Tag Archives: ancient rome

Roma, Underground (Part 1 of the Series) – A Book Review

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This suspenseful novel follows Alabaster Black, a.k.a. Bianca Nerini, a forensic accountant, as she tries to hide in Rome from her former “mysterious” employer, Rendition, after one of her contacts disappears and is presumed dead.   While in Rome, she meets Dante and gets involved with his archaeological hobby of exploring Rome’s underground.

Courtesy of Argiletum Tour Italy

Courtesy of Argiletum Tour Italy

Dante is also an investigator who is trying to figure out who is stealing and selling Rome’s ancient artifacts.

Courtesy of The History Blog

Courtesy of The History Blog

The two of them devise a scheme to trap the thieves by making up a fake discovery.  Meanwhile, while they are trying to figure out who these players are, Bianca learns that she has been found hiding in Rome. Lots of characters are presented, each with lots of personality, as we’re led around Rome, both above and below ground.

The story is fast moving, but at times, I found that I was getting lost trying to keep all the characters straight.  Also, some things were explained in really technical terms and I wasn’t that interested in the details.  But that’s just me, that sort of stuff doesn’t really appeal to me.  I’m sure others will appreciate the technicality of the descriptions!  All in all, it was a fun read and kept me hooked all the way through.

 

Secrets of the Eternal City Unveiled…hopefully!

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ancient_rome[1]There are some huge projects underway in Rome to unveil ancient sites never before seen and which have been recently discovered.   The thought of seeing these never before seen treasures (except when they existed in their heyday) is SO exciting!  Can you imagine seeing frescoes and mosaics dating back thousands of years?  According to Rome’s mayor, Ignazio Marino, there are over 100,000 archaeological treasures in “storage” and hundreds of sites yet to be excavated!

Mayor Marino visited the Italian Consulate in San Francisco recently and showed the audience present several until-now unseen ancient Roman archaeological treasures.  One of these hidden wonders was the Cryptoporticus beneath Trajan’s Baths.  This buried gallery, which predates the baths, is covered in frescoes that depict a walled port city of the ancient world.  Whether the city is real or just a project design, is up for discussion and being studied, I’m sure!   Definitely an archaeologist’s dream!

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Another hidden gem are the gladiator barracks next to the Colosseum where modern day visitors can walk the same steps taken by those brave men so long ago.  The mayor has already done much in Rome to bring back the layout of Ancient Rome (like banning car traffic from the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum),  but he wants to do more to return the archaeological fabric to the Eternal City.  Among these are to remodel the Via dei Fori Imperiali (constructed by Mussolini in the 1930″s and which divides the Roman Forum from the Forum of Augustus) and the ancient Via Alessandrina.  These two renovations would help to make the area around the Forum the largest archaeological park in the world!

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Lastly presented, but definitely not the last of the excavations, is the retrofitting of the largest round tomb in the world – the Mausoleum of Augustus.  The vision would be to allow visitors to be able to walk into this giant structure to view it’s massive construction and marbled beauty.

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“We must not only work so next generations can see what we see today, but also so they can see what we cannot see today.” 

A Glimpse into Italy’s Antiquity – L’Abbazia di San Donato

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In Northern Italy, where the Ticino river leaves Lago Maggiore, is a small town named Sesto Calende.  During the ancient Roman Empire and later, this town was a stopping point for many as they made their journey from the North, over the Alps, on their way into Italy.  As this map shows, several towns along the lake were important destinations for them.

People like the Roman Longobards, Hannibal, Napoleon, and Garibaldi stopped in Sesto and left their mark.  One such mark is the tiny church of L’Abbazia di San Donato.   We will spend a very special evening (and be treated to an extra special event)  in this beautiful and ancient church on our Italy…Wine, Dine, and Unwind Tour.   The original church, which was built between 500 and 600 AD,  stood on the site of an ancient pagan temple.  This location was chosen to beseech God to protect those travelling across the lake.  The first structure is no longer standing, but an ancient stone was preserved.  This stone was originally gilded in gold and silver and was probably part of the pulpit.

The current Abbazia di San Donato dates from the IX century and was erected by the bishop of Pavia, Liutardo del Conti.  Even though, geographically, it was within the Diocese of Milan, it fell under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Pavia and belonged to the Benedictine order of monks.  During this time, the Benedictines were extremely influential with the Holy Roman Empire  and benefitted both in wealth and power.  These circumstances created conflict  with both dioceses, and in 1111, the monastery and all its wealth were seized by the Diocese of Milan.  Conflicts arose and with the help of the Holy Roman Emperor, Barbarossa, the Benedictines once again regained control of the Abbazia itself but not of the surrounding territory.  Their possessions now belonged to Pope Innocent III.  The monks’ morale and San Donato suffered until 1455 when a Benedictine name Nicola Tatti took control and the Abbazia regained prosperity once again.  Over a period of 40 years, many monks passed through and works of art were commissioned.  This beautiful choir room behind the altar was one of these wonderful artistic masterpieces.  The monks would sit here during Mass and sing their beautiful hymns.

In 1534, once again, the monastery passed into control of Milan and this time the monks left. Over the centuries, the Abbazia fell into the care of others and into disrepair, even becoming a home for soldiers during various insurrections and wars.  In 1911, badly damaged and in total disrepair, it lost it’s status as a parish.  But this gem could not be forgotten…and in 1959, restoration began in the hopes of bringing this important piece of history back to be treasured once more.  With the help of many, it regained its parish status in 1963.

 

From the XV Century

 

 

Another Glimpse into Italy’s Antiquity – L’Abbazia di San Donato

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In Northern Italy, where the Ticino river leaves Lago Maggiore, is a small town named Sesto Calende.  During the ancient Roman Empire and later, this town was a stopping point for many as they made their journey from the North, over the Alps, on their way into Italy.  As this map shows, several towns along the lake were important destinations for them.

People like the Roman Longobards, Hannibal, Napoleon, and Garibaldi stopped in Sesto and left their mark.  One such mark is the tiny church of L’Abbazia di San Donato.   The original church, which was built between 500 and 600 AD,  stood on the site of an ancient pagan temple.  This location was chosen to beseech God to protect those travelling across the lake.  The first structure is no longer standing, but an ancient stone was preserved.  This stone was originally gilded in gold and silver and was probably part of the pulpit.

The current Abbazia di San Donato dates from the IX century and was erected by the bishop of Pavia, Liutardo del Conti.  Even though, geographically, it was within the Diocese of Milan, it fell under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Pavia and belonged to the Benedictine order of monks.  During this time, the Benedictines were extremely influential with the Holy Roman Empire  and benefitted both in wealth and power.  These circumstances created conflict  with both dioceses, and in 1111, the monastery and all its wealth were seized by the Diocese of Milan.  Conflicts arose and with the help of the Holy Roman Emperor, Barbarossa, the Benedictines once again regained control of the Abbazia itself but not of the surrounding territory.  Their possessions now belonged to Pope Innocent III.  The monks’ morale and San Donato suffered until 1455 when a Benedictine name Nicola Tatti took control and the Abbazia regained prosperity once again.  Over a period of 40 years, many monks passed through and works of art were commissioned.  This beautiful choir room behind the altar was one of these wonderful artistic masterpieces.  The monks would sit here during Mass and sing their beautiful hymns.

In 1534, once again, the monastery passed into control of Milan and this time the monks left. Over the centuries, the Abbazia fell into the care of others and into disrepair, even becoming a home for soldiers during various insurrections and wars.  In 1911, badly damaged and in total disrepair, it lost it’s status as a parish.  But this gem could not be forgotten…and in 1959, restoration began in the hopes of bringing this important piece of history back to be treasured once more.  With the help of many, it regained its parish status in 1963.

 

From the XV Century

Ancient Rome….Taking a Step Back in Time

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We are always a bit late keeping up with series on HBO (probably because we don’t subscribe to HBO!!), and therefore missed it when they were airing ROME.  But, after hearing rave reviews on the series, we rented it on NetFlix.  Wow!!!  What an epic show it was!  The production was definitely worthy of the many awards that it received.  It was mostly filmed in the Cinecitta Studios in Rome on a set that spanned over 35 acres! 

The story takes place during the 1st century, and it begins with Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, and ends with the reign of Emperor Octavian Caesar and the take over of Egypt (including the deaths of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra).   Even though the story has some fictional characters, many of the historical data is accurate and allows you to experience life of Ancient Rome.  It was a cruel world, with the value of human life at an absolute minimum.  Death was around every corner – both in murder as well as self inflicted for the sake of maintaining honor.  The important historical figures are portrayed in graphic detail, but obviously portrayed through the eyes of the director and slanted towards his interpretation of what these people were really like.

The show follows the lives of two fictional characters, Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenas, as they go from being soldiers in Julius Caesar’s army to civilians, and back to soldier life.  This series is very graphic – both in sexual content as well as violece.  People are stabbed, maimed, and gored with no sparing of the blood and guts.  It is all there for us, the viewers, to witness.  The sexual scenes leave nothing to the imagination, either!  But this is probably how it was back then, and all that was important was the here and now – they didn’t believe that their earthly actions would bring them to consequence in the afterlife.  That came afterward!! 

What enthralled me was trying to equate what I was seeing in “ancient Rome” to what I have seen in “modern day Rome”.  The forum, of course, was at it’s peak as far as architectural perfection, but what captivated my imagination was more the “neighborhoods” depicted in the series.  The Aventine, where the common folk lived in the series, is now one of the wealthier neighborhoods of Rome.  Each of these different districts were ruled by their own “gang lords”.  Different “gangs” or collegiums (as they were called back then) ruled different parts of the city, protecting their inhabitants and fighting against each other if need be.  The dynamics between the upper and lower classes, as well as the practice of slavery, was interesting to witness as well.  So much cultural and sociological development was protrayed in this series, which is, what I think, allowed it to earn such high acclaim.  I can wholeheartedy recommend this series to any historical buff who is interested in learning more about the culture of Ancient Rome.  Kudos to the producers, writers,and directors of this epic series!  I wish there were more of these historical fiction mini-series to bring history alive!