from Cirencester (named Corinium Dobunnorum in Roman times), once one of the most important places in Roman Britain, second only to London.

1. The tombstones of cavalrymen Genialis & Dannicus

Tombstones of auxiliary cavalry soldiers Dannicus and Sextus Valerius Genialis, the deceased are depicted on horseback spear in hand with a fallen enemy at the horse's feet, 1st century AD, Corinium Museum Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Tombstones of auxiliary cavalry soldiers Dannicus and Sextus Valerius Genialis, the deceased are depicted on horseback spear in hand with a fallen enemy at the horse’s feet, 1st century AD, Corinium Museum
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The short epitaph on the tombstones gives us valuable information about these two soldiers. Sextus Valerius Genialis was a Frisian (from Holland) in a unit of Thracians (modern Bulgaria) whilst Dannicus of the ala Indiana came from Augusta Raurica (Augst, Switzerland).

Both cavalrymen are depicted on horseback, spear in hand, with a fallen enemy at the horse’s feet.

2. The Hare Mosaic

The Hare Mosaic, 4th century AD, Corinium Museum (Cirencester) Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Hare Mosaic, 4th century AD, Corinium Museum (Cirencester)
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Hare has become the symbol of the city of Cirencester and the museum’s logo since the discovery of this ancient Roman mosaic depicting the animal on its central roundel. The mosaic, dating to the 4th century AD, was discovered just below the road surface during archaeological excavations in Beeches Road in 1971. The hare is seen crouching amid foliag ein the act of nibbling  shrub. Today, the mosaic graces the entrance foyer of the Corinium Museum.

Hare Mosaic (detail of central roundel), 4th century AD, Corinium Museum (Cirencester) Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Hare Mosaic (detail of central roundel), 4th century AD, Corinium Museum (Cirencester)
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

3. The Bronze Cockerel

Copper-alloy enamelled cockerel, discovered during excavations in 2011 at the site of Cirencester’s western cemetery, it came from the grave of a child aged 2–3 years and dates from the 2nd century AD, Corinium Museum, Cirencester Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Copper-alloy enamelled cockerel, 2nd century AD, Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

This exquisite enamelled bronze cockerel was discovered during excavations in 2011 at the site of Cirencester’s western cemetery. It is believed to date from the 2nd century AD and came from the grave of a child aged 2–3 years. Only eight finds of this type are known from the Roman world but the Cirencester cockerel is the only example to have survived with its openwork tail and the only one from Britain from a grave.

4. The Orpheus Mosaic

The 4th century AD Orpheus Mosaic, Corinium Museum, Cirencester Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The 4th century AD Orpheus Mosaic, Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

This 4th century AD mosaic was found just outside Cirencester in 1824. It depicts Orpheus, a mythical poet and musician, encircled by animals charmed by his music.

The 4th century AD Orpheus Mosaic, Corinium Museum, Cirencester Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The 4th century AD Orpheus Mosaic, detail of a feline, Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Orpheus was a popular subject in classical art and this mosaic is one of nine Roman floors found in Britain that show Orpheus playing inside a circle of animals (including the Orpheus Mosaic from Newton St Loe, the Orpheus mosaic from Woodchester and the Orpheus mosaic from Littlecote Roman Villa). The Cirencester mosaic is thought to be the oldest of all.

The 4th century AD Orpheus Mosaic, detail of a peacock and duck, Corinium Museum, Cirencester Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The 4th century AD Orpheus Mosaic, detail of a peacock and duck, Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

5. The Jupiter Column’s Corinthian Capital

Dating to the 2nd century AD, this Corinthian capital was found in 1838 near the centre of Cirencester. It has been raised on a reconstructed column to give the impression of what it would have looked like.

The reconstructed Jupiter Column, Corinium Museum, Cirencester Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The reconstructed Jupiter Column, Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

It is thought that this capital was once part of a Jupiter Column topped with a statue of Jupiter. The four sides of this capital are carved with the faces of four Gods: Bacchus with bunches of grapes on either side; Silenus lifting a ram-headed drinking horn from his lips; Lycurgus holding a vine staff and a double-headed axe; and Ambrosia playing a drum.

The Jupiter Column's Corinthian capital, Lycurgus holding a vine staff and a double-headed axe, Corinium Museum, Cirencester Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Jupiter Column’s Corinthian capital, Lycurgus holding a vine staff and a double-headed axe, Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Jupiter Column's Corinthian capital, Ambrosia playing a drum, Corinium Museum, Cirencester Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Jupiter Column’s Corinthian capital, Ambrosia playing a drum, Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Jupiter Column's Corinthian capital, Bacchus with bunches of grapes on either side, Corinium Museum, Cirencester Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Jupiter Column’s Corinthian capital, Bacchus with bunches of grapes on either side, Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

6. The Hunting Dog Mosaic

Hunting Dogs Mosaic, 2nd - 3rd century AD with later repairs & replacements in antiquity, Corinium Museum, Cirencester Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Hunting Dogs Mosaic, 2nd – 3rd century AD with later repairs & replacements in antiquity, Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

This mosaic was found in Cirencester in 1849, inspiring the creation of the first museum. In the central medallion, three dogs converge to their prey. We do not know what animal they were hunting, as this part of the mosaic was incomplete when found and has been patched with plain tesserae.

The semicircles on either side each contain a mythical marine creature; a sea-leopard and a winged sea-griffin chasing a dolphin.

The Hunting Dogs Mosaic, detail of a winged sea-griffin chasing a dolphin Corinium Museum (Cirencester) Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Hunting Dogs Mosaic, detail of a winged sea-griffin chasing a dolphin Corinium Museum (Cirencester)
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

A particularly fine and detailed representation of the winged head of Medusa can be seen in one of the corner compartments as well as a representation of the the sea-god Oceanus. It is unusual to find both representations in the same mosaic.

Hunting Dogs Mosaic, detail of Medusa head, Corinium Museum, Cirencester Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Hunting Dogs Mosaic, detail of Medusa head, Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Hunting Dogs Mosaic, detail of Oceanus, Corinium Museum, Cirencester Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Hunting Dogs Mosaic, detail of Oceanus, Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

7. The Kingscote Wall Plaster

The Kingscote Wall Plaster, end of 3rd century or early 4th century AD, Corinium Museum, Cirencester Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Kingscote Wall Plaster, end of 3rd century or early 4th century AD, Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

This wall fresco painting comes from site at Kingscote which was occupied from the late 1st century AD through to its heyday in the 4th century. It may have been a small town or villa estate, with evidence of a series of strip buildings replaced in the 4th century by a house within a walled compound. The house seems to have been of high status, with mosaic floors, including a Venus mosaic and wall-plaster paintings.

The Kingscote Wall Plaster, end of 3rd century or early 4th century AD, Corinium Museum, Cirencester Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Kingscote Wall Plaster, end of 3rd century or early 4th century AD, Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The fresco has been reconstructed from thousand of fragments. It is believed to represent a continuous scene depicting Cupid and Venus with the armour of the God Mars. The other figures in the scene are thought to represent other gods and goddesses. It probably dates to the end of the 3rd or early 4th century.

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Corinium Museum guides

Corinium Museum guides

FURTHER INFORMATION
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm  / Sunday, 2 – 4pm
Admission ratesAdults £4.95 – Children (5 to 16) £2.45, Under 5’s free – Students (16+) £3.30
Address: Park Street, Cirencester

Website / Twitter / Facebook

Corinium Museum, Cirencester Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Posted in Britannia, Museum | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: The Lansdowne Antinous

This week’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a marble head of Antinous depicted as the god Dionysos, the closest Greek equivalent to the Egyptian god Osiris. It was  unearthed in 1769 during excavations undertook by the art dealer and archaeologist Gavin Hamilton who secured it for Lord Lansdowne. The latter was an avid collector of antiquities and owned a fine collection of classical sculpture until most of it was sold and dispersed in 1930 (including the Lansdowne Amazon and the Lansdowne Hercules). Today the Lansdowne Antinous graces the “Greece and Rome” room of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England.

Marble bust of Antinous portrayed here as the reborn god Dionysus, known as Lansdowne Antinous, found at Hadrian's Villa in 1769, c. 130 - 138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (UK) Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Marble bust of Antinous portrayed here as the reborn god Dionysus, known as Lansdowne Antinous, found at Hadrian’s Villa in 1769, c. 130 – 138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (UK)
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

This portrait head of Antinous was once part of an over life-size statue showing Antinous as the Greek god of wine, Dionysos. As was custom of the period, the missing pieces on the Lansdowne Antinous were restored in the 18th century and the head was mounted on a modern bust. The facial restoration included the tip of the nose, the upper lip, part of the ears and part of the chin.

Marble bust of Antinous portrayed as the reborn god Dionysus, known as Lansdowne Antinous, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (UK) Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Marble bust of Antinous portrayed as the reborn god Dionysus, known as Lansdowne Antinous
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (UK)
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Through the elaborate and luxuriant hair runs a wreath of ivy, very much undercut, so that the several leaves are almost detached. The head is also bound with a broad taenia, a ribbon for the hair which passes across the forehead.

Marble bust of Antinous portrayed as the reborn god Dionysus, known as Lansdowne Antinous, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (UK) Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Marble bust of Antinous portrayed as the reborn god Dionysus, known as Lansdowne Antinous
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (UK)
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Fitzwilliam Museum displays three other items from Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli; two pilaster capitals with ornate acanthus leaf decoration, and a relief (known as the Lansdowne Relief) made from dark grey limestone and beautifully decorated with scenes from Greek mythology, all of which are connected to the sea.

Marble bust of Antinous portrayed here as the reborn god Dionysus, known as Lansdowne Antinous, found at Hadrian's Villa in 1769, c. 130 - 138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (UK) Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Marble bust of Antinous portrayed here as the reborn god Dionysus, known as Lansdowne Antinous, found at Hadrian’s Villa in 1769, c. 130 – 138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (UK)
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Bibliography:
*Christie’s, The Lansdowne Collection of Ancient Marbles, London, 5 March 1930, p. 66, no. 101
*A Catalogue of the Ancient Marbles at Lansdowne House, based upon the work of Adolf Michaelis Cat. no. 64 (pdf)
*C. W. Clairmont, Die Bildnisse des Antinous, Schweizeriches Institut in Rom, 1966, p. 16, no. 8
*H. Meyer, Antinoos (1991) 116 ff. Nr. III 6 Taf. 104
*L. Budde – R. Nicholls, A Catalogue of the Greek and Roman Sculpture in the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge (1964) 68 Nr. 10

The “Roman Room” of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (UK)
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

 

Posted in Antinous, Hadrian's Villa, Museum, Roman Portraiture | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A taste of Ancient Rome – Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken) and Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin)

It has been over a year since I last blogged about ancient Roman cooking, even though I have tried a few more recipes in the meantime, as people who follow me on Twitter or Facebook have probably noticed.

One of my last cooking sessions was on the occasion of Hadrian’s birthday on 24th January. Pullum (chicken) dishes from ancient Rome have proven to be a favorite of mine and I invite you to try this recipe taken from Apicius’ De Re Coquinaria Book VI Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken). Pullum Numidicum is a chicken dish flavoured with pepper and asafoetida that is roasted and served with a spiced date, nut, honey, vinegar and stock sauce. I choose to accompany my Pullum Numidicum with Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin).

Pullum Numidicum recipe in Latin:

Apicius 6.8.5: Pullum Numidicum: pullum curas, elixas, levas, laser ac piper et assas. teres piper, cuminum, coriandri semen, laseris radicem, rutam, caryotam, nucleos, suffundis acetum, mel, liquamen et oleum, temperabis. cum ferbuerit, amulo obligas, pullum perfundis, piper aspergis et inferes.

Translation: Prepare the chicken as usual; parboil it; clean it seasoned with laser and pepper, and fry in the pan; next crush pepper, cumin, coriander seed, laser root, rue, fig dates and nuts, moistened with vinegar, honey, broth and oil to taste. When boiling thicken with roux, strain, pour over the chicken, sprinkle with pepper and serve.

Ingredients: Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken) Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Ingredients: Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken)

Ingredients (serves 4) – (source)

  • 1 prepared chicken (or chicken legs)
  • freshly-ground black pepper
  • asafoetida

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • pinch of asafoetida pinch of rue (or rosemary)
  • 4 tbsp dates, finely chopped 4 tbsp
  • ground almonds or hazelnuts
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cornflour, to thicken -if needed- (wheat starch would originally have been used)
  • freshly-ground black pepper, to garnish

Method:

Add the chicken to a pan of boiling water and cook for 30 minutes to parboil. Then remove the chicken and pat dry. Place in a roasting tin and sprinkle with black pepper and a little asafoetida. Place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and roast for about 40 minutes, or until cooked through.

In the meantime, prepare the sauce. Pound together the black pepper, cumin, coriander seeds, asafoetida and rue in a mortar. Add the dates and ground nuts then pound until smooth. Work in the vinegar and honey then add the chicken stock and olive oil. Turn into a pan and bring to a boil. If needed, whisk in the cornflour until smooth and cook until thickened.

When the chicken is cooked, arrange on a platter, pour over the sauce and serve.

Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken) accompanied with Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin) Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken) accompanied with Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin)

The Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin) recipe comes from Apicius’ De Re Coquinaria Book V.

Conchicla Cum faba recipe in Latin:

Apicius 5.4.1: Conchicla Cum faba: coques. teres piper, ligusticum cuminum coriandrum viridem, suffundis liquamen, vinum et liquamen in ea temperabis, mittis in caccabum, adicies oleum. lento igni ferveat et inferes.

Translation: Cook the beans; meanwhile crush pepper, lovage, cumin, green coriander, moistened with broth and wine, and add more broth to taste, put into the sauce pan with the beans adding oil; heat on a slow fire and serve.

Ingredients (serves 4) – (source)

  • 450g fresh, unshelled, beans
  • pinch of lovage seeds (or celery seeds)
  • pinch of cumin seeds
  • pinch of fresh coriander
  • 100ml chicken stock
  • 70ml white wine
  • pinch of black peppercorns

Method:

Trim the beans and steam them for ten minutes. Drain the pan and add the beans to it. Add the celery, cumin and coriander seeds to a mortar and grind them together. Blend with the stock and white wine. Pour this sauce over the beans and add the olive oil. Simmer gently until the beans are heated through and the sauce has reduced.

Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken) accompanied with Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin) and served with Hapalos Artos (soft bread)

Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken) accompanied with Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin) and served with Hapalos Artos (soft bread)

I later realised that the vegetable I used was green beans, which are from the New World. The “faba” of ancient Roman cookery would have been fava beans. Therefore I should have used unshelled broad beans (beans still in the pod).

Verdict:

The results were amazing and both dishes tasted exceptionally good! I loved all the flavours of the chicken sauce and particularly the sweetness from the figs and the spice from the cumin and pepper. The vinegar definitely helped cut the overpowering sweetness of the sauce so don’t forget to add the vinegar. I have to say that this is one of my favorite ancient dishes to date with the Pullum Particum (Parthian Chicken).

This savoury and sweet dish should be served with some ancient Roman red wine. I highly recommend this extraordinary spiced wine – conditum paradoxum that you can buy online via the Der-Römer-Shop here.

Conditum paradoxum - Ancient red wine from Apicius

Conditum paradoxum – Ancient red wine from Apicius

Bonum appetitionem!

Fresco showing a piece of bread and two figs, from Pompeii, Naples National Archaeological Museum Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Fresco showing a piece of bread and two figs, from Pompeii, Naples National Archaeological Museum
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Related posts:

A taste of Ancient Rome – Pullum Particum (Parthian Chicken) and Parthian Chickpeas

A taste of Ancient Rome – Aliter Patina de Asparagis (Omelette with Asparagus and Fresh Herbs)

A taste of Ancient Rome – Minutal ex Praecoquis (Pork and Fruit Ragout)

Posted in Ancient Roman cuisine | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Looking for Roman bridges in Sardinia

When I was planning my archaeological trip to Sardinia I discovered, thanks to vici.org (an Archaeological Atlas of Antiquity I have mentioned here before), that there were many Roman bridges still standing all across the country. Some are left abandoned and almost completely covered with vegetation but others are perfectly preserved. Ancient Roman bridges are an exceptional feat of Roman construction and, as I said before, I hold a certain fascination for these impressive ancient structures. I previously wrote about the Roman bridges I saw in Portugal here and in Southern France here.

Sardinia on the ancient Roman map Tabula Peutingeriana Public Domain

Sardinia on the ancient Roman map Tabula Peutingeriana
Public Domain

When the Romans began their conquest of Sardinia in 238 BC, there was already a road network built by the Punic who had inhabited the island since around 550 BC. However the Punic road network was only linking the coastal towns, leaving out the interior of the island completely. The Romans built four major roads (viae principales): two along the coasts and two inland, all with north-south direction. The road network, initially built for military reasons, was then maintained and restored continuously for economic reasons.

The main cities and roads of Sardinia in Roman times Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

The main cities and roads of Sardinia in Roman times
Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

The most western road ran the entire west coast of Sardinia and linked Turris Libisonis (Porto-Torres) to Sulcis (Sant’Antioco) through Bosa, Cornus, Othoca (Santa Giusta) and Neapolis. The most eastern road followed the entire east coast from Tibula to Carales (Cagliari). Inland, two parallel roads ran from Olbia to Caralis through the region of the Barbagia (a land of barbarians) and from Tibulas to Caralis, passing first through Turris Libisonis (Porto Torres), and then through Forum Traiani (Fordongianus) and Othoca right down to Caralis (Cagliari). Other important roads that have been identified ran east-west (viae transversae), like the roads connecting Sulcis with Caralis, another connecting Othoca with Forum Traiani. This communication system was very efficient and created favorable conditions for the Roman cultural penetration among local populations.

Of the numerous Roman bridges in Sardinia, the most outstanding is the one in Ozieri, a 89 meter long bridge spanning the Rio Mannu alongside the road that connected Olbia to Caralis.

Roman bridge Ozieri, dating to the 2nd century AD and restored in the 3rd–4th century AD. It has six arcades for a total length of 87.50 metres (287 ft), Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Roman bridge Ozieri, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Known locally as “Pont’Ezzu” (Old Bridge), this bridge is a remarkable example of monumental architecture and is one of the largest and best preserved Roman bridge on the island. It dates to the 2nd century AD and was restored in the 3rd–4th century AD. It had six arches decreasing from the center to the sides and was still in used until the 1950’s. (Source)

Roman bridge Ozieri, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Roman bridge Ozieri, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Roman bridge Ozieri, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Roman bridge Ozieri, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Another impressive example of Roman engineering is the Roman bridge at Porto Torres. Two thousand years of traffic have crossed the seven arches of the bridge over the Rio Mannu of Porto Torres as it was still in use up to the 1980s.

Roman bridge of Turris Libisonis, Porto Torres, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Roman bridge of Turris Libisonis, Porto Torres, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The bridge at Porto Torres stretches for 135 m from east to west and is 8 m wide. It was built after the foundation of Turris Libisonis in the first century AD to link the city to the silver mines and grain fields of Nurra (Sardinia was important to the Roman grain supply as mosaics from Ostia attest). The 135m long bridge slopes sharply, due to the different heights of the river banks. On the east side of the bridge you can still see a part of the original road surface.

Roman bridge of Turris Libisonis, Porto Torres, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Roman bridge of Turris Libisonis, Porto Torres, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The bridge was built in opus quadratum with blocks of local limestone and slabs of thachyte that preserved the piers equipped with buttresses for regulating water flows. (Source)

Roman bridge of Turris Libisonis, Porto Torres, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Roman bridge of Turris Libisonis, Porto Torres, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

In the region of Mores, the remnants of the Roman bridge Pont’Ezzu bear witness to the importance of the territory as a major crossroads. During the Roman period the area was particularly densely-inhabited and Hafa (modern-day Mores) was an important centre, especially thanks to the dense communication network that passed through the area, like the north-south road that linked Olbia and Turris Libisonis to Caralis. The two surviving arches of Pont’Ezzu date back to the first century AD.

Pont Ezzu (Old Bridge), Roman bridge near Mores, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Pont Ezzu (Old Bridge), Roman bridge near Mores, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

In the small farming community of Allai, once at a crossing point between Forum Traiani and the interior of the island, lays another Roman bridge built in local red trachyte stone and dating back to the 1st century AD.

Pont'Ecciu, Allai, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Pont’Ecciu, Allai, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Spanning the river Flumineddu, this Roman bridge with seven arches was restored and enlarged in 1157 during the period of the Giudicati. The first structure presumably had only four arches.

Pont'Ecciu, Allai, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Pont’Ecciu, Allai, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Another Roman bridge is located the suburbs of Usellus in the interior of Sardinia. It spanned a stream close to the colony of Uselis, a city founded in the late-Republican period and raised to a colony in the Imperial Age with the name of “Iulia Augusta Uselis” as recorded by the geographer Ptolemy.

Roman bridge near Usellus, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Roman bridge near Usellus, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Roman bridge on the island of Sant’Antioco, known as “Pontimannu”(big bridge) is unique on the island. It allowed the ancient centre of Sulci to be connected to the mainland.

Roman bridge at Sant'Antioco, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC

Roman bridge at Sant’Antioco, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The city of Sant’Antioco was founded in the 8th century BC by the Phoenicians and later flourished as a Carthaginian colony to become one of the most considerable cities of Sardinia. There are numerous archeological sites in Sant’Antioco such as a Tophet necropolis where inhabitants from the Phoenician and Punic centres of the western Mediterranean laid their born dead infants  and those that died right after birth. Due to its strategic position, Sulci underwent noteworthy developments during the Roman Republic era when the execution of important works was carried out.

Roman bridge at Sant'Antioco, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Roman bridge at Sant’Antioco, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The bridge is 120 m long and about 5.5 m wide with two barrel-vaulted arches about 5.0 m large made of square blocks of sandstone. It undergone numerous and substantial restoration up until the 18th century. (Source)

Roman bridge, one of the barrel-vaulted, Sant'Antioco, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Roman bridge, one of the barrel-vaulted, Sant’Antioco, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

There are a few more Roman bridges to be found on the island. Here are photos of three  bridges I was able to see and another two that I sadly missed.

Roman bridge near Birori, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Roman bridge near Birori on the road from Olbia to Forum Traiani, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Remains of the roman bridge at Santa Giusta on the road from Othoca to Carales, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Remains of the roman bridge at Santa Giusta on the road from Othoca to Carales, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Roman bridge on the road from Forum Traiani to Othoca, 1st century BC - 1st century AD, Tramatza, Sardinia Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Roman bridge on the road from Forum Traiani to Othoca, 1st century BC – 1st century AD, Tramatza, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

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CC BY-SA 2.0

Roman bridge Fertilia, near Alghero, Sardinia from Flickr: user randomaze CC BY-SA 2.0

Related posts:

Looking for Roman bridges in Lusitania (Portugal)

Looking for Roman bridges in Provence (France)

 

Posted in Archaeology Travel, Italy, Roman Bridges, Roman engineering, Sardinia | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Marble head of a companion of Odysseus

This week’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a marble head of a companion of Odysseus, copied after a famous work of the Hellenistic period.

Marble head of a companion of Odysseus from the Pantanello at Hadrian’s Villa, British Museum Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Marble head of a companion of Odysseus from the Pantanello at Hadrian’s Villa, British Museum
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

This head shows the face of a man that probably belonged to a multi-figure group depicting Odysseus with his twelve companions blinding the one-eyed giant and the most famous of the Cyclopes, Polyphemus, with a burning stake.

The depiction of the blinding of Polyphemus occurs a number of times in classical sculpture and especially in the decoration of grottoes and nymphaeums. Another version  of this head was found, together with the body, at the Villa/Grotto of Tiberius in Sperlonga, south of Rome. There it belonged to a figure portraying a wineskin-carrier, in a statue-group showing the blinding of Polyphemus by Odysseus and his companions (see images here). Apart from the statue in the grotto at Sperlonga, other famous examples were found in the sunken nymphaeum of Punta Epitaffio at Baia, near Naples, and in the Antrum Cyclopis  (“cave of the Cyclops”) of the Domus Aurea in Rome.

Marble head of a companion of Odysseus from the Pantanello at Hadrian’s Villa, British Museum Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Marble head of a companion of Odysseus from the Pantanello at Hadrian’s Villa, British Museum
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The sculpture was found in an area of Hadrian’s villa known as the Pantanello (little swamp). 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.

This head has suffered some damage: the nose, lips and bust are modern restorations. It is on display at the British Museum in London.

Source: British Museum

Posted in Hadrian's Villa, Hellenistic Art, Italy, Museum, Mythology, Roman art | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My Hadrian 1900 project

No other Roman emperor travelled as much as Hadrian. He was famed for his endless journeys around the empire and we can say that Hadrian, with the exception of the years during which he remained in Rome (119-120, 126-127 and the final years of his reign), devoted at least half of his reign to the inspection of the provinces. My fascination for Hadrian and my passion for travelling has motivated me to follow him in his footsteps.

2017 will mark the 1,900th anniversary of Hadrian’s accession as emperor. I want to take this opportunity to celebrate Hadrian’s legacy in a even more exciting way. The commemoration will last for 31 years, from 2017 to 2038. I usually try to use Hadrian’s journeys as a leading thread for my own adventures but with this project I want to go one step further. My aim is to try to follow Hadrian’s journeys according to the year they were undertaken. I have already planned the first two years of Hadrian’s reign.

117–118: Returning to Rome from Syria by way of the north-eastern frontier

Hadrian’s first imperial journey began soon after he had been proclaimed emperor by the army in Syria. On August 11 of 117, at the age of 41, Hadrian succeeded Trajan. At the time Hadrian was in Antioch as governor of Syria and he did not travel directly back to Rome. After receiving the news of Trajan’s death, he set out to Selinus to pay his last respect to Trajan. Trajan’s ashes were sent on to Rome by ship whilst Hadrian returned to Antioch, where he remained until October. He finally left Antioch in September 117 and journeyed north-westwards to sort out the Danube frontier. Hadrian’s path took him from Syria to Ancyra and Byzantium before heading to Dacia where he conducted negotiations with the king of the Roxolani. Then Hadrian’s remained in the Danube lands for a couple of months and finally left for Rome which he reached on the 9th of July AD 118.

The journey of Hadrian in Cilicia was recorded on an inscription in Rome (CIL VI 5076) which carries the names of stations on the highroad from Tarsus to Caesarea in Cappadocia, and is equipped with dates from October 13 to 19. However the end of his journey from Pannonia to Rome is uncertain. There I decided to use Antony R. Birley’s suggestion that Hadrian travelled from Pannonia to Rome overland crossing the Julian Alps into the plains around the Venetian lagoon, and headed south along the coast and down the Via Flaminia.

View this map on Google Map

This map has been produced with the help of two online maps; a Roman route planner with all the main roads and cities of the Roman Empire based on the Tabula Peutingeriana (a medieval copy of a Roman roadmap from about the year 300 AD) and an archaeological atlas of antiquity, both of which created by René Voorburg.

And finally, I was born exactly 1900 years after Hadrian… 76 – 1976 :)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 12 Comments

Photoset: The Punic-Roman Temple of Antas, Sardinia

Nestled in the middle of the Iglesiente mountains in the southwestern part of Sardinia, the ruins of the Punic-Roman Temple of Antas offer visitors a truly majestic sight. After lying abandoned for centuries, the temple was discovered in 1838 and extensively restored in 1967. Most impressively, the original Ionic columns were excavated and re-erected. The present visible structure dates to the 3rd century AD on a floor-plan from the Augustan age.

Temple of Antas, a Punic-Roman temple, first built around 500 BC, and restored around 300 BC, the Roman temple was built under Augustus and restored under Caracalla, Sardinia © Carole Raddato

Temple of Antas, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The area, rich in silver, lead and iron, was originally a Nuragic necropolis in use in the early Iron Age (9th-8th century BC) and identified probably as a sanctuary. The god worshipped here was Babai, the main male divinity of the Nuragic civilization. Attracted by its metal deposits, the Carthaginians colonised the area at the end of the 5th century BC and built a temple in honour of the Punic deity Sid Addir, god of warriors and hunters, who personified the indigenous god worshipped in the nearby Nuragic sanctuary. Its construction was divided into two phases: the more archaic dates back to 500 BC when the place of worship was made up of just a simple rectangular cella (sacred enclosure) where a rock served as a sacred altar. Later in approximately 300 BC occurred a series of transformations. The area has produced numerous fragments of Punic sculptures and a large number of dedicatory inscriptions. Some remains of the Punic temple can be seen in front of the temple, which were covered in roman times by a broad staircase.

Temple of Antas, Sardinia In front of the temple are the excavated structures belonging to the Punic phase of the temple © Carole Raddato

Temple of Antas, Sardinia
In front of the temple are the excavated structures belonging to the Punic phase of the temple
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Temple of Antas, Sardinia In front of the temple are the excavated structures belonging to the Punic phase of the temple © Carole Raddato

Temple of Antas, Sardinia
In front of the temple are the excavated structures belonging to the Punic phase of the temple
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Roman temple was built exactly on the site of its Punic predecessor and the Romans in their turn identified the Punic deity as Sardus Pater. Both Sallust and Pausanias record that Sardus was the son of Hercules who migrated out of the land of Libya to settle on the island of Sardinia which he called after himself. Under the Roman emperors the cult of Sardus was encouraged because in Rome there was a temple dedicated to Hercules on the Forum Boarium which made a strong connection between Sardus and Rome.

Temple of Antas, Sardinia © Carole Raddato

Temple of Antas, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The temple was built on a podium accessible by a wide flight of steps on the front side consisting of various levels. On the fourth stood the altar in which, according to Roman rituals, the sacrifices were made. The podium is 20 m long and is divided into three parts; the proanos, cella and adyton.

A drawing of of the temple of Antas like it might have looked

A drawing of the Temple of Antas showing how it might have looked

The proanos has four Ionic columns (tetrastyle) upholding the main beam that contains the famous Latin inscription: Imp(eratori) [Caes(ari) M.] Aurelio Antonino. Aug(usto) P(io) F(elici) temp[(lum) d]ei [Sa]rdi Patris Bab[i/vetustate c]on[lapsum] (?) [—] A[—] restitue[ndum] cur[avit] Q (?) Co[el]lius (or Co[cce]ius) Proculus.

The Latin inscription in honor of Caracalla, Temple of Antas, Sardinia © Carole Raddato

The Latin inscription in honor of Caracalla, Temple of Antas, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The inscription reveals that the temple was restored under the emperor Caracalla and dedicated to the god Sardus Pater Babi, the forefather of the Sards, by a man called Proculus. This dates the restoration phase to around 215 AD, but the Roman version of the temple could have been built as early as 27 BC under Augustus.

The columns of the proanos had a height of approximately 8 meters and were built of local limestone with attic bases. They were surmounted by Ionic capitals.

Temple of Antas, Sardinia © Carole Raddato

The proanos of the Temple of Antas, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The proanos of the Temple of Antas, Sardinia © Carole Raddato

The proanos of the Temple of Antas, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The cella, the central hall of the temple, had large pillars leaning against the perimeter walls supported by roof beams. Its floor was covered with a black and white mosaic of which only part has survived. Only the priests could access the cella. At the back of the temple was the adyton. It was divided into two rooms, each with their own entrance and in front of their doorway two square water basins on the floor which contained holy water for purification ceremonies (ablution). This feature was uncommon for Roman temples and is further evidence of Romans borrowing Punic religious beliefs. One of the rooms housed the bronze statue of the Punic god Sardus Pater of which only a finger of one hand was found.

Temple of Antas, Sardinia © Carole Raddato

The east side of the Temple of Antas, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

At approximately 1 km from the temple are located the Roman quarries from which limestone boulders were extracted and used for the construction of the sanctuary. The work was carried out with hammer and chisel, while the transport was probably made by carts pulled by oxen. The line cuts which were followed to extract the limestone blocks are still visible.

Roman quarry near the Temple of Antas, Sardinia © Carole Raddato

Roman quarry near the Temple of Antas, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Roman quarry near the Temple of Antas, Sardinia © Carole Raddato

Roman quarry near the Temple of Antas, Sardinia
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The temple’s isolated position in a fertile valley makes it an enchanted place to visit and offers visitors a great natural scenery. It is one of the most impressive and interesting archaeological remains on the island.

For further info visit the official website & Tharros.info.

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Opening times:
– ​​from July to September every day from 9.30 to 19.30 
– from April to May and October from 9.30 to 17.30 
– June from 9.30 to 18.30 
– from November to March from 9.30 to 16.30 except Monday 

A view of the temple of Antas and the surrounding valley © Carole Raddato

The temple of Antas and the surrounding valley
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Posted in Archaeology Travel, Photography, Roman Temples, Sardinia | 5 Comments

Exquisite marble bust of Hadrian found in Spain

Today I was thrilled to discover that a beautiful bust of Hadrian had been excavated at the archaeological site of Los Torrejones in the Region of Murcia in Spain. The bust, characterized by its excellent condition, was discovered during archaeological digs at the site which ran from October to December 2014. It was only unveiled to the public today.

The counselor Sanchez presents the bust found in Yecla © Vicente Vicéns

The counselor Sanchez presents the bust found in Yecla
© Vicente Vicéns

The 52 cm high sculpture, carved out of white marble, is believed to date to 135 AD. It appears to belong to the “Rollockenfrisur” type, one of the six sculptural types attributed to the extant corpus of Hadrian portraits by M. Wegner, a German specialist on Roman portraiture (a seventh type was added later on). Approximately 160 portraits of Hadrian have survived, and the “Rollockenfrisur” type was a type popular in the provinces. This type is characterized by nine curls which are framing evenly the face and are rolled onto themselves in a movement to the left. The best known examples of the “Rollockenfrisur” type include the bronze statue in Israel Museum (left), the marble busts in Seville (middle) and in the British Museum (right).

The new bust was found alongside another smaller figure depicting a woman dating to the same period. Both were laying at the entrance of a large building whose exact purpose has not yet been established, but is known to have had something to do with water (a nymphaeum?). It is possible that the structure was linked to the worship of the Emperor. The Los Torrejones site consists of a rural Roman villa complex which included a monumental residential area in which the owner lived (Pars Dominica) as well an area reserved for servants and workers of the farm (Pars Rustica). It is one of five such sites discovered in the municipality of Yecla which are known to have been occupied between the 1st and 4th centuries AD.

Excavation work at the site of Los Torrejones is an ongoing project and further digs will probably be scheduled for 2015.

The bust will be on display at the Archaeological Museum of Yecla from this coming weekend.

Needless to say that I am already planning a trip to Spain to see and photograph this wonderful find!

Video of the press conference (in Spanish) http://www.laverdad.es/videos/yecla/201502/05/encuentran-yecla-busto-emperador-4034485543001-mm.html

Source: http://bit.ly/1D2Epe9

Posted in Archaeology News, Hadrian, Hadrian portrait, Roman Portraiture, Spain | 6 Comments

Exploring Verulamium, the Roman city of St Albans (UK)

Anyone with an interest in Roman Britain should have St Albans on top of their list of places to visit. I myself visited St Albans twice and enjoyed it on both occasions. A short train ride north of London, St Albans is a must-see site. There are a few remains of the Roman town still visible (Verulamium), such as parts of the city walls, a hypocaust in situ under a mosaic floor, but the most spectacular are the remains of the Roman theatre.

In its heyday Verulamium was the third largest city in Roman Britain. The city was founded on the ancient Celtic site of Verlamion (meaning ‘settlement above the marsh’), a late Iron Age settlement and major center of the Catuvellauni tribe. After the Roman invasion of 43 AD, the city was renamed Verulamium and became one of the largest and most prosperous towns in the province of Britannia. In around AD 50, Verulamium was granted the rank of municipium, meaning its citizens had “Latin Rights”. It grew to a significant town, and as such was a prime target during the revolt of Boudicca in 61 AD. Verulamium was sacked and burnt to the ground on her orders but the Romans crushed the revolt and Verulamium recovered quickly.

Verulamium about 300 AD showing large town houses surrounded by gardens (Artist impression of Verulamium by John Pearson)

Verulamium about 300 AD showing large town houses surrounded by gardens
(Artist impression of Verulamium by John Pearson)

By 140 AD the town had doubled in size, covering 100 acres, and featured a Forum with a basilica, public baths, temples, many prosperous private townhouses  and a theatre. Despite two fires, one in 155 AD and the other around 250 AD, Verulamium continued to grow and remained a central Roman town for the next four hundred years until the end of the Roman occupation.

Today the site of Verulamium sits in a beautiful public park. Archaeological excavations were undertaken in the park during the 1930s during which the 1800-year-old hypocaust and its covering mosaic floor were discovered. Further large-scale excavations uncovered the theatre, a corner of the basilica nearby and some of the best preserved wall paintings from Roman Britain. On the outskirts of the park is the Verulamium Museum which contains hundreds of archaeological objects relating to everyday Roman life. Today these artefacts from Verulamium form one of the finest collections from Roman Britain.

The Roman Theatre

The Roman Theatre of Verulamium, built in about 140 AD, is unique. Although several towns in Britain are known to have had theatres, this is the only one visible today. It was discovered in 1869 on the site of the original Watling Street that run from Londinium (London) to Deva Victrix (Chester) and was fully excavated in the 1930s.

The Roman Theatre at Verulamium, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The Roman Theatre of Verulamium, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Roman Theatre of Verulamium, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The Roman Theatre of Verulamium, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The theatre was built close to the site of an earlier water shrine and was linked to two temples dedicated to Romano-British gods: one stood immediately behind the theatre and the other on the opposite side of the river a short distance outside the town. Today the remains of these temples lie buried.

The theatre could accommodate several thousands spectators on simple wooden benches and had an almost circular orchestra in front of the stage where town magistrates and local dignitaries were seated (see illustration) . By 160 AD-180, the theatre was radically altered with the stage enlarged.

Reconstruction drawing of the Roman Theatre at Verulamium, St Albans © Carole Raddato

Reconstruction drawing of the Roman Theatre at Verulamium in about 180 AD, St Albans (Alan Sorrell)

Religious processions and entertainments like wrestling, bullfights, sword fights and gladiatorial contests occasionally took place in the theatre. Plays by Latin and Greek authors were also performed at religious festivals as well as pantomīmae (pantomime shows). Its fine acoustics were perfectly suited to musical and dramatic performances.

The Roman Theatre of Verulamium, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The Roman Theatre of Verulamium, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Roman Theatre of Verulamium, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The Roman Theatre of Verulamium, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The theatre was lined with shops with storage spaces behind the main shop area and even sleeping quarters. A covered walkway  along the street provided shelter for customers and goods for sales. When the shops were excavated in the 1950’s, broken crucibles and waste metal showed that most of the shops had been occupied by blacksmiths and bronze workers.

Shops near the theatre, a carpenter shop, bronze workers shop and wine shop, Verulamium, St Albans © Carole Raddato

Shops near the theatre, a carpenter shop, bronze workers shop and wine shop, Verulamium, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Around 170 AD a large townhouse was built behind the shops part of which can still be seen. The house had a hypocaust and an underground shrine.

2nd century AD Roman house (Domus) with hypocaust and underground shrine, Verulamium, St Albans © Carole Raddato

2nd century AD Roman house (Domus) with hypocaust and underground shrine, Verulamium, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Hypocaust and Mosaic

During the 1930s excavations, archaeologists uncovered a 1800 year old underfloor heating system, or hypocaust, which ran under an intricate mosaic floor. By 150 AD it was the custom for aristocrat’s houses to have at least one or two rooms heated by hypocausts and  fine mosaic floors. This floor is thought to have been part of the reception rooms of a large town house built around 180 AD. Part of the west wing of the house is preserved in situ and is on public view in the Verulamium Park.

Mosaic with floral panels, around 180 AD, Verulamium, St Albans © Carole Raddato

Mosaic with floral panels, around 180 AD, Verulamium, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The mosaic is of great size and contains around 200,000 tesserae. The floor is composed of a central section with 16 square panels, each containing a circular roundel with a geometric design. The borders are bands of single and double interlaces and strips of wide and thin dark and light material.

Mosaic with floral panels, around 180 AD, Verulamium, St Albans © Carole Raddato

Mosaic with floral panels, around 180 AD, Verulamium, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Mosaic with floral panels, around 180 AD, Verulamium, St Albans © Carole Raddato

Mosaic with floral panels, around 180 AD, Verulamium, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The hypocaust was stocked from a small room outside the main house, and the stockehole of its furnace is visible below a glass floor panel. Heat passed through flues beneath the mosaic, one has collapse and can be seen.

The exposed hypocaust under the mosaic, Verulamium, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The exposed hypocaust under the mosaic, Verulamium, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The city walls and gateway

A rather long section of the city walls of Verulamium can still be seen today. The walls were constructed around 270 AD and were over 3m thick at foundation level and over 2m high. They were built as a complete circuit round Verulamium with a total length of 3.4 km (2.25 miles) and enclosing an area of 82 ha (203 acres). This made Verulamium the third largest walled city in Roman Britain behind Corinium (Cirencester) and Londinium (London).

The city walls of Verulamium, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The city walls of Verulamium, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The city walls of Verulamium, St Albans Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The city walls of Verulamium, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The city walls of Verulamium, St Albans Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Large gateways controlled the four main entrances to the town of Verulamium. The best preserved is the London Gate on the south side of the town. All four main gates were massive structures with double carriageways and narrow passageways for pedestrians.

Reconstruction of the London Gate, Verulamium, St Albans (P.M. Andrews)

Reconstruction drawing of the London Gate, Verulamium, St Albans
(P.M. Andrews)

Surviving foundations of the London Gate, Verulamium, St Albans © Carole Raddato

Surviving foundations of the London Gate, Verulamium, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Verulamium Museum

Located in Verulamium park, the Verulamium Museum was established following the 1930s excavations carried out by Mortimer Wheeler and his wife Tessa Wheeler.

The Verulamium Museum, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The Verulamium Museum, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Wandering around the rooms, one can learn how the ancient town was built, how the inhabitants of the city made a living and also how their dead were buried.

The Verulamium Museum, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The Verulamium Museum, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

This award-winning museum houses an outstanding collection of Roman mosaic floors, some of the best Roman wall paintings to have survived in Britain and a vast collection of small finds, from the most humble to the magnificent. A range of rooms from various houses have also been recreated giving the visitor an opportunity to discover the life and times of a major Roman city.

The mosaics

The remains of more the forty mosaics have been found at Verulamium, some of them being the finest ever found in Britain.

Oceanus Mosaic, 160-190 AD, Verulamium Museum, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The Oceanus Mosaic, 160-190 AD, Verulamium Museum, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Shell Mosaic, dated to c. AD 150, Verulamium Museum, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The Shell Mosaic, dated to c. AD 150, Verulamium Museum, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Dahlia Mosaic with flower motif, 175-200 AD, Verulamium Museum, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The Dahlia Mosaic with flower motif, 175-200 AD, Verulamium Museum, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Lion and Stag Mosaic, Verulamium Museum, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The Lion and Stag Mosaic, Verulamium Museum, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The wall paintings

Surviving painting frescoes are rare in Britain and the Verulamium Museum is exceptional in having several well-preserved wall paintings. Most designs imitate marble veneers, columns and cornices, giving an impression of wealth and luxury.

Wall painting with imitation columns and panelling, ca. 150 AD, Verulamium Museum, St Albans © Carole Raddato

Wall painting with imitation columns and panelling, ca. 150 AD, Verulamium Museum, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Reconstructed painted plaster wall dating to about 180 AD, Verulamium Museum, St Albans © Carole Raddato

Reconstructed painted plaster wall dating to about 180 AD, Verulamium Museum, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Reconstructed painted plaster walls dating to about 180 AD, Verulamium Museum, St Albans © Carole Raddato

Reconstructed painted plaster walls dating to about 180 AD, Verulamium Museum, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Wall painting with a candelabrum, Verulamium Museum, St Albans © Carole Raddato

Wall painting with a candelabrum, Verulamium Museum, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The Basilica inscription

Despite the long settlement history of Verulamium, there remains little evidence of the Roman occupancy period in the form of stone inscriptions. However eight small fragments (RIB222 to RIB229) of a dedicatory inscription from the Basilica were found under a school playground in the 1950’s. The inscription has been reconstructed as a large dedication slab (approx. 4.3m x 1.0m).

The reconstructed Basilica inscription, dated to 79 or 81 AD, Verulamium Museum, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The reconstructed Basilica inscription, dated to 79 or 81 AD, Verulamium Museum, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

The inscription written in a shortened form of Latin is likely to have read:

For the Emperor Titus Caesar Vespasianus Augustus, son of the Divine Vespasian, ‘High Priest’, granted the tribunician powers nine times, hailed Imperator in the field fifteen times, consul seven times, designated consul for an eighth term, censor, ‘Father of the Fatherland’, and to Caesar Domitianus, son of the Divine Vespasian, consul six times, designated consul for a seventh term, ‘Prince of Youth’, and to all the priestly brotherhoods, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, legate of the emperor with pro-praetorian power, adorned the Verulamium basilica.”

The inscription is notable because it mentions Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the Roman governor of Britain from AD 77-84, who is otherwise known from a biography written by his son-in-law Tacitus.

Other museum’s highlights

An outstanding statuette, the so-called ‘Verulamium Venus’, is among one of the most famous finds at Verulamium. The bronze figurine probably once held central place in a household shrine. Venus stands holding a golden apple said to have been won in a beauty contest with the goddesses Juno and Minerva (though it may possibly represent the goddess of the Underworld Persephone holding a pomegranate). The statuette is one of the finest to have survived from Roman Britain.

The so-called "Verulamium Venus", a bronze statuette of Venus holding an apple in her left hand or Persephone holding a pomegranate, 2nd century AD, Verulamium Museum, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The so-called “Verulamium Venus”, a bronze statuette of Venus holding an apple in her left hand or Persephone holding a pomegranate, 2nd century AD, Verulamium Museum, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Many beautiful pieces of Roman glass have survived intact at Verulamium because they were included in burials and thus protected from the shifts in earth movement which usually breaks fragile things like glass. In 1813 a fine glass jug was found inside a stone coffin at Kingsbury just outside the Roman walls.

The Kingsbury Jug, Verulamium Museum, St Albans © Carole Raddato

The Kingsbury Jug, Verulamium Museum, St Albans
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

A visit to St Albans will give you a good chance to see some of the most impressive Roman remains and artefacts from Britain.

Map of St Albans:

Map of St Albans

Map of St Albans

St Albans tourist information: http://www.enjoystalbans.com/

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