Monday, July 30, 2012

Naples, Boscoreale, and Pozzuoli's Amphitheater

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Students often ask how plaster casts of Vesuvius' victims were made

 Today we went to the National Archaeological Museum at Naples, to Boscoreale to see an example of a villa rustica, and to Pozzuoli to see its amphitheater. The amphitheater is the 3rd largest in Italy and the 10th largest in the Roman world. I got some new insights into some of the artwork and some inscriptions to share with my students back home. At the museum at Boscoreale, I got some great pictures of a boar's tusks and a good picture of a wild boar. These will help students understand part of the storyline of our Latin I text. For more pictures from this day, visit this set on Flickr.

"Eros with a Dolphin" at the Naples Museum


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pompeii Revisited

Saturday, August 7, 2010


The goddess Venus with attendants. Her presence would have been felt in the Lupinarium!

 I was back at Pompeii for the third time this summer. This was the best visit of all. We got to see the Lupinarium, a brothel. Chris wrote his dissertation on Pompeii's prostitution, so he was very knowledgeable about the site and about the topic. The Lupinarium was well lit, and we didn't have to bribe a guard to get in. Things have certainly changed since I first visited the site in 1988. I bought a cute reproduction black-figure Greek vase to use for a classroom project. It shows a centaur dancing with a deer. It was fun to take Matthew around and share a little about what I'd learned this summer. For more pictures from this day, visit this set on Flickr.  Tomorrow we go to Naples for the Naples' Museum and to Boscoreale for a look at a villa rustica.

A wine press at the Villa of the Mysteries

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lavish Views, Luxurious Villas, and an Animal-Lover

Friday, August 6, 2010


 Wednesday we went to Oplontis to the so-called “Villa of Poppaea”. This was my second trip there this summer but with different lecturers I saw the site with whole new eyes. It was interesting to look at the layers of ash, pumice, and pyroclastic flow that covered the villa before the archaeologists dug it up. We also looked carefully at the styles of wall-paintings in this well-preserved upper-class home outside of Pompeii.

Layers of ash, lapilli, and pyroclastic flow can be seen behind Matthew

In the afternoon we took a hydrofoil to Capri for two nights. We returned this afternoon. What a great time! We saw the Villa Jovis, one of Emperor Tiberius' villas. We stayed at a four-star hotel on Anacapri called the Hotel San Michele, which boasts the largest swimming pool of all the hotels on Capri. This trip is usually a highlight of the end of this two-week program, but we had to do it this week due to scheduling conflicts. Apparently next weekend is a major Roman holiday, and hotel rooms on Capri are not to be had for love or money.

"Capri" means "goats." Here are capri on Capri! We were near Tiberius' villa.

 Matthew and I enjoyed taking the Funiculare, a kind of tram that climbs up and down the hill, to the beach, where we took a boat tour around the island. We didn't get into the Blue Grotto due to tides and weather. This cave may have been a dining room for Tiberius. Fragments of statues of Tritons were found in the cave which could connect him to it. 

Mother and son enjoy the boat tour around the island

Heading for the "Kissing Cave" on the boat tour

We also visited the Villa San Michele, quite near the hotel, which is a former residence of the Swedish-born physician and writer, Axel Munthe. He died in 1949 but lived an intense life. I plan to look up his book, The Story of San Michele, when I get home. It sounds like a great read. His love of the island of Capri resonates in the book and helped popularize it as a destination. He was also quite the animal-lover, according to the signs at the museum.

A photo of Axel Munthe, the animal lover with his menagerie

The gardens of Axel Munthe's home, the museum at San Michele, are as gorgeous as the views!

The views from San Michele, just like views all over the island, are fantastic, and the grounds and gardens are worth the visit in themselves. I also got some nice inscriptions from a cemetery on Anacapri that will be a nice challenge for my Latin Two students.

One of many spectacular views on Capri

 San Michele is Italian for the Archangel Michael, by the way. There used to be a church by that name on Munthe's property, which may have been another villa of Tiberius' in a former life. The property was run down when Munthe bought it and fixed it up. Munthe liked Classical antiquity. There are even a couple of sphinxes, one Etruscan and one Egyptian from 1200 B.C.E., on the property. 

I thought it most interesting that as a physician, he never billed for his services. He found some wealthy patrons who supported him quite lavishly but he served the poor as well, including a stint in the Red Cross during WWI. For more pictures from this leg of our trip, visit this set on Flickr.

Tomorrow we go back to Pompeii. I had better rest up while I can!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Volcanic Southern Italy and the Temples of the Gods

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Here I am with my "Fund for Teachers" bag in front of the entrance to "Sibyl's Cave" in Cumae

Today the group spent time in Cumae (modern Cuma) itself. It was originally a Greek colony that was later taken over by the Romans as they expanded through Italy. We took a good look at the remains of two temples there, one allegedly built by the mythical character Daedalus, Icarus' father and the inventor of the Labyrinth on Crete and of human-powered flight. This was a temple to Apollo. We also visited Sibyl's Cave, the place of Apollo's Oracle at Cumae. We had a rare opportunity to visit its forum and spend some time in its bath complex. After lunch the group traveled to see the Macellum at Pozzuoli, modern-day Puteoli, and then went on to Solfatara. The day was great fun. 

Matthew in front of one of the volcanic vents at Solfatara

Tomorrow we will visit the Villa at Oplontis in the morning and then head to the island of Capri for two days. Capri is beautiful, and I've never spent the night there, so I am looking forward to the night in the hotel. 

The accommodations at the Villa Vergiliana are very basic. There is no air conditioning, although the evening breezes are pleasant, and the group of 30 must share showers. My room is the smallest I have had so far. I like my new roommate, though, and am quickly adjusting to the changes. At least there are some lines outside for the laundry I do in the sink in our small room, so I have a place for my things to dry.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

An Emperor's Outdoor Dining Cave: Sperlonga, Italy

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Cave at Sperlonga. The fish pond and remains of the imperial dining room in the foreground


Matthew and I successfully met up with the group from the Vergilian Society program at 9 AM. The group made stops at Terracina and at Sperlonga on the way to Cumae. I especially liked the museum at Sperlonga, which is suspected to be the site of one of the Emperor Tiberius' villas. There are some Hellenistic-style statures there on the theme of Odysseus, including a nice reproduction of a statue group of Odysseus and his men blinding the Cyclops, Polyphemus. The statues were originally in a triclinium set in a cave, or spelunca in Latin. The name, Sperlonga, might actually be a corruption of the Latin word for cave. Sperlonga has a beautiful beach within sight of the museum and cave, but we didn't have time to go there. Sigh!

Exploring the interior of the cave, the original location of the museum's statues

Upper-class Romans liked to grow fish in ponds on their estates

A view of the dining area from inside the cave. Tourists on the right give an idea of the scale.

We can tell from these holes on the dining platform that the Romans raised lampreys, a delicacy, here

Another exterior view of the cave at Sperlonga

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rome: the Colosseum, Palatine, and Capitoline Hills

Sunday, August 1, 2010


At the Colosseum
 I let my son, Matthew, sleep in until about 9 this morning. After breakfast we headed out to the Colosseum. First we saw the Ludus Magnus, the barracks outside the Colosseum where the gladiators trained while waiting for their turn at the fights. They didn't live there long term, however, because the Romans were leery of having armed slaves trained to fight hanging around the city. 

Then we splurged on a tour guide to beat some of the lines heading into the Colosseum. The guide was actually pretty good and had some good illustrations and explanations. Then we headed to the special exhibit on gladiators, which had some good reproductions of gladiatorial costumes that can give my students a better idea of the different types of gladiators.

A type of gladiator: murmillo

Included in our Colosseum tour was entry to the Palatine Hill and Forum, so we spent some time there. Our tour guide was so bad and rude that we left him and finished looking around the area on our own, which was more satisfactory. 

We saw the Palatine Museum. The House of Augustus and the House of Livia were closed to the public, unfortunately. But we got to see “Romulus' Hut” where evidence of the first huts on the Palatine Hill, the first settlements in Rome, are to be seen. It's basically just some holes for supports of these huts in the ground, but it's still neat to see. In the forum there was a special exhibit on the family of the Aemilii,  which had some beautiful relief sculptures in it. Matthew also liked looking for the remains of coins on the floor of the Basilica Aemilia in the forum. There had been a massive fire there, so hot that coins left behind by the bankers actually fused to the marble floors.

 Our original plan had been to make our way from the Capitoline Museum to the Pantheon before it closed, but we had trouble finding the right bus and couldn't make it there on time, so we made it back to Trastevere to pack and take it easy before our trip to Campania, modern-day Campagna, tomorrow. Seeing the inside of the Pantheon again was one of my big goals for my stay in Rome, so I was sad not to have made it. Hopefully it will be incentive for Matthew to come back and see it someday. It is my favorite spot in the city.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Reunion in Rome!

Saturday, 7/31/10

Matthew and I at the Baths of Caracalla, waiting for Rigoletto to start

 The trip to Fiumicino Airport to pick up my son, Matthew, was fairly uneventful. His plane was delayed about an hour and a half because of mechanical trouble. The plane he was supposed to fly in on needed its engines replaced, something discovered during routine maintenance checks. So the flight could have been much later. But Continental Airlines found another plane ready to cross the Atlantic. It was a smaller plane, so some passengers were rerouted and others got bumped. But Matthew got here OK.

 After getting his things situated back at our hotel, including presenting his passport at the desk, which all of the hotels require  now due to a government regulation, we headed to the Vatican. We took a quick tour of the museums, visited St. Peter's Basilica, found a quick bite to eat, and headed back to the hotel so Matthew could nap for a couple of hours. His favorite snack so far is gelato. The chocolate was especially good. My favorite snack yesterday was a chocolate-filled cornetto, a type of pastry, and a cappuccino I grabbed on the way to the train for less than 2 Euros. It tasted too good to be true.

 In the evening we headed to the Baths of Caracalla for Verdi's opera, Rigoletto. It was fun together, and the baths are a fantastic setting for an opera. And the singing was fantastic. I like Aida better, however. That's playing tomorrow night but I didn't want to be up late on Sunday if I can help it, since we have a bus to meet on Monday morning. 

After the opera was an adventure! The late night transportation in Rome is rather spotty. We assumed, wrongly, that there would be some extra buses heading to Trastevere after the opera. There were not. According to a sign, a night tram runs from 11:30 PM to 3 AM but we waited a long time and saw no sign of it. Finally the group of us, about 10 in all, hailed a cab, who called two more cabs on the radio, and we got back to the hotel by 1 AM. 

Not too bad. 

Matthew must have been particularly happy to see the hotel room since he had slept only about 4 hours including his nap.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Endings and New Beginnings

Friday 7/30/10

Latin Teacher on the Appian Way
 This is it, the last official day of our N.E.H. Program, and the last day that all the participants will spend together, although many of us will take in the sights of Rome during this weekend, since the flight back for Rome is not until Monday. I meet my son, Matthew, in the morning, of course, and after our weekend together in Rome, we will be meeting up at the Villa Vergiliana program for a bus ride back to Campania and more educational touring, thanks to the Fund for Teachers and the Rural School and Community Trust, which are underwriting my portion of the next two-week trip.

 The morning we traveled by coach to the House of the Quintilii. This house excited me because it was once the property of Marcus Tullius Cicero's best friend, Atticus. It has had a long history. At one point two remarkably admirable brothers, the Quintilii, owned it, until they were suspected of a plot against the throne by Emperor Commodus. They were killed and their property confiscated by Commodus. The property then became Commodus' favorite property in Rome. He expanded it to suit his tastes. We walked around just to get an idea of its immensity. The bath complex has traces of marble floors and columns and the hypocaust or heating system.

Statue of Zeus

Next we headed for the Via Appia Antica, the ancient road that led from Rome to Capua and eventually to Brundisium. Along the way we stopped at the Villa of Maxentius, the Roman Emperor who ruled with and eventually fought against Constantine the Great at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge; he obviously lost. He died in 312 A.D. His son, Romulus', tomb is also on the property; Romulus is obviously not the same guy who founded Rome in the 8th Century B.C. The most interesting part of the villa is the Circus of Maxentius, smaller than the Circus Maximus but better preserved. It is “the only Roman Circus in existence in which all of the architectural components are still well preserved,” according to the brochure. It seems huge when you stand in it: it could hold 10,000 spectators. But this is puny compared to the Circus Maximus, which could hold 150,000 spectators.

 Finally, we went to the Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella. She was a wealthy relative of (we think) the wealthy Crassus of the First Triumvirate. The Metelli were a prominent family of the first Century B.C.,  and the tomb was built around 30 B.C. Tombs, by Roman custom and law, had to be built outside the city, so the Appian Way was lined with them. The group also walked past the museum and mausoleum to the part of the Appian Way that still has some of the large, ancient Roman paving stones, and we took turn taking our pictures as we stood on them.

 For more pictures of any of the above, visit this set on Flickr.

Sharing a Laugh at Pompey's Theater
Tonight we went to a dinner-party in the substructure of Pompey's Theater. It was sad to be together for the last time as a group, but we had a lot of fun. Sister Therese, Sister Theresa, and Tom made up a “final exam” for us. They gave us hints from the trip, and we had to figure out which member of the group the comment belonged to. One person was so gregarious she spent lots of time talking to the Carabinieri, or military police, for example. I was the person who could not get enough of archaeology  from this experience and so had signed up for two more weeks in Southern Italy. That one was easy for everyone to guess. As people's names were guessed, Tom handed out their certificates and letters of participation. I have to take good care of mine, because I need it for CEUs for recertification in Latin back in North Carolina. This program was worth three graduate courses, according to the paperwork. That should more than take care of my CEUs in my content area.

 Jessica gave the Sisters and Tom some framed photos of the group. The picture was taken in front of Cicero's Tomb and came out nice. Each frame was a little different, and all three were wrapped in paper that Susan had hand-decorated. Wendy presented them with information about a cat that the group adopted from the program at Largo Argentina. We will be supporting this cat for the coming year. He is Feline HIV positive, is easily frightened, and is having a hard time finding a home. Allen and Ryan did a top ten stand-up comedy routine that was pretty funny, especially when Kaitlyn, our former Poppaea, acted the part of a rather bad tour guide we had suffered through in Etruria, rambling on about things we already knew or didn't want to know in broken English. Justin Short wowed everybody with a little poem he wrote about our trip that was inspired by Ovid and the tradition of the lover complaining to the lover's door that won't open for him. It's an actual genre. 

Sister Therese told the group that we are not allowed to apply for future NEH programs at her school, but if any of us ever applies to another NEH Institute, to have her write us a recommendation. She said we were a fantastic group and that she would write a “recommendation for any” of us “for anything.” I have to admit, that comment brought a tear to my eye. It has been that fantastic a group and that fantastic an experience. I hope we stay in touch through email, Facebook, or some other means.

 When we get home we have been asked to submit to Sister Therese through Blackboard a final project as well as to take the NEH Evaluation Survey that will be linked to the group's blackboard site. I'll try to take care of these things shortly after I get back.

 I got a quick call from Don tonight to tell me that Matthew's flight for tomorrow is being bounced around by Continental Airlines. He said Matthew called to tell him his plane might be a half hour late or the flight might be four hours late at this point. I told him I'll go to the airport for the time Matthew was originally expected and wait as long as I have to. Don will call me if for some reason this plane is not expected tomorrow. I hope things go well and our plans for the day and evening don't get too messed up. I'll wait for him and read, I guess. 

I can't wait to see him here in Rome!

My heartfelt appreciation goes out to the National Endowment for the Humanities for making four wonderful weeks of academic study in Italy a reality for me.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Land of the Etruscans

Thursday 7/29/10

Etruscan Tumulus Tomb

It is hard to believe that tomorrow is the official “last day” of the program, although most of the participants will be staying through the weekend. We have formed close bonds and will really miss each other. Today we took a hired coach to Etruria, specifically Cerveteri and Tarquinia, to look at Etruscan tombs. The Etruscans were an ancient civilization that died out around the 6th Century B.C., about the same time the Romans came to power. Like the Egyptians, they tried to set up their burial sites with everything the deceased would need in the afterlife, so their artwork is valuable to modern historians. According to Roman historical legend, the Etruscans ruled Rome for a period ending in 510/509 B.C., so Etruscan civilization and culture had a strong influence on Rome in its formative years.

Let's have a look inside this Etruscan tomb!
 I was glad to see that the Italian government is now taking steps to protect the precious frescoes in Tarquinia. In the late 80s I could stand inside the tombs and look at the frescoes up close, even though the guides admitted the presence of visitors was bad for the paintings. Now the most important tombs have little buildings over them to protect them from rain and moisture seeping through. Inside the tombs is a plexiglass door so visitors can see the frescoes and take pictures of them—with no flash. Glad as I was to see them protected, I missed the experience of seeing them up close and personal. I have fond memories and am glad I could do that in my lifetime.
Some Etruscan Tombs in Tarquinia Contain Frescoes

While I was there I bought two more reproductions for my classroom: a terracotta oil lamp with Cupid on it and a bucchero vase with some figures incised on it. Bucchero was a type of black Etuscan pottery that was fired very hot. It has a shiny look so that you can almost mistake it for metal. The effect is deliberate: those who could not afford metal used pottery that looked like metal. I got a good buy: both small pieces for 17 Euros. The woman who sold them to me told me in Italian that she had some background in the Classics. I could understand some of what she was saying in Italian. We both agreed that Greek is difficult. She seemed to have a real respect for Etruscan culture and products and not just be at her stand to make a buck (although I'm sure that doesn't hurt). For more pictures from this trip, visit this set on Flickr.

 Don called tonight with the news that a very good friend of mine and her husband just split up. It was a complete shock to me. I had no idea it was coming. How sad! When I get back I'll have to get in touch with her. I was glad to have a chance to tell Don how much I miss him. It sounds like he is conscientiously working his tail off taking care of the dogs, our properties, and my bills while I'm gone. I owe him big time.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has earned my public appreciation for providing funding for this portion of my summer travels.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Water, Water, Everywhere!

Wednesday, 7/28/10

Fontes Bandusiae at Horace's Villa

  This morning a bus came, a private coach, to take our group to the outskirts of Rome. We visited Horace's Sabine Farm in the morning, made famous by his “O Fontes Bandusiae” poem. He said it was simple, and it was, compared to his rich patrons'. But it was pretty fancy. It had a bath complex with a hypocaust system, a swimming pool, and even an aquarium you could walk into to see watch fish behind resin panels.


 Hadrian's villa, on the other hand, was extremely impressive, the size of a town, covering 70 acres or two miles in length. Artwork: statues, frescoes, and mosaics, have been removed from the villa and now adorns museums all over the world. The museum at the site had an exhibition of some of this art, but no pictures were allowed. The statues seen around the main piscina and nymphaeum/triclinium complex are reproductions. The originals are inside the museum.

Hadrian's Villa

 After Hadrian's Villa we stopped at Villa d'Este, which is a palace that belonged to the rich and influential Este family. Hadrian's villa inspired the design, layout, and decoration of the Villa d'Este. During the Renaissance this family even “mined” Hadrian's villa for statues, marble, etc., with which to decorate their villa. Archeologists look at this approach as plundering, but at the time nobles thought of it more as antiquing or reusing of materials, which has gone on for centuries. For more pictures and video from this day, visit this set on Flickr.
Villa d'Este

 All in all it was a full day. After a quick, light supper, I got my PT stretches done but skipped the strength exercises and called it a day. Tomorrow we visit Etruscan tombs, for which I have a fondness... not quite the fondness I've redeveloped for Italian ice cream (gelato), but close.

My thanks to the National Endowment for the Humanities for making this experience possible.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cestus' Pyramid, Ostia, and the Opera!

Tuesday 7/27/10

The Pyramid of Cestus

This morning the group took the Number 3 Bus to a stop near the Tomb of Cestus in Rome. Cestus built his tomb right in Rome's ancient Pomerium, the sacred boundary line within which nobody was supposed to be buried. So his tomb is in the wall, visible from both sides of the Pomerium, but to keep it legal his body was buried in the part of the pyramid that was outside the boundary. He was quite wealthy. He must have been, to pull off a stunt like that! The pyramid, along with the mosaics, frescoes, and obelisks we have seen, show how much Egypt had captured the imagination of the Romans in the first century B.C.

 From there we took a train to Ostia Antica, Rome's ancient harbor. Os in Latin means mouth, and so Ostia means something like Portsmouth. It was located at the mouth of the Tiber River. It was a little shallow, so merchandise was warehoused there and reloaded onto smaller boats or barges to go up the river to Rome itself. It was important to Rome both commercially and militarily. Residents of Ostia were even exempt from military conscriptions in honor of its historical military importance. In its earliest days it was set up as a colony of Rome as a type of castra, or military camp, and it grew in size from there.

Lee demonstrating the use of a Roman latrine
 Ostia is similar to, yet different from, Pompeii and Herculaneum. Unlike the other two cities, it was very much a working-class town. Absent for the most part are the luxurious villas that are found in the other cities. Most people lived in apartment buildings. Artwork was simpler. Its mosaics are lovely, however, and give us a sense of the daily activities and mercantile aspects of the port. For more pictures, visit this set on Flickr.
Ostia is famous for its mosaics

While Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed by volcanic eruption, Ostia died a slow death due to the silting up of the Tiber River. The river basically just shifted away from Ostia over time. Eventually a new port named Portus, or Harbor, had to be built to meet Rome's needs, and while people lingered on in Ostia, it was a ghost town by the fifth century A.D. What's nice is that the upper floors of buildings are better preserved than at Pompeii or Herculaneum because it didn't suffer the wrath of a volcano, and there are places where you can even walk on the upper stories. We also spent some time exploring under one of the baths and getting a better sense of its hypocaust, or heating system. We could have taken the train from there to Ostia Lido, which is a beach close to Rome, but a friend with a guidebook said he'd read it isn't such a nice beach compared to those you can see in the South, so I figured I'd hang onto my memories of my perfect afternoon on Ischia and skip this beach..

The theater at Ostia still hosts performances

 Tom got tickets for the opera this weekend for those of us who were interested and willing to pay. It is an easy ride from  our hotel to the stop or fermata across from the Circus Maximus on the Number 3 Bus. If all goes according to plan, I will be taking Matthew to see Verdi's Rigoletto on Saturday night at the Baths of Caracalla. I am excited about seeing him and have already bought my train ticket for Saturday morning to take me out to Fiumicino Airport to meet him at 7:45 AM. The train leaves at 7:00 from Track Number 5. I cannot use the pass that  takes me everywhere on the local bus and metro system. The ticket costs 8 Euros one way, which I consider ridiculously high, but it is cheaper than taking a taxi to the airport. I can save money for the ride back to the hotel with Matthew's bags. The ticket is also cheaper than taking the express train to the airport from Termini, the main Metro stop. That ride costs 14 Euros, I'm told. Rome really sticks it to the tourists. I guess that happens everywhere.

My thanks to the National Endowment for the Humanities for making this portion of my trip possible.