Friday, December 09, 2005

Tivoli's Treasures: Hadrian's Villa and the Villa d'Este

March 17, 2005: Tivoli - We got a wonderful start this morning heading for Tivoli and Hadrian's Villa. We were able to find the proper Autostrade straight away and arrived at the Villa by 9:30 a.m. We began by studying the meticulously detailed model of the Villa in the Visitor's Center.

Hadrian's Villa (Villa Hadriana) was built by the emperor Hadrian in the early second century CE. The villa was a sumptuous complex of over 30 buildings, covering an area of over 250 acres, of which much is still unexcavated.

"The villa was Hadrian's preferred residence when he was in Rome. His choice of an imperial palace outside Rome, instead one of the several palaces in Rome, was probably influenced by the miserable relations he had with the senate and the local Roman aristocracy.

Hadrian was born in Spain, just like his predecessor Trajan, and the senate and the local aristocracy had trouble coming to terms with another provincial on the imperial throne.

The way Hadrian had assumed power only reinforced their opposition to him. Trajan's adoption of Hadrian on his deathbed was immediately cast in doubt, and when four military leaders, all Roman aristocrats who had been close to Trajan and hence possible contenders for the throne, were assassinated immediately after Trajan's death, the senate immediately suspected Hadrian of having ordered the killings.

Hadrian only arrived in Rome eleven months after Trajan's death, and denied any wrongdoing, but his relationship with the senate never recovered from the crisis. As a consequence Hadrian stayed very little in Rome. He travelled extensively throughout most of the empire in two prolonged periods, in 121-125 CE and in 128-134 CE, and when in Italy he preferred to stay away from Rome. A grandiose imperial palace outside Rome, but not too far away, was the perfect answer. René Seindal, Hadrian's Villa

We noticed a large group of people disembarking from a tour bus in the parking lot so we hurried to the Canopus, probably the most famous structure of the villa, so we could get some good photographs before the crowd arrived. Here's a wonderful Quicktime panorama of the Canopus!

The headless female warrior on the right is a Roman copy of a Greek sculpture of a wounded Amazon originally sculpted by Phidias for the Temple of Artemis.

Hadrian's Canopus is a recreation of the canal that connects Alexandria to the Nile in Egypt, and it was in these waters that the emperor's male lover, Antinous, drowned."

"Born in Bythnion around the year 105 of the Common Era, Antinous was a beautiful adolescent when he first caught the eye of the Emperor of the western world. Hadrian was already in his late forties by the time the two met; their sexual chemistry appears to have been mutual, eclectic, and immediate. Antinous became Hadrian's favorite, sharing the Emperor's bed and his life. For a period of a little less than a decade, the two were inseparable, much to the disgrace of Hadrian's legal wife, the childless and spiteful Sabina. Imperial art and literature of the times show the men in a variety of guises and activities, particularly hunting: a sport the two enjoyed immensely.

In the course of their relationship, Antinous matured from a beautiful youth into an intelligent and well-muscled young man. The Greeks referred to the visible maturation of a youth (the growth of his beard and body hair) as "clouds hiding the sun." It was shortly after the Emperor's young lover had reached this stage of his development, and just after his hair had been cut short in the style favored by the mature men of the period, that Antinous drowned mysteriously in the Nile river during an Imperial visit to the province of Egypt.

Egyptian custom decreed that all drowning victims in the Nile automatically assumed a type of minor divinity, and so Antinous was proclaimed a God. Within a year, Hadrian returned to Rome, where he officially proclaimed Antinous as a Roman God. While still deeply mourning the loss of his beloved, the Emperor realized the political significance of the Greek youth's death, and from the tragedy forged a unifying cult of worship in the previously divided Greek city-states. Hadrian and Antinous together built a unified Greek nation, a feat which the warring city-states themselves had never achieved. Despite other great accomplishments as Emperor, Hadrian spent the last eight years of his life mourning Antinous." - The Story of Antinous and Hadrian

Ares, the god of war, presides over the remaining inhabitants of the Canopus. Both Pat and I thought he had a rather attractive "bum"! Along the right bank, a few carytids remain flanked by Silenus figures. The carytids are copies of the Korai from the Erechtheon on the Athenian Acropolis. It is thought these figures once supported a pergola possibly adorned with flowering vines.

"Should any one wish for information on the origin of those draped matronal figures [...] called caryatids, I will explain it by the following story. Carya, a city of Peloponnese, joined the Persians in their war against the Greeks. These in return for the treachery, after having freed themselves by a most glorious victory from the intended Persian yoke, unanimously resolved to launch a war against the Caryans. Carya was taken and destroyed, its male population extinguished, and its matrons carried into slavery. To ensure that these circumstances might be better remembered, and the nature of the triumph perpetuated, the victors represented the matrons draped, and apparently suffering under the burden with which they were loaded, to expiate the crime of their native city. Thus, in their edifices, did the ancient architects, by the use of these statues, hand down to posterity a memorial of the crime of the Caryans."
[Vitruvius, On architecture 1.1.5]

I had hoped to see more mosaics as we wandered around the villa grounds but saw only remnants of the simpler black and white geometric mosaics that became popular during the first century CE. This floor once served as the surface for an exercise facility. Most of the colorful Hellenistic-style scenes created with polychrome tesserae have been removed to museums.

"In a hall in the Central Court of Hadrian's Villa a number of floor mosaics was discovered in 1779...two of mosaics illustrated country scenes with sanctuaries such as the "Goats with Goatherd". The wreathed figure in the mosaic is thought to be Dionysis since it holds a cluster of grapes and grasps a staff entwined with grape vines.

Another pair of mosaics discovered at that time depicted a more brutal aspect of nature with scenes of conflict, one from 'ordinary' life showing a "lion attacking cattle".

Both mosaics share not only a rich polychromy but also certain stylistic features. To create the illusion of depth in the scene and volume in the figures, use has been made of shading, highlighting, three-quarter views, and foreshortening (especially the "Lion attacking Cattle".

In "Goats and Goatherd", linear perspective is noticeable in the diminishing scale of the goats the further into the background they appear. Such naturalistic characteristics are generally associated with Greek painting from the 4th century BC onwards.

The mosaics are made in the polychrome tesselated technique, and were set into the floor as prefabricated emblemata. The area of Hadrian's Villa in which they were found belongs to its second building phase approx 128 A.D." - Mosaics From Hadrian's Villa, Classics New Zealand

Of course the Opus, an Egyptian themed meditation pool flanked by Greek sculptures, is probably the highlight of anyone's visit to the villa but the remains of three large and small thermal bath complexes were also fascinating. These baths were fed by two streams that surrounded the villa as well as copius amounts of water from the surrounding hills. Tivoli's abundant water supplied four aqueducts for the city of Rome.

Some of the vaulted ceiling still retained its decorated stucco.

Hadrian also constructed a Temple to the goddess Venus built as a copy of the Greek tholos that guarded the sculptor Prassitele's original Aphrodite. Hadrian's "Venus" has been removed to a nearby museum and has been replaced by a cast of the original but I still found the remains of the temple soothing.

Hadrian, ever the scholar, also built Greek and Latin libraries near a circular colonaded complex dubbed the Maritime Theater. It contains a mote-encircled miniature villa, complete with a small triclinium, sleeping rooms, and baths, that served as the emperor's private retreat. Hadrian reportedly loved to swim in the canal. The villa's island was connected to the outer grounds by revolving wooden bridges.

The Villa grounds are quite extensive and it took us until after lunch to take them all in. Richard suggested we still had time to visit Villa d'Este, a palatial estate built by a Renaissance cardinal. He showed me pictures of the spectacular fountains in a guide book we found at the gift shop at Hadrian's Villa. I readily agreed so we drove over there. As you all know, few things leave me speechless but Villa d'Este was one of them.

"Villa d'Este, masterpiece of the Italian Garden, is included in the UNESCO world heritage list. With its impressive concentration of fountains, nymphs, grottoes, plays of water, and music, it constitutes a much-copied model for European gardens in the mannerist and baroque styles.

The garden is generally considered within the larger and altogether extraordinary-- context of Tivoli itself: its landscape, art and history which includes the important ruins of ancient villas such as the Villa Adriana, as well as a zone rich in caves and waterfalls displaying the unending battle between water and stone. The imposing constructions and the series of terraces above terraces bring to mind the hanging gardens of Babylon, one of the wonders of the ancient world. The addition of water-- including an aqueduct tunneling beneath the city -- evokes the engineering skill of the Romans themselves.

Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este, after the disappointment of a failed bid for the papacy, brought back to life here the splendor of the courts of Ferrara, Rome and Fontainebleau and revived the magnificence of Villa Adriana. Governor of Tivoli from 1550, he immediately nurtured the idea of realizing a garden in the hanging cliffs of the 'Valle gaudente', but it was only after 1560 that his architectural and iconographic program became clear-brainchild of the painter-architect-archeologist Pirro Ligorio and realized by court architect Alberto Galvani.

The rooms of the Palace were decorated under the tutelage of the stars of the late Roman Mannerism, such as Livio Agresti, Federico Zuccari, Durante Alberti, Girolamo Muziano, Cesare Nebbia and Antonio Tempesta.

[Mannerism is described as "a self-conscious design, overcharged with rich, artificially "natural" detail in physically improbable juxtapositions of jarring scale changes." - Wikipedia]

The work was almost complete at the time of the Cardinal's death (1572)." - Villa d'Este Official Site

I actually found the ornately muraled rooms of the Villa more spectacular than the Sistine Chapel. Perhaps not as surprising as it sounds since Pirro Ligorio worked under Michelangelo during the construction of St. Peter's Cathedral and took over the work following Michelangelo's death. I especially liked the Room of Hercules where artists had depicted his 12 labors. Perhaps special care was taken in this room as Ligorio was also a recognized scholar of antiquity.

My friend and I thought it must have seemed a bit incongruous to some of Cardinal d'Este's visitors to see so many representations of Greek and Roman pagan mythology at the home of a prince of the Catholic Church.

Outside, the lush formal gardens spill over the hillside below the Villa like a botanical cascade blooming with sparkling fountains. The largest fountain includes a massive artificial waterfall that drops over four stories to a series of reflecting pools below it. If any man-made structure could ever be called paradise on earth, the Villa d'Este would have to be among the top contenders.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pompeii: Victims of an Eruption

March 16, 2004: Pompeii - The day began with a bit of a disconcerting start driving in Rome rush hour traffic. As I mentioned before, the signage is poor to nonexistent which makes navigating very difficult. In addition, the Romans appear to ignore traffic signals and pedestrians. There are also few lane markers on the streets so the Romans just cram as many cars into the street as possible often with only a hair's breadth between them. Fortunately, the car makers here have developed a special collapsing sideview mirror to minimize the damage from frequent clips. Of course, there is also the swarm of Vespa scooters that weave back and forth any space they can squeeze into, ultimately working their way to the front of the pack by the time they reach the next traffic light.

It was a bit of a challenge finding the on ramp to the proper autostrade but we finally succeeded and started flying toward Pompeii (the speed "suggestion" here is 82 mph). We missed the first turn off and ended up exiting the autostrade at Sarno. We wound our way through the back streets toward Mt. Vesuvius and finally reached the archaeological park.

Although only one fourth of Pompeii has been excavated, it is a large area and we took the rest of the day exploring the ruins. It was fascinating to walk up and down the streets (Roman roads are very hard to walk on - we skirted the along the edge of the roads to walk on the smaller edging stones instead of the large paving stones) and see the fast food stalls, the ancient flour mill, and of course the remains of some lovely private villas.

People in Ancient Rome did not have any cooking facilities in their homes. As they lived in tiny apartments without ovens they took wheat to the local baker and had their bread baked there for them. So, it seems that the Ancient Romans often ate out. (Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, author of Food: a History, reminds us that the population of ancient Rome ate more fast food per head of population than we do today in cities like London and New York.) So, there were many hot food shops and taverns where meals could be purchased and consumed.
All the usual fare of the Romans could be found at these shops or Taverna, including hot sausages, bread, cheese, dates and of course, wine.

Another place for the Ancient Romans to eat out was at the baths. They often had food shops, as well as libraries, hair-cutting facilities and other comforts for Roman Citizens." -

Of course, I found the decor of the Roman eateries much more elegant than the local MacDonald's! I am fascinated by frescos, even the common ones as well as the elaborate vistas that adorn the palatial homes of the wealthy.

The preservationists have replanted several of the large peristyle gardens, such as those at the "House of Loreio Tiburtino" and some of the vineyards have been replanted as well.

Although few statues remain in situ, as an animal lover, I appreciated the replicas (the originals are housed at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples) of a little bronze dog and boar figures at the House of the Faun (Casa del Fauno). It is considered the largest private house excavated so far, featuring two large peristyle gardens and four dining rooms, and once held the famous mosaic of Alexander the Great defeating the Persian King Darius.

"The house was built at the height of the Samnite civilization and during the great influence of Hellenistic architecture, showing a fusion of Italian and Hellenistic elements." - Mr. Sedivy's Highlands Ranch History

I had to laugh because all of the tourists were running around waving their maps and consulting each other, trying to find the brothel where many of the erotic frescos were reputed to be located. Unfortunately,the famous brothel was roped off because it had begun to collapse, although work was in progress to shore it up.

I did see the famous fresco of Priapus at the House of the Vetti.

"Priapus is a god of fertility, protector of horticulture and viticulture. His statue, holding a wooden sickle in his hand, was used in the Roman gardens as scarecrow, and his enormous penis as a threat against thieves.

This god is mainly known for his huge virile member, and the size of it is so enormous that it has been called "column", "twelve-inch pole", "cypress", "spear", "pyramid", and many other names of the same kind referring to the dimensions of his penis. And just as Zeus shows his thunderbolt, Poseidon his trident, Athena her spear, Apollo his golden arrows, Hermes his caduceus, Dionysus his thyrsus, Heracles his club, so Priapus cannot but proudly exhibit his penis, which best represents him, and without which he is weaponless. This is the reason why his privy parts are always shamelessly displayed in erection.

Some believe that the size of the male sexual organ has little or no relevance, but this lustful god has been assumed to think that the greatest advantage with his enormous penis is that no female can be too roomy for him.

When a certain ass once had a contest with Priapus on the matter of the size of their sexual organs, the beast was defeated by the god, and killed by him. Others say that the ass was killed for a different reason; they tell that after a party in the countryside, Priapus tried to ravish the nymph Lotis, and that when everybody was asleep after feasting and drinking, Priapus approached her silently. But when he was close to fulfilling his wish, the saddle-ass of Silenus gave out an ill-timed roar, which made the nymph to start up. Lotis pushed off Priapus and fled, but the only way to escape him was to turn into the flower called lotus. For having caused him to lose this girl, Priapus killed Silenus' ass, and that is why in Lampsacus, a city on the Hellespont in northwestern Asia Minor where he was more revered than any other god, they used to sacrifice this animal to the god." - Priapus by Carlos Parada.

Although the famous mosaic of the watchdog with the warning "Cave Canem" from the House of the Tragic Poet has been moved to the museum in Naples, the House of P. Paquius Proculus still had its chained watchdog in the entry.

The fresco of a hunting scene still retained much of its vibrant color.

"The large corpus of wall paintings that survive at Pompeii, because of the archaeologically useful eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, led a German scholar, Augustus Mau (1882) to develop, during the years of study he put in at Pompeii, a sequence of four painting styles that fit into a specific chronological framework. He designated the different styles as First Style, Second Style, etc. In the House of the Vettii, we will mostly encounter wall paintings of the Third- and Fourth- Styles, therefore the most "modern" styles when the eruption of Pompeii occurred.

The colors used in the wall paintings at Pompeii were made of plain earth (ochre), minerals (carbonate of copper), and dyes of animal or vegetable origins for Pompeian reds, blues, greens, yellow, and black. Black resulted in a lustrous tone, easily polished, and thus was used in the best rooms to give a luxurious impression. The pigments were often supplemented with a soapy limestone and bonding element to adhere them to the wall. The finished painting was polished with wax to make them shine and preserve them from the incessant bonbardment of smoke and dirt." - Pompeiian Wall Paintings

But, I was sad to note that what few frescos remained in situ at this time were deteriorating rapidly. I'm glad I was able to still see them. I'm afraid Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill's estimate of only a few years before the art in the remains of Pompeii completely disappears is probably accurate based on what I observed.

Despite the fact that I had already been overwhelmed by the Colosseum in Rome, I was still quite impressed with both the amphitheater and the small Greek theater in Pompeii.

The amphitheater was built around 70 BCE to satisfy the entertainment needs of Sulla's veterans who were settled in Pompeii following the Social War (91-88 BCE), a century and a half earlier, when Rome's Italian allies had fought to acquire the benefits of citizenship. However, it also served as a monumental reminder of Roman dominance over the local Samnite population. The nearby town of Nuceria had not rebelled and subsequently was awarded territory confiscated from opposing residents. The friction this arrangement generated came to a head in 59 BCE when a riot erupted between Pompeiians and citizens of Nuceria during a gladiator bout in the amphitheater.

"About this time [AD 59] there was a serious fight between the inhabitants of two Roman settlements, Nuceria and Pompeii. It arose out of a trifling incident at a gladiatorial show....During an exchange of taunts--characteristic of these disorderly country towns--abuse led to stone-throwing, and then swords were drawn. The people of Pompeii, where the show was held, came off best. Many wounded and mutilated Nucerians were taken to the capital. Many bereavements, too, were suffered by parents and children. The emperor instructed the senate to investigate the affair. The senate passed it to the consuls. When they reported back, the senate debarred Pompeii from holding any similar gathering for ten years. Illegal associations in the town were dissolved; and the sponsor of the show and his fellow-instigators of the disorders were exiled."

Tacitus, Annals (XIV.17)

Of course the real horror of the tragedy that befell Pompeii is reflected in the faces of its inhabitants that were overwhelmed by the toxic gases of the pyroclastic flow that swept through Pompeii on the morning of August 25, 79 CE, approximately 18 hours after the inital eruption began.

"The 79 eruption of Vesuvius had two distinct phases: first a Plinian phase, where material was ejected in a tall column, spread in atmosphere and fell to earth like rain; followed by a Peléan phase where material flowed down the sides of the volcano as fast-moving avalanches of gas and dust, called pyroclastic flow (pyroclasts are rock fragments formed by a volcanic explosion or ejected from a volcanic vent). The term Plinian derives from the name of Pliny the Younger, whose written observations of the 79 eruption form an important part of the historic record of Pompeii. The term Peléan derives from the name of Mount Pelée on the island of Martinique, where the phenomenon of pyroclastic flow was first documented in a 1902 eruption. The pyroclastic flows of the Peléan phase at Pompeii were the primary cause of volcanic damage to walls, however the air-fall pumice and ash fall during the Plinian phase was also significant since the deposits collapsed roofs and buried low structures, shielding them from the effects of the pyroclastic flow that followed.

A Plinian eruption ejects a column of tephra high into the atmoshpere (tephra refers to any material that is ejected from a volcano into the atmosphere), creating a form similar to the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion. A Plinian eruption of Vesuvius began at midday on 24 August 79 AD created a Plinian column approximately 20 km (66,000 feet) high. This phase created a rain of ash and pumice over a broad area primarily to the south of Vesuvius, carried by prevailing winds. This phase lasted approximately eighteen hours..."

"By the morning of 25 August, it is clear that all covered buildings in Pompeii were uninhabitable due to collapsed floors and roofs, and it is likely that there was a mass exodus from the city; of Pompeii's estimated 20,000 residents, only about 2,000 have been found in excavations, and the majority of those have been found on top of the pumice layer [Sigurdsson 1985, p. 352]. The Plinian phase created a nearly deserted city of buildings without roofs or floors, where the bottom story level was submerged in a layer of pumice; this set the stage for the pyroclastic flow of the Peléan phase that began on the morning of 25 August. The Peléan phase brought a much more damaging eruption, in the form of high-temperature avalanches of gas and dust hugging the ground at high velocity." - Volcanic Phenomena at Pompeii, Kirk Martini.

Postscript - December 8, 2005: Although I only saw a couple of human casts at the archaeological park, I saw many more last month when I attended the exhibit "Pompeii: Stories From An Eruption" at the Chicago Field Museum. The cast that displayed the sheer agony of the victim's last moments was not human but that of a dog that had been left chained in the House of Orpheus.

The exhibit also included a gladiator's ornate parade armor. The Thracian-style helmet featured scenes of barbarians, prisoners, and trophies. I marveled at the circumference of the greaves (shin guards) adorned with a relief of Athena. The gladiator must have been extremely muscled.

I also enjoyed seeing the Second Style fresco panels from the House of the Cryptoporticus. The panels depicted herms on pedestals against a backdrop of garlands that framed smaller pictures of scenes of the Dionysiac mysteries. The bright orange panels with pictures of the muses from the House of Julius Polybius must have brightened the dining experience of many Pompeiians and the flowers and trees with golden apples depicted on fragments of the triclinium fresco from the House of the Golden Bracelet reminded me of the beautiful garden frescoes from Livia's villa that I saw at the Museo Nationale di Roma in Rome.

The remains of a bronze-framed wooden dining couch that was embellished with a bust of the satyr Silenus, similar to this one, was also quite impressive.

"Some have asserted that SATYRS were the inhabitants of the islands called Satyrides, being notorious for outraging foreign women. Since these SATYRS were utterly wild men living in certain Mediterranean islands in the vicinity of Italy, the sailors used to do whatever was necessary in order to avoid them. But sometimes, not having any other choice, they were obliged to put in at what they named the Satyrides islands.

According to these sailors (but sailors love to invent tales), the SATYRS had tails upon their flanks almost as long as those of horses. That was not so bad; much worse was that, when they caught sight of visitors, they ran down to the ship uttering loud sounds, and having come on board, they immediately assaulted the female passengers. This behaviour caused such a panic in the crew that on one occasion the sailors decided to get rid of these savages by casting a foreign woman to the island for them to outrage in the most shocking manner, while they sailed away." - Silenus: The Greek Mythology Link

"Because the consumption of wine played a prominent, if not central, role in these banquets, animals and personages connected with Dionysus were appropriate attributes for the adornments of the couches. Silver coins struck as early as the fifth century B.C. in the wine-producing city of Mende in Macedonia represent Dionysus reclining, two-handled wine cup in hand, on the back of a mule as if he were using it as a couch. (Other figures equally fitting for the couches are maenads, the raving women who rush after Dionysus in mountain revels, and satyrs, his part-animal male attendants.) On late Hellenistic and early Imperial Roman couches, the wise old sileni, fully aware of the dangers posed by drunkenness, might be seen as convivial companions to the banqueters reclining on the couches. " - D. G. Mitten, Oberlin College, Allen Memorial Art Museum

Another interesting detail I noticed on a strongbox found in the peristyle of the Villa of Lucius Crassius Tertius was a painting of a face of a creature or demon whose features, especially the distinctive eyes, looked very similar to the demons found in eastern Indian art. I'm afraid the detail does not show up in this image (as with most traveling exhibits, the promoters of this event prohibited guest photography) but it is located in the square panel in the center of the front of the box. The house where the strongbox was found was not luxurious. In fact, some of the walls were not even plastered and it had simple earthen floors. But piles of amphorae discovered there along with a series of commercial weights have led researchers to conclude that the home was the site of a small business engaged in the production of wine, oil, and other agricultural produce. Perhaps the box was received in trade.

When I told my husband that I wanted to see this exhibit he asked why since I had been to Pompeii itself. I told him obviously, since these artifacts were on tour I had not seen them in Pompeii. I was not disappointed!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

To Honor Caesar on the Ides of March

Ides of March, 2005 - Early the next morning, we went straight to the Forum to place purple roses on the altar at Julius Caesar's temple, which marks the exact spot where his body was cremated 5 days after his murder. When we arrived, we found some beautiful flowers already there, and two elderly gentlemen paying their respects. They kindly climbed over the barrier and laid our bouquet on top of the altar. As they left, one saluted, and with tears in his eyes, said, "Ave, Caesar!" We then proceeded to lay another bouquet at Caesar's statue on the Via Dei Fori Imperiali, not far from the King Victor Emmanuel Monument.

We then walked up the Capitoline hill and found a sign directing us to the "carcere" where Vercingetorix was executed. Supposedly it was also the cell that housed St. Peter. There was a stone to which Peter was supposedly chained and angels appeared and caused his chains to fall off.

"...according to legends already circulating in republican Rome, the carcer was built as a prison by Rome's fourth king, Ancus Marcius and then the lower chamber, the "tullianum", was dug below the carcer during the reign of the sixth king, Servius Tullius, and took its name from him. Archeological and physical evidence clearly contradicts the legends. The tullianum chamber clearly existed before the upper carcer. It originally was circular and probably was constructed as a cistern around the still flowing spring in its floor (the Latin word tullus means spring. When the upper chamber was added to convert the building into a prison, the lower structure was truncated, and entry to it was blocked except for a hole in the floor of the upper chamber, through which prisoners were lowered. The time of the construction of both chambers is questionable, but it is clear from literary references that both levels already existed by the middle of the Republican period. It is probable that the floor of the tullianum was at or slightly below ground level when it was built around the 4th century BC and that, after the ground level had risen somewhat, the carcer was built above the truncated tullianum, also at or near its own contemporary ground level in the 2nd century BC. The carcer is about a dozen steps below today's street level. The attraction to this place for most visitors is that this is the prison where St. Peter was supposedly kept while awaiting his execution in Rome, and thus would have been the scene of one of his angelic visitations. According to the legend, Peter was freed from his chains by the angel and was fleeing south down the Appian Way when he met a man he recognized as Jesus, who was heading into Rome. After a short conversation, Peter decided to accompany the man back to Rome to accept martyrdom. The church of "Dominus, Quo Vadis?" marks the spot on the Appian where Peter asked the man, "Lord, where are you going?" The chains, centuries later, were miraculously conjoined with the other set of chains that bound Peter when he was imprisoned in Caeasarea Maritima in Palestine, and they are in the church of St. Peter in Chains on the Esquiline Hill. So goes the legend, despite the fact that many scholars accept the possibility that Peter never visited Rome. Whether or not Peter was ever an inmate of the Mamertine prison was the subject of heated theological and ideological debates, mostly between Protestants and Catholics, up to the early years of the 20th century, and research sparked by those debates revealed several interesting facts. Among them, it became clear that no ancient Roman would have recognized the name "Mamertine" -- that was a Medieval name attached to the site, probably to tie the prison to Roman legends surrounding Peter. The ancient Romans, in their usual prosaic style, simply called the site "carcer", which we usually translate as "prison". The Latin word, apparently derived from Etruscan, originally meant an enclosed space or pen, but it is clear that later Latin usage almost always referred to this particular structure in the forum, just north of the Sacra Via and near the Senate's meeting hall, the Curia.

The "carcer" was, in fact, the only prison of ancient Rome, and it was never designed as a place of long-term imprisonment for the punishment of common criminals -- immediate corporal punishment, exile, or the arena was their fate. Betrayal of the state (for example, opening the gates to surrounding enemies) might get you thrown off the Tarpeian Rock. Being an enemy of the Emperor, or just owning a property he coveted, might get your name on a list of proscribed ("written down") persons that anyone could kill on sight. Imprisonment in the carcer was reserved for important state prisoners -- often foreign leaders who had been unwilling exhibits in triumphal parades -- while they waited the few hours for their almost inevitable executions. For them, the carcer was a short-term "death row", a holding area, and not a place of long term imprisonment. The actual killing would be carried out precisely at the moment when the victorious Roman general would dedicate captured treasures in the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill. The death of the prisoner was also dedicated to the god in a long-lasting holdover of rites of human sacrifice. Jugurtha, a North African successor of Hannibal was executed in the Carcer as was Vercingetorix, or, if a public spectacle was deemed advisable, in front of the Senate building.

Cicero also had some of the Catalinian conspirators "incarcerated" (that is, put in the carcer) before unconstitutionally and unceremoniously having them executed there. Cicero himself was executed years later after making himself an enemy of Octavian (later Augustus). Technically, he died after being proscribed by the Second Triumvirate: Octavian, Marc Antony, and Lepidus. But he did not rate immurement in the carcer." - The Carcer--Mamertine Prison.

We then wandered around trying to find the Wax Museum I had read about on the web. It actually turned out to be our first disappointment.

Although I had read that the founder of the Rome Wax Museum had been inspired to create it after visiting Madame Tussaud's in London, he apparently was not willing to hire the quality of sculptors that Madame Tussaud used. The figures did not have real hair and were very stiffly posed, giving the impression they were a collection of mannequins and not "real" people. To add insult to injury, their costumes looked like they hadn't been cleaned or replaced in decades so they were extremely faded and dusty.

We grabbed a bowl of pasta then decided to catch the Metro down to Fermi and tour the Museum of Roman Civilization. This part of the city, known as EUR, was a model community Benito Mussolini designed as the city of the future. However, it was never completed.

"In 1936 the Italian government made a successful application for hosting in Rome the next World Exhibition which was due in 1941. The Exhibition was soon postponed to 1942 to celebrate the XXth anniversary of the Fascist regime. The area chosen for the exhibition was some three miles south of the walls, near the river and the road to Ostia. The architect Marcello Piacentini was asked to coordinate the development of a plan having the objective to create a new quarter of Rome and not only to build the temporary pavilions required by the Exhibition.
Marcello Piacentini was renowned for the neat design of the new Railway Station of Florence, but the government wanted to emphasize the monumental aspects of the new quarter and Piacentini and the other architects who cooperated with him had to meet this expectation. The new quarter was soon known as E.U.R., the acronym of Esposizione Universale Roma...The Fascist regime emphasized the links between the expansion of the Roman Empire and its own aggressive policies and it poured money into redesigning in a spectacular way many areas of the city, mainly to the detriment of medieval or Baroque monuments; for sure the regime had something in common with the ancient Romans: a passion for erecting large buildings...

The first building to be completed was aimed at hosting the offices for the Exhibition. While the building had a very neat and modern design the mosaics and the reliefs which embellished it were evocative of Ancient Rome. The black and white mosaics replicated a pattern typical of Caracalla's Baths and the reliefs portrayed ancient monuments (in the image above: the Arch of Titus, Trajan's Column and the Pantheon). Mussolini himself was portrayed as if he were a direct descendant of the Roman consuls and emperors. He had a peculiar way of speaking with his fists pointed against his hips as shown by the position of his left arm; the right arm is raised in the so called saluto fascista which had replaced the traditional shaking of hands. What at the time must have looked very impressive, today appears a flattering description of Mussolini's ability to ride a horse without holding the reins.

The Exhibition never took place because of WWII and the few buildings which had been completed were occupied by families who had lost their homes because of war events. In 1951, when the post war emergency was gradually receding, the Italian government decided to complete the quarter by relocating public offices and by inviting companies to build their headquarters in the new quarter. The quarter was renamed Quartiere Europa retaining to some extent its original name and the streets and buildings were in some cases renamed too in order to cancel references to the past regime. The assignment to Rome of the 1960 Olympic Games gave a new impulse to the completion of the monumental parts of EUR including the stela to Marconi." - EUR: A XXth Century New Rome

We got down to Fermi and got misdirected and wandered around for over and hour. When we finally found the Museo della Civiltà Romana it was only about 1:45 p.m. but the guard told us the museum was already closed to anyone that didn't already have a ticket. This was our second disappointment. I guess I would have to wait for another future visit to photograph the reconstruction (scale 1:250) of the City of Rome in the IVth century.

So we caught the train back to Rome and decided we'd better head back to the hotel to give our karma a chance to recover.

However, Fortune was not yet done with us. Our other friend from England, my co-moderator of the Imperial Rome discussion group, was due to arrive at 5:30 p.m. and I had reserved a car that he had volunteered to drive for us to Pompeii, Florence, Ostia, and Tivoli.

Although I booked the car online, I had to go down to Termini to let Hertz verify my credit card and Richard had to supply his drivers license information. Pat and I started out at 5:10 and got to Termini about 10 minutes later. I had written down the address for the Hertz car rental agency but we soon discovered that assigning street numbers to buildings in Rome is as haphazard as their road signage. The numbers got larger then smaller then larger again and the block of numbers that included 34, our destination, appeared to be missing.

After several aborted attempts to get directions, we finally found a shoe merchant who kindly took the time to walk out of his shop and point the way. By then, we were almost an hour and a half late. Richard had had time to walk to the hotel with his luggage and return to Termini and was hovering rather worriedly by the counter when we finally arrived.