Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Headless statue of Athena

This month’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a headless statue of Athena of the Vescovali-Arezzo Type and made of Luna marble.

Headless statue of Athena of a Vescovali-Arezzo Type (modelled on a bronze prototype of the 4th century BC, from the portico of the pecile at Hadrian's Villa, 138 - 150 AD, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Headless statue of Athena of a Vescovali-Arezzo Type, from Hadrian’s Villa, 138 – 150 AD, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

The goddess is depicted wrapped in a himation (cloak). She wears her aegis bordered with small snakes over the shoulders. She stands with her left hand resting on her hip and would have carried a spear in her (lost) right hand.

In the Homeric corpus, the aegis was Zeus’ magical breastplate (or shield) which he lent to his daughter Athena in honor of her role in principled warfare. In most accounts, it was described as a goat-skin construction bearing a Gorgon’s head at its center.

Headless statue of Athena of a Vescovali-Arezzo Type (modelled on a bronze prototype of the 4th century BC, from the portico of the pecile at Hadrian's Villa, 138 - 150 AD, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Headless statue of Athena of a Vescovali-Arezzo Type, from Hadrian’s Villa, 138 – 150 AD, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

The statue was presumably made according to a Greek model attributed to Praxiteles’ workshop. A large number of Roman copies have survived and one complete figure of this type can be seen in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (see image here). Two other near complete copies are housed in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (see here) as well as in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (see image here). On the basis of the arrangement and treatment of the drapery and the attitude of the figure (the hand resting on the hip), all these Roman replicas have been connected with one of the figures carved in relief on a pedestal from Mantineia in the Greek Peloponnese.

Relief slab from a pedestal, three Muses holding musical instruments and scrolls, found in Mantineia, it formed the revetment of a pedestal for the statues of the Delian trinity (Leto, Apollo & Artemis), c. 340 BC, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

Relief slab from a pedestal, three Muses holding musical instruments and scrolls, found in Mantineia, it formed the revetment of a pedestal for the statues of the Delian trinity (Leto, Apollo & Artemis), c. 340 BC, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

The marble slab above is part of a series of three slabs found in Mantineia in 1887 by the French School at Athens (École française d’Athènes). At the time of the discovery, the French archaeologist Gustave Fougères made a connection between Pausanias’ report of Praxiteles making statues of Leto, Apollo, and Artemis for the Temple of Leto at Mantineia and the marble slabs. In his ‘Description of Greece’ (8.9.1), Pausanias noted that images of Muses decorated the pedestal of this cult statue group. On this basis, it has been assumed that the reliefs were contemporary to Praxiteles’ work and were probably carved by one of the great sculptor’s pupils.

The statue of Athena from Hadrian’s Villa was found in 1913/14 during excavations in the great dining hall (triclinium) of the Three Exedras and is dated to the mid-second century AD (after Hadrian, the villa was occasionally used by his various successors). It was on display in the villa paired with a second statue of the same type, now in the Antiquarium at Hadrian’s Villa (see image here).

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

References:

  • Joachim Raeder, Die statuarische Ausstattung der Villa Hadriana bei Tivoli (Peter Lang: Frankfurt am Main, Bern: 1963) 31.
  • W. Amelung, Die Basis des Praxiteles aus Mantinea (Munich 1895)
  • Gustave Fougères, « Bas-reliefs de Mantinée. Apollon et les Muses », Bulletin de correspondance hellénique (1888) XII, p. 105-128, pl. I, II et III (see here)
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Felix dies natalis, Roma!

The she-wolf feeding the twins Romulus and Remus, the most famous image associated with the founding of Rome © Carole Raddato

The she-wolf feeding the twins Romulus and Remus, the most famous image associated with the founding of Rome
© Carole Raddato

Today (21st April) is the traditional date given for the founding of Rome. According to Roman mythology, the founders were Romulus and Remus, twin brothers and supposed sons of the god Mars and the priestess Rhea Silvia. The twins were then abandoned by their parents as babies (because of a prophecy that they would overthrow their great-uncle Amulius), but were saved by a she-wolf who nursed them. Romulus killed his brother after a vicious quarrel and went on to establish a city which he named after himself.

Although the original date given by Roman historians for the founding of Rome varied between 758 and 728 BC, the official date was set as 753 BC. Archaeologists have traced evidences of villages on the Palatine Hill dating back to around the 9th century BC.

The ancient Romans celebrated the founding of their city every April 21st in the festival of Palilia. This festival was originally aimed at cleansing both sheep and shepherds in honour of Pales, the goddess of shepherds, but was later associated with the founding or Rome. The connection between these two characters of the festival is evident as the founders of the city, Romulus and Remus, grew up to be shepherds like their adoptive father.

Representation of the lupercal: Romulus and Remus fed by a she-wolf, surrounded by representations of the Tiber and the Palatine © Carole Raddato

Representation of the lupercal: Romulus and Remus fed by a she-wolf, surrounded by representations of the Tiber and the Palatine
© Carole Raddato

This panel comes from a sacrificial altar dedicated to the divine couple of Mars and Venus found at Ostia (Italy). This side of the altar shows a scene with the she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus, a personification of the river Tiber, and two fleeing shepherds, probably Faustulus, adoptive father of the twins and his brother Faustinus. On the left is the personification of the Palatine, also dressed as a shepherd. The eagle of Jupiter, symbolically hovering over the sacred grotto of the Lupercal, indicates that the events are unfolding under divine auspices.

Representation of the lupercal: Romulus and Remus fed by a she-wolf, surrounded by representations of the Tiber and the Palatine © Carole Raddato

Detail of representation of the lupercal: Romulus and Remus fed by a she-wolf, surrounded by representations of the Tiber and the Palatine
© Carole Raddato

The altar carries various inscriptions. One of the inscription tells us that the altar was later used as a pedestal for a bronze statue of the god Silvanus. The consuls mentioned in the text inscribed securely date the inscription to October 1st, 124 AD. In this period Hadrian promoted renewed interest in themes related to the origins of Rome.

Gold Aureus of Hadrian struck in 121 AD to commemorate games held on April 21, A.D.121 to mark the 874th birthday of the city of Rome (courtesy of Stack's Bowers)

Gold Aureus of Hadrian struck to commemorate games held on April 21, 121 AD to mark the 874th birthday of the city of Rome
(courtesy of Stack’s Bowers)

This aureus of Hadrian was struck in 121 AD to commemorate the circus games that marked the 874th birthday of the city of Rome. The reverse of the coin depicts the Genius of the Circus Maximus with the legend “ANN. DCCCLXXIIII NAT. VRB. P. CIR. CON.” meaning that in the 874th year, circus games were for the first time instituted (Circenses constituta) for the natalis urbis romae (birthday of the city).

In the same year, while celebrating the Parilia festival, Hadrian founded a new temple dedicated to Venus, the divine ancestress of the Roman people, and to Roma herself. The temple was to stand on the north side of the Sacred Way on a great podium, stretching from just beyond the Arch of Titus and almost as far as the Colosseum. The two goddesses would be placed back to back with one cella facing toward the Colosseum, the other facing towards the Forum. As Dio Cassius tells us, Hadrian himself seems to have personally designed the temple. However, construction of the temple did not begin until 125 AD.

Temple of Venus and Roma, Upper Via Sacra, Rome

Temple of Venus and Roma, Upper Via Sacra, Rome
© Carole Raddato

Having dedicated the temple, Hadrian changed the name of the Parilia festival to Romaia (the Natalis Urbis Romae) and associated the new Temple to the celebrations of the birthday of Rome. In addition Hadrian retraced the sacred boundary of the pomerium, the original line ploughed by Romulus around the walls of the original city. In doing so, Hadrian renewed the festival of Parilia in associating himself with Romulus.

One other coin minted in Rome in the year 121 proclaimed a new Golden Age (saeculum aureum).

HADRIAN, Gold Aureus (7.09 gms), Rome Mint, 121 AD.

HADRIAN, Gold Aureus “Saeculum Aureum” Rome Mint, 121 AD.
(courtesy of Stack’s Bowers)

This gold aureus featured on the reverse the Genius of the golden age “Saeculum Aureum” holding the zodiac and the phoenix on a globe, suggesting rebirth and renewal. Through this type of coin, Hadrian aimed at bringing the empire to its pinnacle while emphasising the power of Rome within the vast empire.

Links and further reading:

Sources:

  • Boatwright, M.T. (1987) Hadrian and the City of Rome, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, pp. 121-122
  • Birley, Anthony R. (1997) Hadrian: The Restless Emperor, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 112
  • Marie-Henriette Quet (2004). L’aureus au zodiaque d’Hadrien, première image de l’éternité cyclique dans l’idéologie et l’imaginaire temporel romains – Revue numismatique  Volume 6 Numéro 160 pp. 119-154 (link)
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The cuirassed statue of Hadrian from Ancyra’s theatre (Ankara, Turkey)

Hadrian and his travels have often served as the guiding thread for my travels. However my recent trip to Turkey had a different focus, the Hittite civilization, with one of the highlight being a visit to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. After dazzling at the magnificent artifacts on display on the main floor of the museum I found out that there was also a section dedicated to the Roman period in Ancyra which featured, to my big surprise, parts of a statue of Hadrian.

Ancyra was the capital of the Roman province of Galatia, located in the highlands of central Anatolia (modern central Turkey). A Hittite settlement in the Bronze Age, Ancyra was later populated by Phrygians, Mysians, Persians, Greeks, and even Gauls from the Tectosages tribe. The latter, who had come all the way from what is now southern France, gave their name to the province. Ancyra became the capital of the Roman Province of Galatia in 25 BC. The Greek name for the city was Ankyra, which meant « anchor », and is still recognizable in its modern form “Ankara”. The anchor became the symbol of the city and most of the coins from Ancyra have an anchor on them. The city minted coins of Nero, Nerva, Trajan, Antoninus Pius, Lucius Verus, Commodus and Caracalla, while one of the magistrates of the city, a certain Julius Saturninus, minted coins to honour Antinous. Like many cities of the eastern Roman empire, Ancyra enjoyed a period of considerable prosperity under Hadrian and became a major military base.

The most important Roman monument of Ancyra is the Monumentum Ancyranum (the Temple of Augustus and Rome) which contains the official record of the Acts of Augustus, known as the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, an inscription cut in marble on the walls of this temple (see images here). This temple made Ancyra the neokoros (Temple Warden) of the Imperial Cult in Galatia.

Another monument of importance is the Roman theatre of Ancyra which is located on the northwest cliff of the Ankara Castle, southeast of the Temple of Augustus and Rome and the Roman Baths. It was first discovered in 1982 and rescue excavations began in 1983 by the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museum. The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations continued the excavations until 1986.

The Roman Theatre of Ancyra, 2nd half of the 1st century AD - beg of the 2nd century AD, Ankara

The Roman Theatre of Ancyra, beginning of the 2nd century AD, Ankara

The excavations uncovered a considerable portion of a typical Roman theatre dated back to early 1st century AD and 2nd century AD by different scholars. The remains of the theatre consist of the foundations of the cavea, the orchestra and part of its floor pavement, the lower part of the scaenae frons and stage building as well as two vaulted parados. Built on a natural slope of the hill, the theatre is approximately 50 x 43.5 metres across while the orchestra is about 13 metres in diametre. During the Byzantine Era, the theatre was transformed into a pool which was used to stage water games. It is believed to have hosted between 3,000 and 5,000 people, a capacity typical of the small theatre typology among the theatres in Anatolia (like the ones at the Asclepeion of Pergamon and at Rhodiapolis).

The Roman Theatre of Ancyra, beginning of the 2nd century AD, Ankara

The Roman Theatre of Ancyra, beginning of the 2nd century AD, Ankara

The excavations also revealed a number of sculptural pieces that once adorned the stage building of the theatre. The finds include a high-quality female head in coloured marble, a large fragment of a nude statue carrying an armour, a colossal head of Silenus with wreath in high relief as well as fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian.

Finds from the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Finds from the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

A total of 26 fragments were discovered but only a few are exhibited in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in a section of the museum dedicated to the finds from the theatre.

Fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

The fragment of the top part of the head helped to identify the statue on account of the hairstyle. Hadrian’s hair is styled in luxurious curls and waves running from the back of his head to his forehead.

Top part of the head of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Forehead and upper parts of hair of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

This portrait of Hadrian is likely to belong to the “Imperatori 32” 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 “Imperatori 32” type was a type popular in Italy and in the provinces. The restrained carving of the forehead endows Hadrian with a youthful and idealised appearance.

Based on the reconstruction drawing (M. Türkmen – C. Zoroğlu) photographed at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, the statue depicted Hadrian dressed in a cuirass and a short tunic under a military cloak (paludamentum) drapped over his left shoulder and falling down vertically over his left arm. The cuirass was decorated with the gorgoneion as well as two griffins confronting each other and partly covered by a cingulum, a military belt wrapped around the waist and tied at the front in a elaborate knot. His left hand was probably holding a spear. Next to his left leg, a tree trunk acted as support.

The other fragments of the statue include the lower front of the breastplate, a part of the shoulder belt and rivet, a part of the head of the gorgoneion, decorative pieces of the pteruge (the bottom of the breastplate), a part of the right and left leg, a part of right arm, as well as parts of the paludamentum.

Fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Fragment of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

The “Imperatori 32” type is connected with Hadrian’s becoming Pater Patriae (Father of the Fatherland) in 127-128 AD. The dating corresponds with the creation of a festival in Ancyra called the mystikos agon (mystic contest) for the worship of Dionysus. Hadrian as “neos Dionysos” (new Dionysus) was included in the ceremonies jointly with the god. He may have appointed the first agonothete (superintendent) of this mystic festival who was a prominent and wealthy Ancyran citizen called Ulpius Aelius Pompeianus. The erection of a statue of Hadrian in the theatre of Ancyra may be linked to the Dionysus festival.

Hadrian passed through the city of Ancyra with his army on his way back to Rome in October 117 AD soon after he had been proclaimed emperor in Antioch. It may be on this occasion that Hadrian first allowed himself to be worshipped as the new Dionysus. One inscription from Ancyra testifies to Hadrian’s association with the mystic festival in the form of a honorific decree dated to 128 – 129 AD (IGR 3.209). The decree, inscribed on the pedestal made for a statue of Ulpius Aelius Pompeianus, included Hadrian as neos Dionysus in the ceremonies in Ancyra jointly with the god. It is now displayed in the Open Air Museum of the Roman Baths (see images here).

Decree of of the Association of Performing Artists dating to the reign of Hadrian (AD 117-138) in honour of Ulpius Aelius Pompeianus (public domain)

Decree of of the Association of Performing Artists dating to the reign of Hadrian (AD 117-138) in honour of Ulpius Aelius Pompeianus
(public domain)

In addition, one other inscription records that one of the benefactors of the festival should be honoured with two gilded shield-mounted images. One such image was discovered in Ankara in 1947 during foundation excavations in the district of Ulus, west of the theatre. These portraits, mounted on a round bronze shield (imago clipeata), were usually erected in civic buildings or public areas. This rare find can be seen in the Roman gallery of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.

Round todo with bust of Ulpius Aelius Pompeianus, the Agonothetes of the sacred games of Ancyra, Hadrianic period (117-138 AD), discovered in 1950s during foundation excavations in Ankara, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Round todo with bust of Ulpius Aelius Pompeianus, the Agonothetes of the sacred games of Ancyra, Hadrianic period (117-138 AD), discovered in 1950s during foundation excavations in Ankara, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

The bust was previously identified as a portrayal of the emperor Trajan, but recent epigraphic research conducted by Prof. Dr. Stephen Mitchell had made it possible to link one of the portraits mentioned in the second decree of the Artists’ association to one of the benefactors of the mystikos agon. Accordingly, Prof. Dr. Stephen Mitchell identify the round tondo bust as a portrait either of Ulpius Aelius Pompeianus, or of an anonymous benefactor of about the same period.

The statue of Hadrian from Ancyra is one of six cuirassed statues of the emperor that have been found across Anatolia. Two come from Perge, one from Troy, another one comes from Tlos and finally one headless statue comes from Aphrodisias.

Hadrian Statue from Troia IX (BC 85 AD 450), found in the Odeon, Troy (Ilium), Canakkale Museum Turkey

Hadrian Statue from Troia IX (BC 85 AD 450), found in the Odeon, Troy (Ilium), Canakkale Museum Turkey

My Hadrian1900 project will bring me back to Ankara in October 2017. I will be following the Ancyra – Nicea route that Hadrian took on his way to Rome as the new Emperor (the so-called Pilgrim’s Road connecting Byzantium to Antiochia). It will be the occasion to write more about Hadrian’s connections with Ancyra.

Sources & references:

  • Evers, Cécile. 1994. Les portraits d’Hadrien typologie et ateliers. Bruxelles: Académie royale de Belgique.
  • Candemir Zoroğlu. 2014. The Cuirassed Statue of Hadrian at Ankyra Theatre. Ankara University, Journal of the Archaeology Department.
  • Stephen Mitchell. 2014. The Trajanic Tondo from Roman Ankara: In Search of the Identity of a Roman Masterpiece. Ankara Araştırmaları Dergisi – Journal of Ankara Studies. (read pdf here)
  • Mary T. Boatwright. 2000. Hadrian and the Cities of the Roman Empire. Princeton University Press. pp. 101
  • Mitchell, S., French, D. 2012: The Greek and Latin Inscriptions of Ankara (Ancyra) Vol. 1: From Augustus to the end of the third century AD. Munich
  • Epigraphic database for ancient Asia Minor http://www.epigraphik.uni-hamburg.de/database
Posted in Archaeology Travel, Asia Minor, Epigraphy, Galatia, Hadrian, Museum, Turkey | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

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

This month’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a dark grey limestone relief decorated with mythological scenes.

The relief was unearthed in 1769 during excavations undertook by the art dealer and archaeologist Gavin Hamilton who sold it to Lord Lansdowne. The latter was an avid collector of antiquities who owned a fine collection of classical sculptures until most of it was sold and dispersed in 1930 (including the Lansdowne Antinous, the Lansdowne Amazon and the Lansdowne Hercules).

The Lansdowne relief, found at Hadrian's Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Lansdowne relief, found at Hadrian’s Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Today the Lansdowne Relief is displayed in the Greek and Roman Gallery of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England. It is the Department of Antiquity’s newest acquisition, although it has been on loan to the Museum since 2004 and on display since 2010.

The Relief is beautifully decorated with scenes from Greek mythology, all of which are connected to the sea. The first scene depicts Odysseus and the sirens. Odysseus was curious as to what the Sirens would sing to him and, following Circe’s instructions, plugged his men’s ears with beeswax and had them bind him to the mast of the ship.

The Lansdowne relief, detail depicting Odysseus and the Sirens, found at Hadrian's Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Lansdowne relief, detail depicting Odysseus and the Sirens, found at Hadrian’s Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The second scene, in the middle of the relief, depicts the wine god Dionysos fleeing the Tyrrhenian pirates after being kidnapped and taken aboard their boat. The pirates, who promised to take him to Naxos sailed to Asia instead, intending to sell him into slavery. In anger Dionysos filled their vessel with vines and wild animals, and when the pirates jumped into the sea he transformed them into dolphins.

The Lansdowne relief, detail of Dionysos on a boat fleeing pirates, found at Hadrian's Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Lansdowne relief, detail of Dionysos on a boat fleeing pirates, found at Hadrian’s Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The third scene depicts the Argonauts sailing past the rapacious Stymphalian birds. The Stymphalian Birds were a flock of man-eating birds which haunted Lake Stymphalis in Arcadia. Heracles defeated them as his sixth labour, using first a pair of krotala (clappers, similar to modern castanets) to frighten and drive them away with the noise, then shooting them down with a bow and arrows or with a slingshot. The surviving birds were forced to take refuge on the island of Aretias (modern-day Giresun Island on the southeastern coast of the Black Sea), where they later faced the Argonauts. The birds were frightened away by the sound of the Argonauts’ swords clanging on shields.

The Lansdowne relief, detail with scene depicting the Argonauts with the man-eating Stymphalian birds, found at Hadrian's Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Lansdowne relief, detail with scene depicting the Argonauts with the man-eating Stymphalian birds, found at Hadrian’s Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Framing the relief are friezes showing scenes of hunting, sea creatures and figures emerging from garlands and leaves. It is possible that small statuettes stood in the empty niches which are now empty.

The Lansdowne relief, detail of the frieze showing scenes of hunting, found at Hadrian's Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Lansdowne relief, detail of the frieze showing scenes of hunting, found at Hadrian’s Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Lansdowne relief, detail of the frieze showing sea creatures, found at Hadrian's Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Lansdowne relief, detail of the frieze showing sea creatures, found at Hadrian’s Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The relief was found in an area of Hadrian’s villa known as the Pantanello (little swamp). The discoveries at the Pantanello were considerable and many sculptures and architectural fragments are now in major international collections including a colossal head of Hercules and two busts of Hadrian.

Read more about this relief here.

Posted in Hadrian's Villa, Museum, Mythology, Roman art, Roman villa | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

A guide to the mosaics along the Roman Baetica Route (Spain)

On a recent trip to Southern Spain, I travelled along the Roman Baetica Route and I visited many of the archaeological sites and museums that Andalusia has to offer. Among the plethora of ancient treasures to be found in the region, I was particularly impressed by the incredible mosaics I came across.

The Roman Baetica Route is an ancient Roman road that passes through fourteen cities of the provinces of Seville, Cadiz, and Córdoba which correspond to modern-day Andalusia. It runs through the most southern part of the Roman province of Hispania and includes territories also crossed by the Via Augusta. The route connected Hispalis (Seville) with Corduba (Córdoba) and Gades (Cádiz). The word Baetica comes from Baetis, the ancient name for the river Guadalquivir.

The Roman Baetica Route

The Roman Baetica Route

Before the arrival of the Romans, the area was occupied by the Turdetani, a powerful tribe and, according to Stabo, the most civilized peoples in Iberia. The south of the Iberian peninsula was fertile and agriculturally rich, providing for export wine, olive oil and garum (the fermented fish sauce). The economy was based mainly on agriculture and livestock, along with mining. This economy formed the basis of the Turdetani’s trade with the Carthaginians who were established on the coast. The Romans arrived in the Iberian peninsula during the Second Punic war in the 2nd century BC, and annexed it under Augustus after two centuries of war with the Celtic and Iberian tribes. Soon, Baetica became the most romanized province in the Peninsula.

—-

Hispania Baetica was divided into four territorial and juridicial divisions (conventī): the conventus Gaditanus (of Gades – Cádiz), Cordubensis (of Corduba – Cordoba), Astigitanus (of Astigi – Écija), and Hispalensis (of Hispalis – Seville). Trajan, the first emperor of provincial birth, came from Baetica though he was of Italian origin. Hadrian came from a family residing in Italica while her mother Paulina was from Gades.

SEVILLE

  • Museo Arqueológico de Sevilla

Located in the Maria Luisa Park and originally built as part of the 1929 exhibition, the Archaeological Museum of Seville is one of the best museums of its kind in Spain. The focus is on the Roman era but there is also a prehistorical section which includes the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. The galleries on the first floor are devoted to the Roman era with statues and fragments rescued from the nearby ancient site of Italica. Many mosaics are exhibited there and other highlights include sculptures of local born and raised emperors; Trajan and Hadrian.

One of the most impressive mosaic housed in the museum is the opus tessellatum mosaic from Ecija depicting the mythological scene of Bacchus’s triumph over the Indies. The god is portrayed crowed with bunches of grapes in a chariot drawn by tigers. He wears a woman’s chiton covered by a nebris belted at the waist and he holds the reigns with his left hand and a thyrsus in right hand. Accompanying him in the chariot is a nude figure of the young Ampelos. In front is a satyr, covered in a fawn’s skin and holding a shepherd’s crook in his left hand.

Mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus, 3rd century AD, from Ecija (Roman Astigi), Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus, 3rd century AD, from Ecija (Roman Astigi), Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Another splendid mosaic is the figurative mosaic representing the well-known episode of the Judgement of Paris that led to the Trojan War. It was found in 1985 in a Roman villa in the town of Casariche alongside a rich series of geometric mosaics. The mosaic of the Judgement of Paris is in opus tessellatum and is dated to the 4th century AD. It decorated the atrium of the Villa del Alcaparral. The composition follows the tradition of Hellenistic pictorial motif core surrounded by geometric motifs. It depicts the moment when Paris, seated on a rock wearing a Phyrgian cap and holding a pedum (a shepherd’s crook) in his hand, offers the golden apple of Venus.

The Judgement of Paris, 3rd Century AD, Roman Mosaic from the Villa del Alcaparral in Casariche, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

The Judgement of Paris, 3rd Century AD, Roman Mosaic from the Villa del Alcaparral in Casariche, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Read more about the Judgement of Paris on theoi.

In the same room as the Casariche mosaic is a mosaic fragment coming from nearby Italica. It was found in the so-called House of Hylas, named after the mosaic. Thought to date from the early 2nd century AD, the centre panel (emblema) of a larger mosaic depicts the mythological scene when Hercules’ companion and lover Hylas was kidnapped by Nymphs because of his beauty while off on a mission to fetch water. Hylas, carrying a pitcher, approaches the water spring where he is trapped by the nymphs. He desperately looks towards Hercules for help who is unable to save him. The subject matter was inspired by an epic poem by Apollonius of Rhodes on the mythical expedition of the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece.

Mosaic depicting the abduction of Hylas by Nymphs, goddesses of waters, from Italica, 2nd century AD, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Mosaic depicting the abduction of Hylas by Nymphs, goddesses of waters, from Italica, 2nd century AD, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Read more about the Hylas on theoi.

Another room in the museum (room XII) houses more figurative mosaics. The first two depict the personification of Spring and Autumn. Spring is represented as a young girl with flowers in her hair. Autumn is dressed as a mature woman next to a stripped tree.

On the wall next to these are two other mosaic fragments of great interest since the themes are less frequent than the previous ones. They represent one of the Romans’ favourite modes of entertainment: the races and games in the circus. Two quadrigae (Roman chariot led by a four-horse team) driven by their charioteers are represented, competing for triumph in the arena.

Fragment of mosaic with circus scene with quadriga racing vigorously, 4th century AD, found in Paradas, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Fragment of mosaic with circus scene with quadriga racing vigorously, 4th century AD, found in Paradas, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Fragment of mosaic with circus scene with quadriga racing vigorously, 4th century AD, found in Paradas, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

Fragment of mosaic with circus scene with quadriga racing vigorously, 4th century AD, found in Paradas, Museum of Archaeology, Seville

The last mosaic located in room XII is from Italica and is an emblema with a lion which would be inserted into a larger mosaic.

Mosaic from Colonia Aelia Augusta Itálica depicting a Lion, 176-275 AD, Archaeological Museum, Seville

Mosaic from Colonia Aelia Augusta Itálica depicting a Lion, 176-275 AD, Archaeological Museum, Seville

Finally, in Room XX called the “Imperial Room” for the numerous imperial portraits exhibited, another figurative mosaic is dedicated to Bacchus. The god appears in the central medallion adorned with ivy leaves. Around him are symbolic representations of the seasons, tigers with thyrsus, old bearded men and lions that lay down on the evil eye. (see the full mosaic here)

Room XX with the Mosaic of Bacchus and the four seasons from Italica (101 - 225 AD) and bust of Hadrian, Archaeological Museum, Seville

Room XX with the Mosaic of Bacchus and the four seasons from Italica (101 – 225 AD) and bust of Hadrian, Archaeological Museum, Seville

  • Lebrija Palace

One of the least known of Seville’s museums is the Lebrija Palace, a 16th century palace with a wonderfully varied private collection. The Countess Lebrija bought the palace in 1901 and reconstructed it during 13 years until 1914. The Countess loved archaeology and during these 13 years she bought Roman mosaics and amassed many other antiquities. Her magnificent collection included a spectacular range of mosaics taken from Italica, most notably one representing the god Pan which paves the palace’s central courtyard. Pan, who is in love with Galatea, can be seen in the central panel of the mosaic serenading her on his flute. The medallions show the love stories of Zeus with Leda, Europa, Ganymede, Antiope, Danae, Io and Callisto, while in the corners are representations of the four seasons. The galleries surrounding the patio are paved with Opus Sectile dating to the 3rd century AD.

Central courtyard with the God Pan mosaic from Italica, Palacio Lebrija, Seville, Spain

Central courtyard with the God Pan mosaic from Italica, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

In 1999, the descendants of the Countess and the current owners decided to open the house to the public as a museum. The public can visit the ground floor and view the Countess’ great archaeological collection and discover the passion of a true collector.

Palacio Lebrija, Seville, Spain

Palacio Lebrija, Seville, Spain

The Columns room, paved with a geometric mosaic and decorated with fragments of mosaics on the walls and two Roman colums, one made of green marble and the other made of a mixture of various colours

The Columns Room, paved with a geometric mosaic and decorated with fragments of mosaics on the walls and two Roman columns, one made of green marble and the other made of a mixture of various colours, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

The Octogonal Room paved with a mosaic which previously had a fountain at its centre, it is thought to date from the Hadrianic period, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

The Octogonal Room paved with a mosaic which previously had a fountain at its centre, it is thought to date from the Hadrianic period, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

Central panel of a mosaic depicting Ganymede being kidnapped by Zeus disguised as a eagle, Room of Ganymede, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

Central panel of a mosaic depicting Ganymede being kidnapped by Zeus disguised as a eagle, Room of Ganymede, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

The Medusa Room, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

The Medusa Room, Palacio Lebrija, Seville

See more images of Palacio Lebrija here.

ITALICA

The archaeological site of Italica is located in Santiponce, not far from Seville. It is one of the most important sites of Andalusia’s archaeological heritage. Italica was founded in 206 BC during the Second Punic War by the Roman commander Publius Cornelius Scipio who settled his Italian veterans on this site. Although the nearby town of Hispalis (Seville) would always remain a larger city, Italica became an important centre of Roman culture and was awarded the title of colonia. Hadrian gave the colony his family name, Colonia Aelia Augusta Italica. Under his rule, Italica enjoyed a period of splendour during which its architectural development flourished with the construction of new public buildings such as the amphitheatre as well as houses with well preserved mosaic floors. About twenty intricate mosaics lie amongst the uncovered ruins still in situ.

Some of the houses uncovered include the House of the Planetarium with its hexagonal mosaics depicting the seven planetary divinities who gave their names to the days of the week. In the center is Venus (Friday). Anticlockwise from bottom center are Jupiter (Thursday), Saturn (Saturday), Helios or Sol (Sunday), Luna or Selene (Monday), Mars (Tuesday), and Mercury (Wednesday).

Mosaic with busts of the planetary deities, ca. 150 AD, House of the Planetarium, Italica

Mosaic with busts of the planetary deities, ca. 150 AD, House of the Planetarium, Italica

Planetarium mosaic, detail of Planetarium mosaic, detail of Sun, Italica

Planetarium mosaic, detail of Planetarium mosaic, detail of Helios/Sun (Sunday), Italica

Mosaic floors in the House of the Planetarium, Italica

Mosaic floors in the House of the Planetarium, Italica

The House of the Birds is a large residence endowed with a good quantity of mosaics of high quality. One of them, the Bird Mosaic, gave its name to the house and consists of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds.

The Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica

The Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica

Detail of the Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica

Detail of the Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica

Detail of the Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds, Italica

Mosaic detail, Domus of the Birds, Italica

Mosaic detail, Domus of the Birds, Italica

Mosaic detail with head of Medusa, Domus of the Birds, Italica

Mosaic detail with head of Medusa, Domus of the Birds, Italica

The House of Neptune is named after a mosaic with all kinds of aquatic animals. In the centre is Neptune, the god of the sea with his trident. The mosaic is surrounded by a wide edge that is decorated with Nilotic scenes where one can see crocodiles, a hippopotamus, a palm tree, and several pygmies fighting ibises.

Mosaic of Neptune, House of Neptune, Italica

Mosaic of Neptune, House of Neptune, Italica

The Labyrinth Mosaic, House of Neptune, Italica

The Labyrinth Mosaic, House of Neptune, Italica

Geometric and figurative mosaics in the House of Neptune, Italica

Geometric and figurative mosaics in the House of Neptune, Italica

CARMONA

Coin of Carmo

Coin of Carmo

Carmonenses, quae est longa firmissima totius provincia civitas

(Carmona is by far the strongest city of the province)

– Julius Caesar (Commentarii de bello civili)

In the past, Carmona was one of the main enclave settlements on the lower Guadalquivir with nearly five thousand years of continuous occupation. Its “mighty wall” was mentioned by Julius Caesar in his De Bello Civile while the city received the dispensation to mint its own coinage bearing the name “Carmo”. Carmo became a major crossroads on the Via Augusta and an important outpost in the Roman empire. Two mosaics can be seen in Carmona, one in the City Museum with an allegory of the Summer season and another one in the Town Hall with the head of Medusa.

  • Museo de la Ciudad de Carmona
Mosaic, 2nd - 3rd century AD, Museo de la Ciudad de Carmona Courtesy of Li Taipo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Mosaic fragment with an allegory of the Summer season, 2nd – 3rd century AD, Museo de la Ciudad de Carmona
Courtesy of Li Taipo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

  • Ayuntamiento de Carmona

The courtyard of the Town Hall of Carmona contains an important Roman mosaic, which was found in the old quarter of the town.

Medusa mosaic, Ayutamiento Carmona

Mosaic with the head of Medusa surrounded by allegories of the Four Seasons, Ayutamiento Carmona

CORDOBA

  • Museo Arqueológico de Cordoba

Córdoba (Roman Corduba) was the capital of the Roman province of Hispania Baetica. The Via Augusta connected the city with Carmo (Carmona) and Hispalis (Seville) in the west, and Tarraco (Tarragona) in the northeast. The most important Roman buildings still standing today are the Roman bridge, the Temple of the Imperial Cult, the Mausoleum and the remains of the Palace of the Emperor Maximian in the Archaeological site of Cercadilla. Great Roman philosophers such as Seneca the Younger, and poets such as Lucan came from Roman Cordoba. Córdoba has the largest urban area in the world declared World Heritage by UNESCO.

Reconstruction of Corduba (Córdoba)

Reconstruction of Corduba (Córdoba)

The Archaeological Museum of Cordoba houses an emblema of a mosaic with a rare depiction of Pegasus. Pegasus was the immortal winged horse which sprang forth from the neck of Medusa when she was beheaded by the hero Perseus.

Mosaic emblema with Pegasus, 2nd century AD, Archaeological Museum of Córdoba

Mosaic emblema with Pegasus, 2nd century AD, Archaeological Museum of Córdoba

  • Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics) – Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs

A series of exquisite mosaics from the 2nd and 3rd century AD are displayed in the so-called Hall of the Mosaics of the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, a medieval Moorish palace and castle located in the historic centre of Córdoba. The mosaics were discovered in 1959 during excavation work under the Plaza de la Corredera. They once belonged to a wealthy Roman mansion.

Among the mosaics of the collection are:

Oceanus the divine personification of the sea depicted with lobster claws protruding from the head and with dolphins and fish escaping from his beard.

Mask of Oceanus with obster claws protruding from the head and fish escaping from his beard, 2nd - 3rd century AD, found in 1959 at the Plaza de la Corredera, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics) - Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

Mask of Oceanus, 2nd – 3rd century AD, found in 1959 at the Plaza de la Corredera, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics) Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

The Cyclops Polyphemus and the goddess-nymph of the sea Galatea. The Cyclops is represented with three eyes, one set in the middle of his forehead. He is draped in an animal skin and holds a staff. Galatea is seated on the back of a Ketos, a wolf-headed sea monster with the body of a snake and the tail of a dolphin. The Cyclops Polyphemus loved the beautiful sea nymph, however Galatea loved a handsome Sicilian River-God named Acis. Polyphemus jealously killed his rival by crushing him against a huge rock.

Mosaic with the Cyclops Polyphemus and the nymph of the sea Galatea, discovered in 1959 during excavation work under the Plaza de la Corredera, 2nd century AD, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics), Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

Mosaic with the Cyclops Polyphemus and the nymph of the sea Galatea, discovered in 1959 during excavation work under the Plaza de la Corredera, 2nd century AD, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics), Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

Eros and Psyche embraced. Psyche was a mortal woman of extreme beauty. Zeus rewarded Psyche with immortality because of her love and sacrifice for her beloved God Eros. The theme of the mosaic is taken from “The Golden Ass” (Asinus aureus), one of the most important works written by the 2nd century writer Apuleius.

Eros and Psyche, discovered in 1959 during excavation work under the Plaza de la Corredera, 3rd - 4th century AD, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics) - Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

Eros and Psyche, discovered in 1959 during excavation work under the Plaza de la Corredera, 3rd – 4th century AD, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics) – Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

Another mosaic shows the head of Medusa, one of the three daughters of the marine goddess Phorcys, as a central motif. The round, childlike face of Medusa is depicted with multicoloured vitreous paste tessarea of great strength. However, the tessarea that framed the image of Medusa have not survived. The rest of the pavement is decorated with geometric designs, made up of rectangles on a black background and Salomon’s knot squares on light backing tones.

Mosaic with Medusa depicting with a round, childlike face, 2nd century AD, found in 1959 at the Plaza de la Corredera, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics) - Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

Mosaic with Medusa depicting with a round, childlike face, 2nd century AD, found in 1959 at the Plaza de la Corredera, Salón de los Mosaicos (Hall of Mosaics) – Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, Cordoba

ÉCIJA

The significant archaeological excavations in progress in Ecija have shed new light on the city’s past and its importance during Roman times when Colonia Augusta Firma Astigi was one of the four government capitals of the Baetica province. Mosaics and objects of great artistic value have been found during various excavations. Noteworthy are the remains found during extensive excavations that took place at Plaza de Espana and at Plaza de Armas.

  • Museo Historico Municipal

The Municipal History Museum of Écija is housed in the Benameji Palace, a magnificent example of Baroque architecture from the 18th century. It contains a large room dedicated to the Roman mosaic pavements that were unearthed during the excavations. The set of mosaics from Écija is one of the most important from the Roman West due to its quality, variety and size.

Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija, Spain

Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

The Mosaic of the Four Seasons was found during the excavations of a Roman house at a depth of 2.84m below the present-day street level. It is a mosaic of great artistic quality. The theme is related to the four seasons as well as the apotheosis of the god Annus (Year), the Roman deity who personified the cycle of the year.

Mosaic of the Seasons, in the central octagon the Apotheosis of Annus (Year) between two winged victories, in the corners allegories of the Four Seasons, second half of 2nd century AD or early 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Seasons, in the central octagon the Apotheosis of Annus (Year) between two winged victories, in the corners allegories of the Four Seasons, second half of 2nd century AD or early 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

The Mosaic of the Nereids is a fragment of a marine themed-mosaic with a Nereid riding a sea-monster. It paved one room of a Roman house, perhaps of the private baths area.

Mosaic of the Nereids, fragment of a mosaic depicting a Nereid riding a hybrid sea monster (Ketos), it paved a room of a Roman house perhaps of the private baths area (thermae), 2nd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Nereids, fragment of a mosaic depicting a Nereid riding a hybrid sea monster (Ketos), it paved a room of a Roman house perhaps of the private baths area (thermae), 2nd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

The Mosaic of the Double Kidnapping is a very rare mosaic depicting both the myth of the kidnapping of Europe and Ganymede. For the kidnapping of Europe, Zeus transformed himself in a bull. For the kidnapping of Ganymede, he turned himself into an eagle. A head, possibly Bacchic, emerges from the sea.

Mosaic of the Double Kidnapping (Europa and Ganymede), found in Écija in 1986, 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Double Kidnapping (Europa and Ganymede), found in Écija in 1986, 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Double Kidnapping (Europa and Ganymede), found in Écija in 1986, 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Double Kidnapping (Europa and Ganymede), found in Écija in 1986, 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

The Mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus is a wonderful polychrome mosaic floor that once belonged to a rich Roman house. The central medallion or emblema shows a quadriga drawn by male and female centaurs. The god Bacchus triumphantly rides the chariot. The central medallion is surrounded by circles, octagons and hexagons depicting various characters of Classical mythology (Leda and the swan, Orpheus and a nymph, Narcissus, Castor with a horse, Silenus, Pan, a satyr and a Maenad) as well as allegories of the seasons.

Mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus, found in Écija in Plaza de Santiago, second half of 2nd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus, found in Écija in Plaza de Santiago, second half of 2nd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus, found in Écija in Plaza de Santiago, second half of 2nd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of the Triumph of Bacchus, found in Écija in Plaza de Santiago, second half of 2nd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

The Mosaic of Oceanus, dating back to the 4th century AD, is the latest found in Écija. In its centre is depicted the head of Oceanus who is portrayed as an old bearded god with long hair and a rivulet of water streaming from his mouth. He is surrounded by four birds on tree branches representing the four seasons.

Mosaic of Oceanus, Oceanus is surrounded by four birds on tree branches representing the four seasons, ca. 4th century AD, from a urban house (Domus) of Roman Astigi (Ecija), Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Mosaic of Oceanus, Oceanus is surrounded by four birds on tree branches representing the four seasons, ca. 4th century AD, from a urban house (Domus) of Roman Astigi (Ecija), Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

The last mosaic is the Bacchic mosaic of “The Gift of Wine”. It depicts scenes of the myth according to which the god Bacchus donated the secrets of the cultivation of grapes and wine-making to mankind. The central scene shows Bacchus as a child riding on a panther, dressed only with a chlamys (small wrap) and holding a thyrsus. Several objects related to his myth are placed around him: a rython (drinking horn), a tympanon (tambourine) and a krater, a vase used to mix wine and water.

Bacchic mosaic depicting scenes of the myth according to which Bacchus donated to mankind the secrets of the cultivation of grapes and winemanking, second half of the 2nd century AD or early 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

Bacchic mosaic depicting scenes of the myth according to which Bacchus donated to mankind the secrets of the cultivation of grapes and winemanking, second half of the 2nd century AD or early 3rd century AD, Museo Histórico Municipal de Écija

  • Ayuntamiento de Écija

In the Town Hall’s Chapter House a mosaic depicting the Punishment of Dirce can be seen. Dirce is shown being dragged by a bull, a punishment inflicted by the two sons of Antiope, Zethus and Amphion, whose mother she had mistreated.

Mosaic depicting the Punishment of Dirce, 3rd century AD, Écija

Mosaic depicting the Punishment of Dirce, 3rd century AD, Écija

VILLA ROMANA DE FUENTE ALAMO

logo_villa_romana_fuente_alamoThe Roman villa of Fuente Alamo is situated next to a stream and surrounded by olive groves, about 3km away from the town of Puente Genil. It is a Hispanic-Roman villa built in the 3rd – 4th century AD that was devoted to wine and olive oil production, like many others that proliferated around that time in Hispania. Fuente Alamo is well known thanks to its mosaics in an excellent state of preservation. The three most important figurative mosaics are The Triumph Bacchus, the Three Graces and the Nilotic mosaic (now in the Archaeological Museum of Cordoba, although not currently on display). There are also geometric mosaics of different periods, manufacturing methods, and bichrome and polychrome compositions. These mosaics provide us with information about interests and social status of the villa’s owner.

The first mosaic is known as The Triumph Bacchus. In the lower scene, Bacchus, bearing a crown of vine leafs and grapes, attacks the Indians. Satyrs and nymphs, loyal followers of Bacchus, come to the attack while the Indians try to defend themselves. One of them, standing on his feet, brandishes his sword and shield in a vain attempt to survive. Rejoicing for his victory, Bacchus marches triumphally in the upper scene in a chariot pulled by tigresses. Carried by a small donkey is Silenus, Bacchus’ former tutor and man of great wisdom. At the center of the composition lays the god Pan, protector of shepherds and flocks as well as Bacchus and Ariadne, his loyal lover, on the left. The apse is paved with a mosaic depicting a shell divided into 28 segments as a central theme. It is highly possible that it once held a representation of the Goddess of love, Venus, emerging from the sea in a shell. With this design, the owner of the house wanted to symbolize the spirit of fertility, regeneration and vitality.

Mosaic depicting The Triumph Bacchus, 3rd / 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

Mosaic depicting The Triumph Bacchus, 3rd / 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

The second mosaic represents the Three Graces, the goddesses of grace, beauty, adornment, mirth, festivity, dance and song. Their names are Aglaea (“Splendor”), Euphrosyne (“Mirth”) and Thalia (“Good Cheer”). They preside over the ceremonies, dances and all pleasant social events. Together with the Muses, their companions, they sang to the gods in Mount Olympus and danced to the rhythm of the beautiful music that Apollo played with his lyre. In Classical art, the Tree Graces were usually depicted as naked women, holding hands and dancing in a circle, like in this mosaic from Fuente Alamo. To their left Pegasus, the god’s winged horse, is fed by a nymph; to the right a satyr is engaged in his favorite activity, pursuing the nymphs, as they were never sexually satisfied.

Mosaic, left: Pegasus, the god’s winged horse is fed by a nymph; in the middle Three Graces, goddesses of joy, charm and beauty; on the right a Satyr pursuing the Nymph, 3rd / 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

Mosaic, left: Pegasus, the god’s winged horse is fed by a nymph; in the middle Three Graces, goddesses of joy, charm and beauty; on the right a Satyr pursuing the Nymph, 3rd / 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

Mosaic with the Three Graces, goddesses of joy, charm and beauty, 3rd / 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

Mosaic with the Three Graces, goddesses of joy, charm and beauty, 3rd / 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

The following mosaic floor is a geometric mosaic made of thousands of tesserae of different colours, with a size of 8 to 10 millimetres. A band formed by triangles in red and black colour frames the two panels of the mosaic. The larger panel is framed by a border decorated with two-stranded braids. Tri-dimensional elongated cubes give movement to the scene, embracing a labyrinth where our imagination gets lost. The square in the centre is decorated with a Salomon’s knot. The design of the smaller panel features pelta motifs, a semi-circular shield pattern.

Geometric mosaic, 3rd - 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

Geometric mosaic, 3rd – 4th century AD, Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

Villa romana de Fuente Álamo

MUSEO DEL MOSAICO DE CASARICHE

The town of Casariche is located 122 km east of Seville. In the new Roman Mosaic Museum (inaugurated in 2014), you can see the collection of mosaics extracted from the nearby Villa del Alcaparral. Among the mosaics discovered is the mosaic of Judgement of Paris exhibited in the Archaeological Museum in Seville and presented earlier. The desire of the museum is to have the mosaic returned from Seville. The image digital reconstruction below shows how the mosaic would be exhibited in the villa.

Digital reconstruction of the of the entrance of Roman of the Villa del Alcaparral with the mosaic of the Judgement of Paris and the atrium, Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Digital reconstruction of the of the entrance of Roman of the Villa del Alcaparral with the mosaic of the Judgement of Paris and the atrium, Mosaic Museum, Casariche

The Roman villa of El Alcaparral was discovered in 1985. It is a late Roman villa rustica whose existence extended from the mid-3rd century AD to the early 5th century AD. It is likely that its destruction was linked to the invasion of the Vandals in 411 AD, given the remains of ash found in a stratum of the site. The villa belonged to a rich aristocratic landowner who traded with Byzantium during the crisis of the Western Roman Empire. At the crossroads of the trade route, the villa controlled a vast territory dedicated to olive oil exportation.

Plan of the Villa del Alcaparral, Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Plan of the Villa del Alcaparral, Mosaic Museum, Casariche

A mosaic floor with a central octagonal medallion portrait, probably an allegory of Spring, paved the oecus, the principal hall or salon in a Roman house. The portrait is surrounded by geometric motifs.

Mosaic floor with a central octagonal medallion portrait, probably an allegory of Spring, that paved the oecus of the Villa Villa del Alcaparral, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Mosaic floor with a central octagonal medallion portrait, probably an allegory of Spring, that paved the oecus of the Villa del Alcaparral, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Detail of the mosaic floor with a central octagonal medallion portrait, probably an allegory of Spring, that paved the oecus of the Villa Villa del Alcaparral, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Detail of the mosaic floor with a central octagonal medallion portrait, probably an allegory of Spring, that paved the oecus of the Villa del Alcaparral, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

The tablinum of the villa was paved with a black and white geometric mosaic with swastika motifs.

Black and white geometric mosaic with swastikas motifs that paved the triclinium of the Villa del Alcaparral, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Black and white geometric mosaic with swastikas motifs that paved the tablinum of the Villa del Alcaparral, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Another oecus near the tablinum had a geometric mosaic with octagons framed by a border of braids and a meander border. Unfortunately the mosaic was deteriorated by fire.

Geometric mosaic with octagons framed by a meander border, it shows deterioration by fire, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

Geometric mosaic with octagons framed by a meander border, it shows deterioration by fire, Roman Mosaic Museum, Casariche

For more information:

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Seville to commemorate the 1900th anniversary of Hadrian’s accession to the throne (117-2017)

It appears that I will not be the only one celebrating next year: The Archaeological Museum of Seville in southern Spain is planning to host an exhibition in 2017 to commemorate the 1900th anniversary of the accession of Hadrian to the imperial throne.

“Hadrian 2017. Metamorphosis: The birth of a new Rome.”

A colloquium entitled “Symposium Hadrian 2017: Ideas for an exhibition (117-2017)” was held last October at the Archaeological Museum of Seville (see the program here). It was organised by the Department of Ancient History at the University Pablo de Olavide in Seville, in collaboration with the archaeological Museum of Sevilla and the archaeological site of Italica. They met in the capital of Andalusia with the curators of the most recent exhibitions on Hadrian to discuss the forthcoming event in Seville.

Coloquio Adriano 2017 From left to right: el profesor de la UPO Juan Manuel Cortés Copete; el rector de la UPO Vicente Guzmán; la directora del Museo Arqueológico de Sevilla, Ana D. Navarro, y el director del Conjunto Arqueológico de Itálica, Antonio Pérez Paz.

Coloquio Adriano 2017
From left to right: Juan Manuel Cortés Copete, professor of Ancient History at the Universidad Pablo de Olavide; Vicente Guzmán, rector of the Universidad Pablo de Olavide; Ana D. Navarro, director of the Archaeological Museum of Seville, and Antonio Pérez Paz, director of the Archaeological site of Itálica.
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Universidad Pablo de Olavide

The curators attending the colloquium were: Thorsten Opper of the British Museum and responsible for the 2008 exhibition “Hadrian: Empire and Conflict”; Elena Calandra of the Soprintendente per i Beni Archeologici dell’Umbria who organised the 2014 exhibition “Hadrian and Greece” which took place at the Villa Adriana in Tivoli; Annalisa Lo Monaco and the team of the Capitoline Museums who curated the 2012-2013 exhibition “L’età dell’equilibrio”. Finally, Professor Milena Melfi of the Ashmolean Museum presented the results of the excavations at Adrianople in Albania.

By bringing these specialists together, the conference aimed at sharing their expertise and putting forward new initiatives for the future exhibition in Seville.

Hadrian rose to power on the 11th of August 117 AD. I intend to mark this anniversary with my Hadrian1900 project and by making the trip to Seville to see the special exhibition. To learn more about my Hadrian1900 project, check the following page here.

Me and Hadrian at the Archaeological Museum of Seville in February 2016

Me and Hadrian at the Archaeological Museum of Seville in February 2016
© Carole Raddato

Source: https://www.upo.es/diario/cultura/2015/10/comienza-la-cuenta-atras-para-la-conmemoracion-de-la-llegada-al-trono-imperial-de-adriano/

Posted in Exhibition, Hadrian, Hadrian1900, Spain | 7 Comments

Felix dies natalis, Hadriane!

Happy 1940th birthday Hadrian! © Carole Raddato

Happy 1940th birthday, Hadrian!
© Carole Raddato

For this year’s birthday cake I chose to cook Cato’s recipe for savillum (a kind of cheese cake/bread).

Savillum recipe in Latin (from LacusCurtius):

Cato’s De Agricultura 84: Savillum hoc modo facito. Farinae selibram, casei P. II S una conmisceto quasi libum, mellis P. [a column of three horizontal lines, the middle one of which is shifted to the right. It is an ancient Roman symbol used to represent '¼'.] et ovum unum. Catinum fictile oleo unguito. Ubi omnia bene conmiscueris, in catinum indito, catinum testo operito. Videto ut bene percocas medium, ubi altissimum est. Ubi coctum erit, catinum eximito, melle unguito, papaver infriato, sub testum subde paulisper, postea eximito. Ita pone cum catillo et lingula.

Translation:

Take ½ pound of flour, 2½ pounds of cheese, and mix together as for the libum; add ¼ pound of honey and 1 egg. Grease an earthenware dish with oil. When you have mixed thoroughly, pour into a dish and cover with a crock. See that you bake the centre thoroughly, for it is deepest there. When it is done, remove the dish, cover with honey, sprinkle with poppy-seed, place back under the crock for a while, then remove from the fire. Serve in the dish, with a spoon.

Ingredients:

Ingredients: Savillum, Cato’s De Agricultura 84

Ingredients:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 250g ricotta cheese
  • honey
  • 1 egg
  • poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • bay leaves

Add the cheese to the flour and combine the two. Beat the egg and add it to the mixture with a tablespoon of honey. Knead into a dough, adding a little more flour if necessary. Use the olive oil to grease a round pan for cake baking. Add the bay leaves over the oil. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan and cover it. Bake in the oven at 180°C for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, spread 2 tablespoons of honey over the top of the bread and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Replace it in the oven for a further 10-15 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Savillum, Cato’s De Agricultura 84

Savillum, Cato’s De Agricultura 84

This savoury cheesecake was served with Conditum Paradoxum, an incredibly sweet and spiced red wine. Cheers Hadrian!

Conditum Paradoxum, the red wine of the ancient Romans.

Conditum Paradoxum, the red wine of the ancient Romans.

Posted in Ancient Roman cuisine, Hadrian | 2 Comments

Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: The marble theatrical masks

This month’s masterpieces from Hadrian’s Villa are the larger than life-size marble theatrical masks that once decorated the scaenae frons (stage-front) of the odeon of the villa.

Theatrical masks from the South Theatre (Odeum) at Hadrian's Villa, Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

Theatrical masks from the odeon at Hadrian’s Villa, Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

The theatre and theatrical performances were particularly popular in Graeco-Roman art. We find many depictions of theatrical scenery, actors and masks in almost all kinds of works of art, from sculptures to mosaics, frescoes, reliefs, jewels and everyday objects (see my Flickr set The Art of Ancient Greek & Roman Theatre).

These theatre masks were carved in marble and in a larger size than those worn by the actors during performances. They were used throughout the Greco-Roman world in the ornamentation of public buildings, including theatres, as decorations of the scenae frontes (stages) and the façades.

Theatrical mask from the South Theatre (Odeum) at Hadrian's Villa, New Comedy mask of a slave, Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

Theatrical mask from the odeon at Hadrian’s Villa, New Comedy mask of a slave, Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

At Hadrian’s Villa, they decorated the Odeon, a small theatre that could held around 1,200 people and located at the southern end of the villa. Eight marble statues depicting seated muses were also unearthed in the odeon (see post here). Theatre masks of this kind were often found in the villas and gardens of wealthy Romans, where they evoked an atmosphere of Greek culture and proclaimed the sophisticated intellectual interests of their Roman owners.

Theatrical mask from the South Theatre (Odeum) at Hadrian's Villa, Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

Theatrical mask from the odeon at Hadrian’s Villa, Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

In Greek Theatre all of the performers, with the exception of musicians, wore masks. Comedy masks often presented grotesque, exaggerated expressions, whereas tragedy masks showed facial features distorted in emotional pain.

Theatrical mask from the South Theatre (Odeum) at Hadrian's Villa, female figure of tragedy wearing the onkos (topknot), Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

Theatrical mask from the odeon at Hadrian’s Villa, female figure of tragedy wearing the onkos (topknot), Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

Theatrical mask from the South Theatre (Odeum) at Hadrian's Villa, female figure of tragedy wearing the onkos (topknot) and Phyrgian cap, Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

Theatrical mask from the odeon at Hadrian’s Villa, female figure of tragedy wearing the onkos (topknot) underneath a Phrygian cap, Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

In antiquity there were three specific varieties of theatrical performance; tragedy, comedy and satyr play. Each performance was masked. The rhetorician Pollux, writing in the 2nd century AD at the time of Commodus, catalogues in his Onomasticon (lexicon) some twenty-eight masks for tragedy, forty-four masks for comedy, four satyr masks and other special masks divided into different categories (old men, young men, male servants and women).

Theatrical mask from the South Theatre (Odeum) at Hadrian's Villa, female figure of tragedy Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

Theatrical mask from the odeon at Hadrian’s Villa, female figure of tragedy Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

Theatrical mask from the South Theatre (Odeum) at Hadrian's Villa, female figure of tragedy wearing the onkos (topknot), Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

Theatrical mask from the odeon at Hadrian’s Villa, female figure of tragedy wearing the onkos (topknot), Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

As well as monumental theatrical masks, protomes were also used to adorn theatre buildings. Two protomes of Attis were found at Hadrian’s Villa. They must have also decorated the scaenae frons of the odeon. Attis was associated with pantomime and with the theatre of Rome through the scenic games of the Magalesia, a festival celebrated in honor of Cybele, the Magna Mater, as explained by G. Wootton in her study of the “Mask of Attis Oscilla”.

Protome of Attis from the South Theatre (Odeum) at Hadrian's Villa, Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

Protome of Attis from the odeon at Hadrian’s Villa, Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

Protome of Attis from the South Theatre (Odeum) at Hadrian's Villa, Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

Protome of Attis from the odeon at Hadrian’s Villa, Cortile del Belvedere, Vatican Museums

In addition, three mosaic panels in opus vermiculatum recovered from the Imperial Palace complex, in a room known today as the Sala a Tre Navate (Hall of Three Aisles), show theatrical marks. One depicts four masks representing Greek and Latin comedy and Greek and Latin tragedy, along with a lyre and a broken amphora. Another shows a mask on a pedestal with the attributes of Apollo; a griffin, lyre and bow a quiver. The third mosaic represents a mask on a rock, surrounded by the attributes of Dionysus; a thyrsus, a kantharos and a leopard gnawing at the strap of a tympanun.

Today these mosaic panels are on display in the Musei Vaticani in a room named after the mosaics and known as the Gabinetto delle Maschere (Cabinet of the Masks). The mosaic with the four masks is likely to date from the late Republican era. It probably decorated an older villa and was reused in Hadrian’s Villa more than 150 years later.

“And in the theatre he [Hadrian] presented plays of all kinds in the ancient manner and had the court-players appear before the public.”

Historia Augusta – The Life of Hadrian

Hadrian, a former Archon of Athens, presided over the contests of the Great Dionysia, a festival held in March in honour of Dionysus. At least three days were devoted to tragic plays in the Theatre of Dionysus. Each day a playwright presented three tragedies and one satyr play. During the festival Hadrian sat in the front row of the ima cavea, the lowest part of the cavea alongside the judges. He also restored the Theatre of Dionysus and built a monumental scaenae frons with reliefs depicting the life of Dionysus. Twelve statues of Hadrian were set up in the Theatre of Dionysus by the twelve Attic tribes, one statue by each tribe.

Sources:

  • The Art of Ancient Greek Theater by Mary Louise Hart (2010, J. Paul Getty Museum)
  • In scaena. Il teatro di Roma antica, Savarese Nicola (2007, Electa)
  • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, edited by William Smith, Charles Anthon (1843, New York : Harper & Brothers)
  • A Mask of Attis “Oscilla” as Evidence for a Theme of Pantomime, Glenys E. Wootton Latomus, T. 58, Fasc. 2 (AVRIL-JUIN 1999), pp. 314-335
  • The development of the mask as a critical tool for an examination of character and performer action by Mary Anne Mitchell (1986)
Posted in Hadrian's Villa, Roman art | 2 Comments

A taste of Ancient Rome – A Saturnalia feast

As mentioned in a previous post (see here), I organised a small banquet at home on the occasion of the Saturnalia festival. I absolutely love ancient Roman food and for this banquet I tried a few more ancient recipes. Once again, everything was delicious!

My Saturnalia feast menu

My Saturnalia feast menu

For the appetizer (gustatio) I chose to bake Mustacei, must (grape juice) cakes from Cato The Elder’s De Agricultura. The recipe I used is taken from Mark Grant’s Roman Cookery as well as Sally Grainger’s The Classical Cookbook with some slight modifications. The recipe is slightly adapted using modern ingredients like yeast as the must of the Romans would have fermented. Sally Grainger believes that Cato’s cook experts would have expected the cakes to rise.

Mustacei recipe in Latin (from LacusCurtius):

Cato’s De Agricultura 121: Mustaceos sic facito. Farinae siligineae modium unum musto conspargito. Anesum, cuminum, adipis P. II, casei libram, et de virga lauri deradito, eodem addito, et ubi definxeris, lauri folia subtus addito, cum coques.

Translation:

Moisten 1 modius of wheat flour with must; add anise, cumin, 2 pounds of lard, 1 pound of cheese, and the bark of a laurel twig. When you have made them into cakes, put bay leaves under them, and bake.

Ingredients: Mustacei (Must rolls), Cato, De Agricultura 121


Ingredients:

  • 400g plain flour
  • 200ml red or white grape juice (I used red grape juice)
  • 1/2 tsp dried yeast
  • 60g cheddar or pecorino cheese, grated  (I used pecorino)
  • 2 tsp ground aniseed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 60g pastry lard (cooken) or hard vegetable fat (I used cooken)
  • olive oil
  • bay leaves

Method:

Pour the grape juice into a pan and warm it to body temperature. Dissolve the yeast in the grape juice and leave to froth a few minutes. Grate the cheese. Put the flour into a missing bowl and stir in the ground cumin and aniseed. Add the grated cheese and lard/vegetable fat and work them into the flour until it has the consistency of bread crumbs. Pour on the grape juice and yeast mixture. Knead for 5 minutes until you have a supple dough and roll into a ball. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. Now brush a baking tray with olive oil and position the bay leaves on it at 5 cm intervals. Flour a board. Place the ball of dough on the board and use a rolling pin to roll out the dough until it is 1 cm thick. A pastry cutter about 5 cm in diameter can be used to make the individual cakes. Place each cake on a bay leaf and bake them at 180°C for 30-40 minutes.

Mustacei (Must rolls), Cato, De Agricultura 121

Mustacei (Must rolls), Cato, De Agricultura 121

Serve warm with a spoonful of date paste (Mark Grant recommends vegetable purée). 

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Mustacei (Must rolls), Cato, De Agricultura 121

Mustacei (Must rolls), served with date paste and Mulsum

Mustacei (Must rolls), served with date paste and Mulsum

These sweet cakes should be accompanied with mulsum. Mulsum was a freshly made mixture of wine and honey with and a certain number of plants and spices (pepper, bay leaf, saffron) which was often served with the gustatio or before the meal as an aperitif. You can purchase mulsum online from the roman-shop site here.

Conditum Paradoxum and Mulsum

Conditum Paradoxum and Mulsum

Because I love chicken, for the main course (primae mensae) I chose to cook pullum (chicken) with Apicius’ hazelnuts sauce Aliter Ius in Avibus (Another Sauce for Fowl) from De Re Coquinaria. As Sally Grainger says, this recipe has a modern Christmassy feel. I decided to accompany this dish with Cucurbitas more Alexandrino (Alexandrine Squash), again from Apicius’ De Re Coquinaria.

Aliter Ius in Avibus recipe in Latin (from LacusCurtius):

Apicius 6,5,2: Piper, petroselinum, ligusticum, mentam siccam, cneci flos, uino suffundis, adicies ponticam uel amygdala tosta, mel modicum, uino et aceto, liquamen temperabis. Oleum in pultarium super ius mittis, calefacies, ius agitabis apio uiridi et nepeta. Incaraxas et perfundis.

Translation: Pepper, lovage, parsley, dry mint, fennel blossoms moistened with wine; add roasted nuts from Pontus or almonds, a little honey, wine, vinegar, and broth to taste. Put oil in a pot, and heat and stir the sauce, adding green celery seed, cat-mint; carve the fowl and cover with the sauce.

Ingredients: Aliter Ius in Avibus

Ingredients: Aliter Ius in Avibus

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken or other bird
  • 170g hazelnuts
  • 4 tsp chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh lovage or celery leaf
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp clear honey
  • 280ml red wine
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • pinch saffron powder
  • salt

Method:

Roast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes in the oven at 180°C. Pound or process them to a fine crumb. Add them to a saucepan with all the other ingredients for the sauce and bring slowly to the boil. Place the chicken in a roasting pan and season with salt and pepper. Cut into the breast and leg and open the incisions before pouring the sauce over the bird. Roast in a pre-heated over at 200°C for about 1 1/2 hours. While cooking, repeatedly baste the bird to ensure that the skin is well covered in the nut mixture.

Aliter Ius in Avibus (Poultry with Hazelnuts Sauce),

Aliter Ius in Avibus (Poultry with Hazelnuts Sauce)

Conditum paradoxum, a delicate red wine with an exquisite blend of spices and honey (similar to today’s mulled wine) was served to accompany this dish. I have said it before but Conditum paradoxum is a true delicacy! You can purchase Conditum paradoxum online from the roman-shop site here.

Conditum paradoxum – Ancient red wine from Apicius

Conditum paradoxum – Ancient red wine from Apicius

The Cucurbitas more Alexandrino (Alexandrine Squash) recipe comes from Apicius’ De Re Coquinaria.

Cucurbitas more Alexandrino recipe in Latin (from LacusCurtius):

Apicius 3,4,3: Elixatas cucurbitas exprimis, sale asparges, in patina compones. Teres piper, cuminum, coriandri semen, mentam viridem, laseris radicem, suffundes acetum. Addicies cariotam, nucleum, teres melle, aceto, liquamine, defrito et oleo temperabis, et cucurbitas perfundes. Cum ferbuerint, piper asparges et inferes.

Translation: Press the water out of the boiled pumpkin, place in a baking dish, sprinkle with salt, ground pepper, cumin, coriander seed, green mint and a little laser root; season with vinegar. Now add date wine and pignolia nuts ground with honey, vinegar and broth, measure out condensed wine and oil, pour this over the pumpkin and finish in this liquor and serve, sprinkle with pepper before serving.

Ingredients: Cucurbitas more Alexandrino (Alexandrine Squash), Apicius, De Re Coquinaria 3,4,3

Ingredients: Cucurbitas more Alexandrino (Alexandrine Squash), Apicius, De Re Coquinaria 3,4,3

Ingredients:

  • 1 gourd (small pumpkin or squash)
  • peppercorns
  • cumin
  • coriander seeds
  • 3 – 4 mint leaves, shredded
  • 1 garlic
  • 3 tbsp vinegar
  • 50 g dates, finely chopped
  • 50 g blanched almonds, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp clear honey
  • 4 tbsp Defritum (or Wine or Grape Juice reduced by two thirds)
  • 20 ml olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste

Method:

Cut the gourd, courgette or squash into chunks. Place these into a steamer and cook until done. Squeeze out the excess water. Transfer the remaining pulp to a saucepan. Whilst the squash is cooking, put the dried spices in a pestle and mortar and grind. Next add the mint and garlic, grinding to a smooth paste. Spoon this from the mortar and add to the cooked squash. Next add the dates, almonds and the honey. Finally add the oil and mix with the squash. Place the resulting mixture back on the heat and simmer gently for a few minutes for the flavours to combine. Serve immediately sprinkled with salt and black pepper.

Cucurbitas more Alexandrino (Alexandrine Squash), Apicius, De Re Coquinaria 3,4,3

Cucurbitas more Alexandrino (Alexandrine Squash), Apicius, De Re Coquinaria 3,4,3

Aliter Ius in Avibus (Poultry with Hazelnuts Sauce), Apicius, De Re Coquinaria 6,5,2 & Cucurbitas more Alexandrino (Alexandrine Squash), Apicius, De Re Coquinaria 3,4,3

Aliter Ius in Avibus (Poultry with Hazelnuts Sauce), & Cucurbitas more Alexandrino (Alexandrine Squash)

The different species of gourd available today in Europe are the ones imported from the New Worlds. The squash used by the Romans would have been the bitter gourd native to North Africa. The bitter gourd differs substantially in shape and bitterness.

For the Secondae Mensae (dessert), I chose to try Apicius’ Dulcia Piperata, a peppered honey cake topped with chopped hazelnuts.

Dulcia Piperata recipe in Latin:

Apicius 7,11,4: mittis mel, merum, passum, rutam. Eo mittis nucleos, nuces, alicam elixatam. Concisas nuces Avellanas tostas adicies et inferes.

Ingredients:

  • 140 gr plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp ground rosemary
  • 70 gr ground almonds
  • 50 ml white grape juice
  • 50 ml passum (or other 50ml white grape juice)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • Milk
  • Chopped hazelnuts

Method:

Mix the flour in a bowl with the baking powder. Add the rosemary and the ground almonds to the bowl. In a measuring jug beat the two eggs, add the wine, grape juice, honey and mix well. Add enough milk to the jug to make the liquid up to 200 ml. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix well. Pour the mixture into a well greased 22cm round tin. Bake at 190ºC for about 30 minutes. When the cake is still warm, spread liquid honey over the top and sprinkle it with chopped hazelnuts.

Dulcia Piperata (Peppered Honey Cake), Apicius, De Re Coquinaria 7,11,4

Dulcia Piperata (Peppered Honey Cake), Apicius, De Re Coquinaria 7,11,4

If you are looking for some ancient eating inspiration why not give one of these recipes a go.

Bonum appetitionem!

Buy the cookbooks mentioned here:

Mark Grant, Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens amazon.co.uk / amazon.com

Mark Grant, Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens
amazon.co.uk / amazon.com

Sally Grainger, The Classical Cookbook

Sally Grainger, The Classical Cookbook amazon.co.uk / amazon.com

Posted in Ancient Roman cuisine | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Crossing the Rubicon

On this day (10th January) in 49 BC, Julius Caesar and his troops famously crossed the Rubicon, the river marking the boundary between the province of Cisalpine Gaul and Italy. Taking the 13th Legion over this forbidden frontier constituted an act of treason and triggered civil war in Rome. According to the historian Suetonius, Caesar uttered the famous phrase ālea iacta est (“the die is cast”).

The Green Caesar, Greywacke from Egypt, 1 - 50 AD, Altes Museum Berlin

The Green Caesar, Greywacke from Egypt, 1 – 50 AD, Altes Museum Berlin

Last June, I travelled along the Via Aemilia in the footsteps of Julius Caesar, crossing the river and following the soon to be dictator’s path towards Rome.

The Rubicon has been one of the world’s most famous rivers ever since Julius Caesar crossed it. Three rivers in north-east Italy were successively thought to be the historical Rubicon; the Pisciatello, Fiumicino and Uso rivers. It was not until 1933 that the Fiumicino, which crossed the town of Savignano di Romagna (renamed Rubicone by Mussolini), was identified as the former Rubicon. This theory was not proven until some 58 years later in 1991 when three Italian scholars, using the Tabula Peutingeriana – a medieval copy of a Roman road map – and various ancient sources, were able to prove the location of the original Rubicon. The distance given in the Tabula of 12 miles from Ariminum (modern-day Rimini), coincides exactly with the distance of the Fiumicino from that city. However the location is still contested.

Today, if you want to cross the Rubicon, you need to go to Italy in the Region of Emilia-Romagna, in Savignano sul Rubicone which is located halfway between Cesena and Rimini, along the Via Emilia and the Bologna-Rimini railway. The most famous monument of the city is of course the three-arched Roman bridge (26 m long and 6 m wide) which recalls this historical event.

Roman bridge over the Rubicon river, Savignano sul Rubicone, Italy

Roman bridge over the Rubicon river, Savignano sul Rubicone, Italy

However the bridge does not date to Caesar’s time. In his De Vita Caesarum (1.31.6), Suetonius, who served briefly as secretary to Hadrian, reports the following Julius Caesar’s words: “Even yet we may draw back; but once cross yon little bridge, and the whole issue is with the sword.” The small bridge (ponticulum) of Caesar was most likely made of wood. The exact date of construction of the current bridge is unknown but probably dates from the era of Augustus or Tiberius.

Roman bridge over the Rubicon river, Savignano sul Rubicone, Italy

Roman bridge over the Rubicon river, Savignano sul Rubicone, Italy

Over the past centuries the old bridge underwent various modifications and alterations but the worst damages were made by the German army in 1944, when they mined the pillars of the bridge. The reconstruction of the bridged started in the 1960s and was completed in 2005.

Roman bridge over the Rubicon river on the Via Aemilia, Savignano sul Rubicone, Italy

Roman bridge over the Rubicon river on the Via Aemilia, Savignano sul Rubicone, Italy

A modern statue of Caesar stands next to the bridge. It is a copy of the statue placed by Benito Mussolini on the Via dei Fori Imperiali in Rome.

Modern statue of Julius Caesar next to the Roman bridge over the Rubicon river on the Via Aemilia, Savignano sul Rubicone, Italy

Modern statue of Julius Caesar next to the Roman bridge over the Rubicon river on the Via Aemilia, Savignano sul Rubicone, Italy

During Caesar’s time, the river Rubicon marked the boundary between the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul to the north-east and Italy proper. After Caesar’s crossing, the Rubicon remained a geographical feature of note until about 42 BC, when Octavian merged the Province of Cisalpine Gaul into Italia and the river ceased to be the extreme northern border of Italy.

After crossing the Rubicon, Caesar advanced to Ariminum (modern-day Rimini), the first city outside his province. Tradition dictates that Ariminum’s forum was the scene for Julius Caesar’s famous speech to his soldiers when he uttered the words “alea jacta est”. In Rimini, a monument in Piazza Tre Martiri marks the place where Caesar allegedly harangued his troops.

The inscription reads: Gaius Caesar, dictator, after crossing the Rubicon during the civil war, addressed his fellow soldiers here in the forum of Ariminum.

Stone pillar from the 1500s commemorating the speech said to have been made by Julius Caesar to his troops after his famous crossing of the Rubicon, Rimini, Italy

Stone pillar from the 1500s commemorating the speech said to have been made by Julius Caesar to his troops after his famous crossing of the Rubicon, Rimini, Italy

The square, once named Piazza Giulio Cesare in Caeasar’s honour, also has a bronze statue. Mussolini donated a statue of Caesar to the town of Rimini in 1933 (not the one which currently stands), similar to that shown in Rome along the Fori Imperiali. The statue was placed at the foot of Rimini’s tower clock and each year on the Ides of March local fascist organisations would parade.

At some stage before the liberation of Rimini, the local authorities took the statue away and buried it in a ditch on the Northern outskirts of the town. The original statue was re-discovered from its hiding place in the 1950s but was immediately taken into the custody of the military authorities who placed it in the Giulio Cesare barracks, where it still remains. Finally a copy of the statue was made and placed in the corner of the square.

Statue of Julius Caesar in Piazza Tre Martiri, Rimini, Italy

Statue of Julius Caesar in Piazza Tre Martiri, Rimini, Italy

The name of the Piazza was changed from Piazza Giulio Cesare to its current name Piazza Tre Martiri, in honour of the three young partisans who were hanged publicly in the square on August 16 1944 (Luigi Nicolò, Adelio Pagliarani, and Mario Capelli).

The current Piazza partly follows the plan of the forum of Ariminum, the Roman colony founded in 268 BC. Situated at the intersection of the city’s two main streets, the cardo maximus and decumanus maximus, the original square was paved with large stone slabs, as seen in the section now exposed.

Exposed section of the Forum of Ariminum, Rimini, Italy

Exposed section of the Forum of Ariminum, Rimini, Italy

Today Piazza Tre Martiri remains at the heart of Rimini’s commercial and cultural life. It is the perfect starting point for touring the city’s magnificent ancient ruins: the Bridge of Tiberius, the Arch of Augustus, the Hadrianic amphitheatre and the Surgeon’s Domus.

Posted in Archaeology Travel, Frontiers of the Roman Empire, Italy, Julius Caesar, Roman Army | 4 Comments