Most of the excavations in the Bay of Naples began in the 18th century resulting in somewhat fractured assemblages of material. A lot of it has been brought together in the Naples Archaeological Museum, which holds material from all over the region. Making the collection even more impressive is the Farnese collection of sculptures from Rome, predominantly the colossal statues from the Baths of Caracalla, which landed in Naples during turbulent political times in Italy. Here are some of the highlights of the day:
The giant Hercules from Rome holding the apples of the Hesperides behind his back
Prem tells the group about the “Gabinetto Segreto” in the Naples Museum and how very different our ideas of sexuality are from those of the Romans
Tons of the mosaic and fresco evidence from the Bay is hanging on the walls in Naples
The museum is full of iconic images from antiquity, including this marble copy of a Greek original of the “Tyrannicides” that has quite a history–originally sculpted and displayed in Athens in the 6th century BC, it was stolen by the Persians in the 5th century, returned to Athens by Alexander the Great in the 4th century, then copied by the Romans. Popular image!
I doubt I need to do much explaining about Pompeii, but rather will just show you the amazing pictures from our day. The eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 was surely a tragedy for the residents but it has given us the most amazing archaeological treasure. It was a highlight for most of the students, so hopefully I captured some of that here.
Above is a lararium, household shrine that focused on the deities of the house and family
Giant dolia were used for storage of food products, oil and wine
We’ve left Rome folks and we’re heading south! Naturally, no Italy trip with a bunch of classicists is complete without seeing the Bay of Naples and the remains covered by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. But first there are several cool things along the way from Rome to the Bay, especially along the stunning coastline that the Romans took advantage of for centuries.
Terracina is a sanctuary built in the 1st century BC on top of a cliff side overlooking the sea. The sanctuary has been traditionally associated with Jupiter Anxur but recent discoveries have suggested other deities were represented here.
The remains of the complex and the temples are extensive and mostly show the intensive use of arches and vaults in Roman construction in order to create more and more complex terraces and spaces.
This situation offers some fantastic photo opportunities, as you can see above!
Next stop: Tiberius’ villa and grotto at Sperlonga. The emperor Tiberius (AD 14-37) didn’t much like hanging out in Rome so he built villa-retreats all over Italy for his pleasure. Sperlonga has a grotto incorporated into the villa, which he used as a triclinium (dining area) with lamprey eel ponds around the edges.
Inside the grotto he had placed enormous sculptural groups depicting scenes from the Odyssey sculpted by famous Rhodian sculptors. Above is the scene in which Odysseus blinds the Cyclops Polyphemus.
Last stop: the Republican period colony at Minturnae (founded in 296 BC). This is the famous Via Appia running directly through the town and still beautifully preserved.
Classic photobomb at the portico of Minturnae!
Welcome to our new home for the week! We’re near the ancient site of Cumae and the guest house is practically inside the Cumae amphitheatre. See those terraces in front? That’s the seating for the amphitheatre!
Stick with us–Pompeii is up next!
Nero’s Domus Aurea (“Golden House”) is elusive, but our Western crew found it open and operational! Because the site is underground it has serious problems with humidity and water control, so it tends to close to the public for long periods of time and at the best of times it opens only on weekends. We were the lucky ones this time and had an hour long tour through the maze of tunnels and rooms.
Safety first! Since it’s all underground we had to don hard hats just in case
The wall paintings of the Domus Aurea inspired an entirely new style during the Renaissance when painters such as Raphael and Michelangelo inspected what they thought were grottos on the Esquiline Hill. It was actually the paintings in the upper parts of the palace rooms, filled in with tons of soil during the construction of Trajan’s bath complex.
It really is an inspiring place!
Every corner of the palace is decorated, including the servants hallways!
Peering through the darkness of the subterranean rooms, not made easier by the electricity momentarily going out! The tour was just about over anyway!
Ostia—the port of Ancient Rome and a site abandoned and never built over, left for us to explore from tip to toe! With its streets, buildings, stairs, and art work still in place in a big chunk of the city we got our first glimpse of what a complete Roman town may have looked like. The highlights are many, but I’ll try to pick the very best here!
The best thing about Ostia is that often you have the place practically to yourself. We managed to get a group shot almost alone in the theatre!
One of the coolest things about Ostia is its diversity because so many people from all over the empire came through its gates. We trekked to the far edge of the excavated site to hear Maddie present on the stellar remains of the ancient synagogue.
Just walking down the Roman road–Kristina and Massimo out for a stroll
Rachel hamming it up in the Baths of the Seven Sages
Another cool thing about Ostia is that in many places you can get to the second floors of the buildings and get a great vista (below) or a great Western flag shot! (above)
The extraordinary facades of the buildings make for great photos. This is one of the huge warehouses, called the Horrea Epagathiana, with Cassie, Maria G., Sarah, and Gill in the doorway
This one’s for you Mrs. Ramani!
Join us next for the stunning site of the Domus Aurea (the “Golden House”) of the emperor Nero. It’s all underground so we’ll do our best with photos! Until then…
So, the Vatican is really really really busy, but we got our game faces on, planned our strategy and went for it! We spent the whole day there and many of the students braved the crowds to lay eyes on St. Peter’s Basilica afterwards. It really is worth it in the end giving us the opportunity to see some of the most stunning pieces of ancient art anywhere.
The morning walking crew got into St. Peter’s Square bright and early before any of the crowds. Look at that blue sky!
We took care of both of the presentations standing in front of the reproductions of the Laocoön Group and the Augustus Prima Porta statue. It gave us an opportunity to discuss the bright colours originally on ancient statues that we always think were white.
We got to see this statue of a Dacian up close. We’d seen these before but they were something like 10 metres high on The Arch of Constantine!
Kristina contemplates a bust of Hadrian in the Braccio Nuovo gallery. And just look at the rest of the gallery with its stunning architecture… What a great day!
Ok, probably something, but for our group of roving Romanists, not much else today! We went on a trek through the Campus Martius to see those iconic imperial monuments of Augustus, Hadrian and the Antonines. The neighbourhood also happens to have the most famous gelato at Giolitti. A perfect way to end a hot day!
The Western crew gather in front of the Pantheon to represent the university, flag and all
There’s only one place to look in the Pantheon and that’s up! The coffered ceiling with the oculus allowing sun and rain to pour in is quite a site. It caps myriad colours of marble slabs and gilded details on the walls of the drum that make it difficult to know what to focus on!
No day in the Campus Martius is complete without a visit to this spot. The students pose under the recreated text of Augustus’ Res Gestae, originally displayed on his giant tumulus nearby. The Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace) was meant to convey the ideals of peace and prosperity throughout the empire after civil war. The images below attest to its beauty…and its ability to still be used as propaganda in the 20th century!