We dig Rome and we like sharing it, so in 2009 we created an AIRC account on Youtube: WeDigRome where we upload AIRC-produced filmettes about our programs (inluding our summer excavation and full-immersion Latin) and our documentary projects such as Fasti Online and upcoming Digging History.
Our latest videos are Unlisted 2013: Conversation for Conservation, our annual cultural heritage conference. If you were not able to attend the conference, take a look in our recently uploaded videos where we feature each Unlisted2013 speaker.
Truth be told, the Roman Empire didn’t fully collapse and disappear. We see traces of classical architecture in our every day life, whether when walking around a sporting arena (hello, Los Angeles Coliseum!) or walking through a residential building entrance with a subtle egg-and-dart decoration. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, there is always a little reminder of Rome that keeps the city, well, eternal.
With that in mind, we are asking you to show us Rome in your town with a call for photos. New York, Paris, Frankfurt, Seattle, London, Las Vegas, Bala Cynwyd, EUR…. we all know you have a little Rome in you, so show us what you’ve got. Friezes, gardens, markets, facades, rosettes, temples, train stations, and more. Does your Rome outside of Rome fit in with its surroundings or feel just a bit out of place? Is it reminiscent of the Pantheon, the Ara Pacis, the Roman Forum? And please let us know how you feel about it.
Rome away from Rome:Submit photos to info[at]romanculture.org with a description of what it is and where it is located. You can also submit directly to Facebookand Twitter. Make sure to include hashtag #romeawayfromrome, and any other info you’d like to share about the photo, as well as your blog, website, Twitter and other accounts. Upon receiving your photo(s), we will feature them on our blog, Facebook and Twitter. There is no deadline- just an ongoing photo project!
Photo of the New York Public Library by GreatBuildings
One of the most important aspects to education is dialogue, and we love to promote an on-going conversation with past, present and future students. Summer 2012 student Lidia Zanetti Domingues spent last summer with Nancy Llewellyn in the AIRC’s Living Latin, Living History program, and writes about What Every Student of Latin Needs to Know.
At first sight, Latin always seems a tough nut. Whether you are a 14-year-old Italian during the you first day at the High school, or an American teenager who has decided to study Classics at the College, or anybody else eager to read Cicero or saint Augustine in the original language, the first impact with Latin can be really traumatic.
At the very beginning, I felt the same sense of discouragement that probably many of you are feeling or have felt too. But I decided that Latin language and literature were so amazing that it was worth the trouble. I have experienced many different types of teaching in different contexts and I wish to share my experiences with you. Here are some tips that I found very useful during my learning path.
- Latin has a meaning: many beginners seem to think that, since Latin authors wrote their works so many years ago, their language cannot but be cryptic and unintelligible. Therefore, when they look up a word in the dictionary, they tend to pick the weirdest meaning they find. Remember that, if classical authors are still read nowadays, it’s because they still can communicate us something! If your translation has not much meaning, it is probably wrong. Yes, decus suum can also mean “the honor of pigs”, but why should Tacitus write about pigs’ honor?
- Beware the false friends: the average student who is an Italian, French or Spanish native speaker is simply too lazy to look up some words in the dictionary. The Latin says focus? Well, it must mean fire (fuoco, feu, fuego), of course! Pity that it actually means “hearth”. Romance languages can be helpful allies to learn Latin also for those who are not native, but if you are not 100% sure about a meaning, it is better to check.
- Accent issues: in one of your first classes, you might have learned the laws of Latin accent and especially the “law of the penultimate accent”. They are very simple, but unfortunately one always discovers very soon that they are not so simple when it comes to implement them: sometimes it looks almost impossible to discern whether the penultimate syllable is long or not. My advice is to always read Latin texts aloud and check the words you are unsure of in dictionaries or grammars. You should also bear in mind the retraction of the accent in compound verbs (e.g. dàre-circùmdare): it is very tricky!
- Verbs quizzes: this is a method I often used during the first years of High school to learn Latin verbal system. With a friend, tear a sheet into pieces and write on them Latin verbs (the more insidious they are, the more useful the game will be), fold them and put them into a bowl. Draw a piece of paper in turn and try to analyze the verb: the other person must check that the answer is correct.
- Try a spoken Latin course: apart from making you get rid of accent problems (if you use Latin words in real conversations, you will know for sure where to put the accent!), knowing how to speak aliquantum Latine also liberates you from the dependence on dictionaries. Also spoken Latin has its complexity and one of the biggest issues is to enhance one’s lexicon. Try to memorize words making connections between them, associating them by topic or by contrast (a word and its antonym, for instance). I also noticed that some of my American classmates struggled a bit trying to pronounce some words (contignatio was especially their nightmare), but they find very useful to divide such words in shorter sections, practicing their pronounce separately and then joining the parts.
Good luck with your Latin studies, and believe me: one day, when you will be reading an epistle of Seneca or an ode of Horace, you will agree with me that all your efforts were worth those enchanting masterpieces!
~Lidia Zanetti Domingues, LATIN2012
Interesting in augmenting your Latin studies with an on-site, practically total immersion in Latin? Please take a look at our Living Latin, Living History program. There are a few spots left for applicants for this summer 2013′s program in Rome- check out our video for the full experience.
If you mention Ostia Antica to most anyone, Italian or foreigner, you get only a blank stare and/or a shake of the head. Most modern Romans have never visited it, at least not in their adult lives; in fact, the majority of the roughly 300,000 people who visit the site every year are Italian schoolchildren and foreign tourists. This is a tiny fraction of the nearly five million people who visit the Colosseum every year. Yet there was a time—about 2000 years ago, admittedly—when, if you mentioned the word “Ostia” to anyone who travelled, whether Roman or foreigner, you would get an animated response fueled by mental images of Rome, the greatest metropolis of the ancient world, for which this unpretentious port city was the lifeline to the world. Millions of people from all walks of life embarked and disembarked at Ostia in the approximately 1000 years of its life, from slaves to emperors (Augustus, Claudius, Nero), from merchants to early Christian luminaries (St. Augustine). These people navigated the same streets, drank from the same fountains, and washed in the same bath complexes that we can see today, just 25 minutes by train from downtown Rome.
I first “landed” at Ostia Antica as a graduate student in the summer of 1998. My initial impression of the site then still corresponds perfectly to its appearance today: a beautiful, sleepy, largely empty park packed with an incredible array of structures that beg to be explored. It’s like having a theme park practically to yourself, except this theme park happens to be the closest experience to the look and feel of ancient Rome available anywhere in the world.
Several things struck me then, as now. Ostia is as big as Pompeii, but it offers a much better visitor experience by virtue of being entirely accessible (whereas most of Pompeii is barricaded to keep visitors away), well-shaded by big pine trees, and much less crowded. The one major disadvantage that I recall was having to leave at lunchtime to forage for food in the Medieval borgo next door, an episode that nevertheless had a silver lining in introducing me to a quaint 1000-year-old town.
The food problem at Ostia Antica was soon remedied by the construction of a pleasant glass-walled cafeteria next to the site museum, which allows the visitor to spend the entire day among the ruins. The visitor experience at Ostia Antica continues to improve gradually with every passing year. Recently a cement staircase and ramp were installed on the decumanus maximus (main east-west road) at the corner of Via dei Molini to smooth the abrupt (and dangerous) drop from the Late Antique to the Republican street level, the mosaics in the Piazzale delle Corporazioni were cleaned, and Wi-Fi was installed in the cafeteria.
But if it’s true that first impressions are the most important ones, then much more needs to be done to allow Ostia Antica to make the sensational first impression every visitor deserves. There are many dirty mosaics and frescoes that need to be cleaned and conserved, collapsing walls that need to be patched up, and trees and plants that need to be cut back more frequently. Many of the informational signs are so old as to be faded or peeling, and there are not enough signs to make up for the lack of a good guidebook in English.
We at the American Institute for Roman Culture are big fans of Ostia Antica, and we’re working hard to improve the visitor experience there through a variety of projects. In 2010 and 2011 we created a series of educational videos about the site that were recently cited by The New York Times as an authoritative source. In 2011 we brought much-needed attention to the site by making it a central theme of our first annual Unlisted conference on sustainable cultural heritage. In 2011 and 2012 we tested an innovative approach to documenting and conserving the standing remains. And in recent years our Summer Archaeological Field School has been based at Ostia Antica.
In 2013 the AIRC field school will be held in the Parco dei Ravennati, a practically unexplored public park located between Ostia Antica and the borgo. This three-year excavation will help finally unite the two areas, blending the romantic beauty of Ostia Antica, the imposing majesty of the castle of pope Julius II, and the relaxing small-town charm of the borgo into an unforgettable first impression. It’s also an opportunity to engage the local community and invite them to invest their tangible and intangible resources in the transformation of Ostia Antica into a world-class archaeological experience on a par with Pompeii and central Rome through preservation, education, and promotion, so that everyone will gain something.
We want your first impression of Ostia Antica to be a great one: please consider joining the excavation project, if a student, or just stopping by to say “hi” as you make your way from the train station to the archaeological site.
– by Albert Prieto, AIRC Associate Director of Archaeology, albert[at]romanculture.org
[Reconstructed imperial era tomb at the Museo Nazionale (Baths of Diocletian). Photo by Prof. Morel]
Every year, we eagerly await the announcement for Settimana della Cultura, Culture Week, a ten-day span which we’ve relished over the past several years as an opportunity not just to visit museums for free, but visit as many museums as possible. This year, news was sent out early and unfortunately it was not good. In an effort to cut costs and save money the Italian Ministry of Culture, MiBAC, has cancelled culture week.
Canceled? How could they do that? It’s easy. MiBAC’s Anna Maria Buzzi commented that “we [MiBAC] can no longer permit ourselves to renounce entry collections during those 7 days in spring, one of the periods of the year when more visitors come [to Italy]. We will, however, maintain open museums with free entry the last Sunday of each month to Italian families in true financial difficulty.”
For those looking to save money while visiting museums and cultural sites, please make sure to look into state and province-sponsored cards such as Roma Pass, a 3-day ticket which includes free entrance into two participating museums or archaeological sites, discounted entrance to subsequent sites and free public transport during the 72 hour time period. Cost: 30 euro. And our favorite Archeologia Card, a 7-day ticket which includes free [single] entrance to Colosseo, Palatino/For Romano, National Museums: Palazzo Altemps, Palazzo Massimo, Crypta Balbi, Terme di Diocleziano, Baths of Caracalla, Cecilia Metella and Villa dei Quintilli. Cost: 27.50 euro. Or the shorter term 4 Musei, a three-day ticket for single entry to Palazzo Altemps, Palazzo Massimo, Crypta Balbi and Terme di Diocleziano. Cost: 6.50 euro.
AIRC is pleased to announce the development of its partnership with California State University, Fresno (Fresno State), as official school of record for all academic program offerings. University academic credit for AIRC programs will now be offered by Fresno State. That includes our upcoming 15-week semester program:
- Fall 2013 Signature Semester Program September 2-December 12, 2013
as well as this summer’s program offerings:
- Living Latin, Living History A unique program in colloquial, spoken Latin language with Professor Nancy Llewellyn
- Layers of Rome, Track 1 History and Art History A comprehensive overview of the ancient Roman world
- Layers of Rome, Track 2 Media Studies A solid basis in ancient Roman studies for producing a real-world media project
- Archaeological Field School An intense hands-on excavation program, now in its 11th year
The partnership, which is administered through Fresno State’s Division of Continuing and Global Education in partnership with the College of Arts and Humanities, support’s the University’s internationalization vision as articulated in its Strategic Plan for Excellence. Russel Statham, Manager for Administration and Global Operations, said, “We are excited about this new partnership and are pleased to be able to expand Fresno State’s role in promoting global education. Our alignment with AIRC will offer hundreds of students the opportunity to receive academic credit for world-class educational programs in Rome, and we are pleased to be a leader supporting international education opportunities.”
AIRC is proud to have Fresno State as its official partner in offering university academic credit for AIRC’s high-quality, one-of-a-kind academic programs in Rome, and is looking forward to the opportunity to now enroll a much wider range of students who require college credit for their academic experience abroad.
For most people, the term “archaeologist” conjures up the image of a stubbly man wearing a button-down shirt with pockets, chinos, a leather jacket, a wide-brimmed hat, a saddle-bag, a bull-whip, and a holster with revolver.
I’ve been working as a field archaeologist in Italy for going on 20 years now, and my appearance has never corresponded to that image—except for the stubble, which I proudly wear most days, and not out of vanity, but because my facial hair grows very slowly. I confess to having a broad-brimmed hat, a gag gift from a friend, but it’s too heavy to wear in the Mediterranean heat. Forget about a leather jacket. The pistol and bull-whip, as instruments for maintaining discipline among the crew, have been replaced by the threat of a low grade and/or no letter of recommendation for grad school.
What does a typical contemporary field archaeologist working under the Mediterranean summer sun look like? My outfit, which is pretty typical, includes:
- A slightly tattered polo shirt, symbol of my tortured relationship with bourgeois social conventions, which I respect and despise simultaneously (an attitude I call “archaeo chic”)
- Cargo pants, which allow me to carry truly ridiculous amounts of stuff on my person
- Sandals, which keep my feet from smelling any worse than they really need to
- Reinforced work boots, which keep my toes from getting any more crushed than they really need to be
- A backpack, symbol of my lifelong dedication to scholarly pursuits (or my inability to grow up and get a real job, depending on one’s point of view)
Curious about the cargos?
- Loose change for buying coffee during the day (I don’t make brilliant discoveries without caffeine)
- Chewing gum with xylitol (I don’t make brilliant discoveries when distracted by food particles in my mouth or bad breath)
- A packet of heavy-duty tissues (I don’t make brilliant discoveries with a stuffed up nose)
- Polarized Ray-Ban sunglasses (I don’t make brilliant discoveries in blinding sunlight)
- The key to the lock on the equipment shed (no one makes brilliant discoveries—or any discoveries, period—without access to tools)
- Two cell phones: an iPhone 3GS that keeps me connected to the world (and my sanity), and a bare-bones model that keeps me connected to colleagues and students (and rings continuously…)
- A mini Swiss Army Knife, for defense against irate colleagues and students
Double-strapping the backpack:
- Clipboard with pen
- Water bottle
- Baseball cap
- Cut-proof work gloves
- Reserve pen
- Bottle of non-aspirin painkillers
- Asthma inhaler
- Hand-sanitizing lotion
- Reserve packet of heavy-duty tissues
- Digital camera for capturing what used to be known as “Kodak moments”
- Pocket flashlight for exploring the many underground spaces of Ostia Antica
Possible addition to next year’s gear list: a hip-flask. I suspect that I might make more brilliant discoveries with one. At the least, I won’t notice the phone ringing so much…
We are pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications for our 2013 field school, an intensive six-week educational program in Roman archaeology led by AIRC faculty and affiliated expert archaeologists. Following two successful digs in Ostia Antica, we continue in our investigations in the harbor city of ancient Rome. And just as in past years, our field school offers both a synchronic (single-period) and a diachronic (multi-period) approach to the study of Roman culture to provide a comprehensive historical and cultural appreciation of Rome and Roman civilization, from its rise to power to its decline, understanding how it set a standard of cultural values that continues to exert influence over the entire Western world to this day.
From June 10 through July 21, students will live in Rome’s historic center as they experience the unique combination of (1) one week of specialized academic instruction on the topography and development of Rome, including visits to major museums and open-air sites to augment field studies and provide participants with a broader context of what life was like in the ancient city, and (2) five weeks of hands-on fieldwork at Ostia Antica. Students can expect hands-on experience and learning in techniques and methodologies of modern archaeological research, archaeological recording and record-keeping, identifying variety of Roman artifacts and building techniques/materials and practice “reading” art, architecture, and other traces of this civilization’s material culture to reconstruct the wider cultural framework, principles of conservation and in depth familiarity with the city of Rome, its port at Ostia and their rich archaeological record.
For more information about our field school, please visit the 2013 Field School information page, review the application/general information, and read Popular Archaeology’s article about our excavation program. We remain available to you via email info[at]romanculture.org and are happy to speak with
From June 10 through July 21, 2013, students will live in Rome’s historic center as they experience the unique combination of (1) one week of specialized academic instruction on the topography and development of Rome, including visits to major museums and open-air sites to augment field studies and provide participants with a broader context of what life was like in the ancient city, and (2) five weeks of hands-on fieldwork at an important archaeological site in the city and environs (including laser scanning and total station workshops). Students can expect hands-on experience and learning in techniques and methodologies of modern archaeological research, archaeological record-keeping, identifying variety of Roman artifacts and building techniques/materials and practice “reading” art, architecture, and other traces of this civilization’s material culture to reconstruct the wider cultural framework, principles of conservation and in depth familiarity with the city of Rome, its port at Ostia and their rich archaeological record.
For more information about our field school, please visit the 2013 Field School information page, review the application/general information, and read Popular Archaeology‘s article about our excavation program. We remain available to you via email info[at]romanculture.org and are happy to speak with you to set up a phone conversation to discuss your academic and logistical needs.
Happy New Year! 2013 has already started to ring in fierce! With forty-eight hours left in our Kickstarter campaign “Digging History”, we are proud to share the news that we have 63 backers and have surpassed our target goal. In fact, we are more than pleased (does “jumping up and down” give you a good idea?) with the amount of support we have had over the past four weeks- donations from every level and inspiring group of people spreading the word about our Kickstarter campaign on the streets and through the airwaves. Reaching our goal of $10,000 in three weeks, and then surpassing it (we have now raised over $12,000), is a wonderful feeling! Our feeling is that making history happens by the community, and as we move forward to outlining and organizing the production of Digging History, we look forward to acknowledging you- our supporters and donors.
What comes next? Well, before we can really roll up our sleeves, we have a couple of days left to continue to raise funds. We are pushing hard and reaching out (and asking readers those of you who have already donated) to do the same. More funding will allow us to produce more (and that’s the true goal), to create a fun, accessible hub online that will truly serve to excite and teach K-12, colllege, professional, and the public at large about Rome. Along with donating, another way to support our projects is also by spreading the word about what we do– in particular, our ipetition: Save the Gladiator Tomb– the quick update is that we have over 3000 signatures as we steadfastly approach our goal of 5000. Please keep get your friends, friends of friends and acquaintances to sign. Thank you to the following for their great mentions of these two projects: Katie Parla of Parla Food, Unamericanaaroma.com, Italiannotebook.com, CNN and Ben Wedeman, Fathom Away and Russell Crowe.
~Darius Arya, Executive Director
Reblogged from Executive Director Darius Arya’s blog DariusAryaDigs:
Please join me in voicing your concern for saving the Gladiator’s Tomb, a unique cultural heritage site that runs the risk of being reburied permanently for lack of funding. Together with the AIRC, I am hoping to get 5,000 signatures on the iPetition to save the Gladiator’s Tomb.
In 2008, on the Via Flaminia in the northern part of contemporary Rome, archaeologist found an impressive marble mausoleum, among other noteworthy tombs, along a well-preserved section of ancient road. The press was quick to call this particular tomb “Tomb of the Gladiator” since the tomb itself was comissioned by and for Marcus Nonius Macrinus, an prominent general under the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Macrinus’ life was paralleled in the Oscar-winning film Gladiator (2000, Ridley Scott) with the general-then-gladiator character Maximus magnificently played by Russell Crowe. Upon its discovery and nickname, the world responded enthusiastically because of its relationship with the larger-than-life Maximus, who represented so much of Rome and created such enthusiasm for ancient Roman culture, as well as the overwhelmingly important historic, architectural, and epigraphical qualities of the site itself.
Over the past decade and a half of living and working in Rome, I have been fortunate to visit the site on numerous occasions, and I am constantly struck by the enormity of the site-13,000 square meters in area, almost three American football fields. It is beautiful– both historically and physically. I think anyone that comes to the site cannot help but have an immediate connection to the past. I am also in awe of the amount of mud that buried site thus preserving it (45 feet in height)- it gives you an idea of both what the archaeologists had to overcome but also how much lucky they were to even find it.
The superintendency’s recent (and almost abrupt) decision to rebury the site for preservation is laudable in that they want to preserve the site. However, the historical importance of the site merits further attention and excavation, not simply covering up. We have too much to lose here. If we have to pick and choose, this is one worth fighting for. Please join me in signing and sharing this iPetition now.
Any time an ancient site opens, or better yet, reopens, it is a cause for celebration. Once again, we are permitted to literally step into history and equally watch as history makes itself thanks to continued cultural heritage endeavors and financial support. This is especially the case with the recent opening of the Mithraeum of the Baths of Caracalla. Originally discovered in 1912, this mithraeum is considered the largest documented gathering space for the worshippers of Mithras. (Mithras was a Persian god in vogue with the military and mostly lower class men, in the second and third centuries AD.) The mithraeum, approximately 23 meters long and 10 meters wide with a soaring cross-vaulted ceiling, can be only roughly dated by the two main events associated with the bath complex: the mithraeum was certainly created after the complex was completed in AD 217, and it was probably no longer in use when the aqueduct supplying the complex was cut during the Greco-Gothic Wars in 537. In reality, it probably went out of use long before 537, since most scholars hold that Christianity had supplanted Mithraism as a “religion for the masses” by the early 4th century.
Today, a visit to the mithraeum can be considered a brief one, as what is available to us are primarily two chambers: a small square ante-chamber and the main rectangular meeting hall. Apart from a recently-restored fresco of the god (missing the face, unfortunately – presumably hacked away by Christians), there is very little left of the decoration, which was probably very lavish. The well-preserved podium structures on either long side, on which the worshippers reclined during ritual meals, give an excellent idea of the context and purpose of the shrine. Certainly the most intriguing feature is the small tunnel that runs under the center of the main hall into an adjoining room, where there is an entrance/exit with staircase; this has been identified with some controversy as the fossa sanguinis, the ritual pit over which the bull at the center of the Mithraic mythology was slaughtered, bathing one or more initiates in its blood.
Its location, off a dirt road adjacent to the main entrance, is part of a subterranean area of the Baths of Caracalla. The mithraeum space is just one part of the massive, sprawling system of underground corridors that honeycombs the large artificial platform supporting the Baths of Caracalla. Beneath the thermae complex lies a warren of tunnels with furnaces, stoked by slaves, and storage areas for supplies, including wood. Though access to these tunnels is today only partial, there are confirmed plans to extend the conservation and restoration work to make more of these areas accessible, including a substantial area dedicated to grinding grain using the water that passed through the baths.
It is important to note that Rome and its port city Ostia Antica have the largest number of preserved mithraea of any city in the Roman empire—scholars estimate that Rome once had 700 Mithraic shrines, while Ostia boasts 17 confirmed shrines—but only a small percentage of these are accessible to the public. More money and more investment will only benefit conservation and access for tourists who are increasingly willing to explore the more remote corners of the ancient city.
Visiting the Mithraeum is also an excellent excuse to head into the Baths of Caracalla to walk among the monumental structure and also enjoy a contemporary art installation by Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto. Three interlocking circles made up of fragrments of ancient marble and stone, Terzo Paradiso is the new symbol of infinity created by Pistoletto originally for the 2005 Venice Biennale, and an ongoing, collaborative project in varying venues and media. The new infinity symbol is all to action for the active and conscious need to create a “third paradise” to combat and transplant the artificial world we are celebrating today. Too deep? Too artsy? In any case, the site specific installation (through January 6, 2013) is a beautiful juxtaposition of contemporary and ancient, especially with the backdrop of the majestic pines and Baths of Caracalla.
How to visit: advance reservation for a guided tour to Mithraeum at the Baths of Caracalla will cost 16.50 euro and does not include entrance to the Baths. Here’s a tip- try the unguided visits at 10:00, 10:30, and 1:00, which are practically empty on weekdays. How? Buy the regular ticket (6.00 euros) at the ticket booth and pay a 1.50 euro supplement to visit the Mithraeum at one of those three times.
Over the past year, we’ve fallen in love with Instagram- and not just because it enables all our I-spy fantasies, but because Instagram photos help to spread the word about cultural heritage. Whether professional photographers or accidental tourists, IGers (as we’ve been told they are called) are capturing culture in an instant. Deliberate or not, ancient or contemporary, culture and history are being documented with the press of a thumb and a tap on “share”. Next to “share”, the “explore” button is our favorite vehicle for traveling the world in search of whatever we want–and we’re not just looking for archaeology!
Protecting, saving and sharing cultural heritage is part of our mission which we strive for in a variety of media- from classrooms and dig sites to our smart phones. Please join in by tagging your photos #culturalheritage. And if you find something great about Rome, any where in its ancient empire or its contemporary culture, tag it #digrome as well.
From professional to happenstance, here’s who we are spying: Darius Arya (Roman Forum, Rome), Allison Roberts (Matrigny house in New Orleans, USA), Benten Tangen (Petra, Jordan), Jerome Foster (El Djem, Tunisa), Stefdw (lego Ankor Wat), Guilherme Abuchahla (Machu Pichu, Peru), Javiera O’Ryan (Easter Island), Fatihkon (St. Petersburg, Russia), Zanjeer (Balbek, Lebanon), Taylor Murray (Route 66 sign), Agnes Crawford (Last Supper, Taddeo Gaddi)
“What a city is for its own limits and territory, today Rome is for the inhabited Earth, as though it had proclaimed the common homeland of the whole world.” –from Eulogy of Rome by the Greek orator Aelius Aristides
Take a moment to imagine what it must have been like to live in a context in which one city dominated the world, as Aristides says, “under the rule of a single man . . . and everyone united as if in a common forum, with each man receiving that which suits him.” The sheer scope of such an existence is mind-boggling. Nothing comes close to it in modern-day terms. The Roman Empire stands alone in its depth and breadth.
And so begins “Caput Mundi: a city between domination and integration,” exhibition at Rome’s Colosseum. Caput Mundi elucidates the balancing act that the Empire faced by both conquering and eventually integrating those it came to dominate. A precarious endeavor where the aggressive actions of the Empire perhaps produced civilization’s first and quintessential “melting pot.” The Roman Empire mixed and matched various peoples (Latins, Samnites, Etruscans, Ligurians, Greeks) while also offering up a unique Roman culture, one that the Romans viewed as both encompassing, yet superior, to all others.
The exhibition boasts an impressive and carefully chosen selection of works from various museums both in Italy and abroad. The artifacts on display, like the bronze sentatoconsultum on the Bacchanalia, (an inscription of a law passed by the Roman senate that outlawed the Bacchanalia), serve to highlight the stark contrasts among opposing influences during the time of the Roman Empire: the intensity of its wars and conquests, the difficulties inherent in its diversity and wide-ranging geographic/cultural scope, and the complexity of its political and social make-up.
Though my academic background may not be strictly classics, I appreciated this exhibit for how it plainly revealed, both in words and artifacts, the complexities inherent both in governing and managing day-to-day affairs in such a unique political and social environment. As I read through the historical descriptions and admired the works of art dating back thousands of years, I continually found myself making ties and connections with modern-day Rome.
So much of ancient Rome continues on in today’s chaotic city. The tenacious, aggressive personality is equally complemented by the creative and light-hearted spirit of the Romans and their approach to daily life in Rome. The arrogance and superiority shown by a culture with such history – clearly revealed in this exhibition- were felt even at the time it was being made. While Rome continues to embrace people from all parts of the globe, it is still facing the internal conflict of acceptance versus dominance.
Caput Mundi runs through March 10, 2013- perfect timing.
~Shelley Ruelle, is AIRC Director of Programming. When we want to know what’s going on in Rome, we ask her. shelley.ruelle[at]romanculture.org
Photo above by Shelley Ruelle: Maximinus Thrax, the “Thracian” AD 235-238, 27th emperor of the Roman Empire and the first to have never actually set foot in Rome
Man-eating dolphins, crazy cow heads, scary skeletors, fake saints and a drainage mask- it seems like Rome has always been ready for Halloween. . . .
Over the past year, we’ve had our ear to the ground and one eye on the open, academic road as we are very interested in navigating the trails of online educational sites. They are hot topics with even hotter names like Coursera, Udacity, Stanford and MIT. Add Smarthistory/KhanAcademy to the list and you’ll find us literally digging through time with Smarthistory.org’s executive editors Steven Zucker and Beth Harris.
Smarthistory is a “not-for-profit, multi-media web-book designed as a dynamic enhancement for the traditional art history textbook”. Are we looking to replace print? No, just increase the volume of discussion. Or as John Berger once said, “the ways of seeing.” Enjoy our first collaboration: Digging through Time, and keep an eye out for more!
One of our favorite sites to visit in the Roman Forum is the church of Santa Maria Antiqua, which up until this week had been closed to public viewing. Santa Maria Antiqua is the oldest church in the Roman Forum and a key monument in the transformation of the Forum from pagan to Christian space: constructed in the 6th century inside a 1st-century structure with courtyard attached to the Imperial palace on the Palatine hill above. Santa Maria Antiqua was abruptly abandoned in the 9th century after a devastating earthquake and resulting landslide. The church was rediscovered at the turn of the 20th century, partly restored, and made accessible to visitors until 1980, when it was permanently closed due to damage caused by rising damp. Since 2006, Santa Maria Antiqua has been a World Monuments Fund project, led by mural conservators Werner Schmid and Giuseppe Morganti, who have been working with the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome to restore the frescoes and permanently resolve the damp problem.
Thanks to centuries of sealing off, Santa Maria Antiqua can be considered a veritable Pompeii-like site- somewhat untouched postcards of an era that was written over. Its walls showcase a cycle of beautiful frescoes depicting the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, popes, saints, and martyrs, thus forming one of the largest and most important collections of pre-Iconoclastic Roman and Byzantine art in the world. These frescoes date to a period of iconoclasm when in East figures in churches were destroyed. The AIRC has a special connection with Santa Maria Antiqua. In years past, we have excavated in front of the site and we have also done our best to help WMF, Schmid, Morganti and team. Over these past six years, we’ve had given special entry and behind-the-scenes access to Santa Maria Antiqua thanks to professors Morganti and Schmid, who’ve also taken the time to speak with our students.
From now through November 4, Santa Maria Antiqua is available for public visits. A maximum of 25 persons can visit the site for approximately 45 minutes. Reserve via coopculture.it , 06 39967700. Cost: €12+ €9 (Foro romano entrance ticket + guided visit)
Calling All AIRC alums: When in Rome… Come Say “Hi”!
Over the past 10 years of its existence the American Institute for Roman Culture has provided instruction to over 1000 students from more than 80 universities and colleges spread throughout the world. We enjoy staying in touch with our alumni, following and promoting their budding careers, and catching up with them over gelato or espresso here in Rome.
Just in the past six months we’ve had the pleasure of catching up with Bill Johnson, alumnus of our 2010 spring semester program, about to embark on a career in the U.S. Army; Alison Kidd, alumna of our 2007 Summer Archaeological Field School at the Villa delle Vignacce in Rome, currently working in the Study Abroad office of Clemson University and bound for New York University’s graduate program in Classics in the fall; Andrea Samz-Pustol, Kristin Macauley, and Kenny Carosi, alumni of our 2009 SAFS program at Vignacce (Andrea is heading to the University of Kansas in the fall to pursue a Masters in Classics, while Kristin and Kenny spent quality time improving their Italian); Alexandra Zigrang, alumna of our 2010 SAFS program at Ostia Antica; Sam Treviño and Grant Dixon, alumni of our 2011 SAFS program co-sponsored with the Universities of Michigan and Calabria at the important site of Sant’Omobono in Rome (Grant returned for a second excavation season, and Sam was passing through town on vacation).
So, alumni of any and all AIRC programs, the next time you pass through the Eternal City, give us a shout. We’ll roll out the red carpet. Or at least a good gelato.
This is the last week of the Summer Field School at Ostia Antica Tor Boacciana. We can’t believe how fast time has flown as we document the past. Here is a sampling of beautiful amazing photos taken on site by Selma Amzi, 2012 Field School Photography Intern. Please take a look at our Flickr collection while on site, as well Facebook.
Not necessarily the protagonist of most coffee table conversations, the International Association for Classical Archeology (Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica or AIAC) is the classical archaeologist’s best friend. A prestigious organization for promoting archaeological activities throughout Italy, AIAC is located right behind the tourist hub of Rome’s Piazza Venezia and the Vittoriano in the former papal residence of Palazzo Venezia. This unique historical setting speaks to the academic and institutional importance of AIAC as large scale research organization, benefiting members and scholars worldwide.
Founded in the aftermath the Second World War in 1946, AIAC was originally created with the aim to provide an international forum for archeologists and researchers to discuss classical archaeology across national, economic, or even political borders. AIAC’s roots, however, date back to 1823, when a small group of four northern European intellectuals would reunite periodically in Rome in order to explore the city’s architectural and artistic treasures as well as to read and discuss classical texts. This camaraderie resulted in the formation of the group entitled the “Circle of Hyperborean Romans” (Il “Circolo degli Iperborei Romani), in reference to the natives of Hyperborea, a mythical region supposedly located to the north of Thrace according to the ancient Greeks. In 1928, E. Gerhard, a member of this small knit community, launched the first archeological journal on Rome, under the newly inaugurated Institute of Archeological Correspondence.
Gerhard’s commitment to consolidate classical archaeological knowledge remains primordial to AIAC today. Starting in the 1950’s the association has hosted and organized a series of quinquennial conferences in large metropolises across the globe, such as Rome, Ankara and Izmir, Paris and Berlin. In 2008, AIAC marked its fifty years of conference organizing with its 10th meeting in Rome, entitled “Meetings between Cultures in the Ancient Mediterranean”.
In 2000, AIAC began publishing FASTI online, a website dedicated to consolidate news and updates on ongoing preservation and excavation projects worldwide. By the end of 2012, the organization hopes to provide each project with appropriate visuals, which American Institute for Roman Culture is proud to participate in doing. Since Spring 2011, we have been producing a series of short, documentary videos on excavation and conservation projects for FASTI/AIAC and with the generous help of the Italian Ministry of Culture (MiBAC). Our partnership has deepened this past summer as we are now sharing as office space in Palazzo Venezia and just down the hall from the AIAC center.
Please enjoy a look at our FASTI mini-documentaries.
by Michelle Al-Ferzly, Wellesley College Summer 2012 intern
They have arrived! Ostia Antica Summer 2012 Excavation group is ready to get dirty! This week, we will be visiting several sites and monuments in Rome so please take a look at our twitter feeds: @AIRomanculture and @SaveRome (as well as instagram), and hashtags: #digrome #ostiaantica12.
Half of our OstiaAntica 12 students taking a stroll in the Roman Forum.
Welcome to Rome in the summer. One word: hot. And imagine working in the dirt eight hours a day every day under a full sun. Since we’re always thinking about the well-being of our students, we’ve come up with five fool-proof tips to cooling down during the urban heat. If you think you (or anyone you know) will break from Rome’s rising mercury, here’s how we do it:
- This is Italian shaved ice– aka the real deal. Literally shaved by hand on the spot from a big block of ice, grattachecca is a Roman summer tradition where you get to pick the fruit syrups and fresh fruit to pour into the hand-shaven ice. Grattacheccha stands are street-side kiosks, and sometimes are near the summer sliced watermelon pop-ups. Our favorites include:
- Ostia Beach
- Since our excavation is at Ostia Antica, instead of saying “take a hike”, we tell our students to hit the beach. A half-hour local train from Rome (on the same line as heading to our dig site), is Ostia beach- a public beach with restaurants, activities and social life. For your €1.50 ATAC ticket, hop on Roma-Lido “trenino” (little train) found at the local station adjacent to the Piramide (Metro B) metro. Destination: Lido Centro.
- Use a big nose
- That’s right, those fountains you see on the streets that are constantly running are called “nasoni,” big noses, and they are a really great way to keep cool and hydrated as you explore the city. The water is cold, clean and delicious, coming from a deep underground spring. According to the Comune di Roma, the nasoni run constantly in order to keep the system clean and flushed out. Our tip to taking a sip? Put your finger over the main spigot to block it and water will arc out of the small hole on top. Or, you can use them to fill your water bottle without paying outrageous tourist prices for water bottles at the coffee bars! Newsflash: the Comune di Roma is offering re-useable water bottles sold for €2 at local tourist information points (PIT).
- Villa Borghese
- Rome’s second largest park with over 140 acres of greenery is the perfect respite from a hot day in the sun. You can walk up from the stairs off of Piazza del Popolo, take a paddleboat, peddle around on a group bike, rollerblade or run under the sprinklers.
- Saving the best for last, don’t forget to sample Roman gelato, which is definitely NOT ice cream. Gelato uses more whole milk and less cream, so it has a lower fat content, and it contains less air so it’s denser which provides a more intense flavor. Some of our favorite gelato shops are*:
Here’s what we have in store this summer…
Throughout our journey here in Rome, we’ve seen some of the most valuable pieces of art in the world, and because we had an amazing guide, we were able to not only view them, but to appreciate their stories and structures as well. It’s interesting that many question the financial background of the Catholic Church when, as our guide stated, the most invaluable piece owned by the Church could be sold for millions of dollars. This post will mainly focus on the artists that influenced some of Rome’s greatest pieces, all of which had a religious undertaking.
One area of Rome that our group thought was particularly amazing was the Piazza Navona, which features sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. We found Bernini’s work mind-blowing due to his ability to capture a narrative moment in marble. He had four major pieces in the Borghese Gallery; our favorite was Apollo e Dafne, which depicts the god Apollo chasing his love, the wood nymph Daphne, and her subsequent metamorphosis into a tree. Bernini flawlessly captures the love that Apollo feels for Daphne through his gentle touch around Daphne’s waist, while also perfectly portraying Daphne’s anguish through her expression—a distinctly Baroque style of showing emotion. As we stated, Bernini is known for capturing moments at their physical and emotional heights, and Daphne’s transformation is no exception, with leaves sprouting from her fingers, roots growing from her toes and roughly polished marble bark wrapping around her body.
When we made our way through the Borghese Gallery, one artist stuck out to us among the rest: Caravaggio. Learning about how different Caravaggio was compared to the other artists of his time sparked our interest. Caravaggio had a different feel, a darker, more realistic approach to his paintings that all of us had a great appreciation for.
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, better known as Raphael, is responsible for many works of art, most notably School of Athens, which now hangs in the Vatican Museums. School of Athens shows different philosophers expressing their philosophies, including Aristotle, Plato, Pythagoras, Socrates and even Raphael himself. We also found it interesting that Michelangelo is painted into the scene.
Speaking of Michelangelo, he created the Sistine Chapel! Nearly everyone knows about the Sistine Chapel, and, upon discovering that our itinerary included a visit to the Chapel, we were so excited to be able to say that we had seen it in the flesh. Like many galleries, no pictures were allowed in the Chapel (although we spotted many tourists taking pictures anyway). Michelangelo was simply a genius and it was great to see a work that is widely considered the epitome of his career.
Our time in Rome has been filled with tons of memories and life lessons. We’ve learned so much about the art history behind Rome, as well as other aspects of the city’s rich history. This has been a trip of a lifetime, and the galleries and artists mentioned above have helped to make our time educational and worthwhile.
-Lauren Sears, NEURome12
Interdisciplinary Affective Science Lab Northeastern University
Want to know what else these NEU students are doing? Take a peek on Twitter: #neurome12
“I can be moving or I can be still
But still is still moving to me”.
-Willie Nelson, The Tao of Willie
The upside of having to take the bus is that you have plenty of time, every day, to retreat to the sanctuary of your mind. Of course, it’s really great to have a car to drive because you have much more control over your schedule and movements around town. It’s fun to blast whatever music you want to hear—a different listening experience than when you’re using headphones. The downside to having that control, however, is the acceptance of responsibility that driving entails, whereas you could just climb on the bus and drift into the wonderful world of your imaginings. Leave the driving to Mr. or Ms. Driver, and enjoy your responsibility-free transportation experience! (As long as you have a validated ticket.)
Many people read on the bus but I can only read on trains or the metro without getting seasick. Whatever! You can read later. Use bus time as ZEN time. Countless societies value the practice of meditation, prayer, contemplation, the emptying of oneself, etc. Call it what you will, but it is GREAT to space out and it is GREAT to really give your life and relationships a good ponder. The bus is the perfect place for this, especially if you snagged a seat. Autobus zen is excellent because you are profoundly multitasking…you are physically getting where you need to go. You are doing your part to reduce Rome’s street congestion and carbon emissions. You are ALSO advancing yourself mentally by contemplating your life-path, daydreaming to give your brain a break, thinking positive thoughts about your friends and family, listening to music, inventing plausible business ventures, listing what you need from the grocery store, and admiring the beauty of what you’re seeing outside the window. As the wise and beloved Willie wrote in reference to making the most of bus-travelin’ time, don’t forget the options of contemplation and meditation as you are racking up the miles.
Bus-taking will indeed strengthen you as a person, if you so let it. As a pedestrian in Rome, you cannot depend on a system of efficiency and reliability. No, ATAC (Rome’s public trans) will bestow upon you a gift far greater: that of learning to accept and even embrace chaos. One you’re accustomed to transportation mishaps, you will find yourself taking a more serene approach to addressing unanticipated annoyances and problems. Slogging along on the bus in heavy traffic after waiting 30 minutes for it to arrive will help you recognize when it is worthwhile to fret, and when you just need to throw your hands up to the heavens and let it all go. Imagine that you’ve put all your anger and frustration into a red balloon, and release it into the sky. Spin in a circle and toss imaginary stardust over your right shoulder. It’s all good.
(Just don’t be late for class, or they’ll cane you.)
~Julia Elsey, three-peat field school participant, former AIRC intern and programs assistant, voice of Saverome blog in Spring and Summer 2011, and transport philosopher.