This past May, a number of members of this Lodge were privileged to attend a special birthday party. This year marks the 150th birthday of the country of Italy. While Italy’s culture goes back thousands of years, this is the first time that the various principalities, duchies and city states were united since the days of the Roman Empire.
For those fortunate enough to have visited Italy, the thing most people want to do, besides enjoying the wonderful Italian cuisine, is to visit the many historical sites. Some of the most spectacular are from the glory days of Rome.
Tonight, I invite you to make that journey.
I have 2 books available, one on Rome and one on Pompeii, each with a DVD. The 2 DVDs will play on the laptops. Through animation, it will show many of the sites from Rome and Pompeii. Each book has overlays showing some of the most famous sites of Rome and Pompeii, depicting them as they look today, and as it looked 2000 years ago.
The overlays in the book on Rome covers:
The Roman Forum which is the oldest part of the city of Rome. It is a collection of buildings around a rectangular square or plaza. It was originally the market place, a sort of Roman Countryside Mall, but evolved into a collection of government buildings, palaces and temples. Some of the buildings date from the monarchy, prior to 500 BC.
Included in the area of the Forum are:
The House of the Vestal Virgins was built during the 6th century BC.
The 6 vestal virgins were priestesses of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. The virgins were the keepers of the sacred fire and were to draw water for special occasions. Their well being was thought to be tied to the well being of Rome itself. The virgins were sworn to chastity for 30 years. The cult of the Vestals continued for 900 years.
The Temple of Castor and Pollux, dating from about 484 BC, was where the Senate met, the weights and measures were kept. It was also a depository for the state treasuries.
Temple of Saturn 497 BC a monument to the God of agriculture.
The Basilica Julia dedicated by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, rebuilt in 12 AD and 283 AD used mainly for civil courts, it was also a favorite public meeting place.
The Domus Aurea, meaning Golden House was built by Nero after Rome burned in 64 AD. It got its name from the gold leaf which was used extensively, as well as semi-precious stones imbedded in the stuccoed ceilings, marble and inlaid ivory. It was estimated to be between 100 to 300 acres, with 500 rooms. This was a party villa with extensive use of fountains and a man-made lake in the center of Rome. Even for Rome it was considered an excess. Domus Aurea was documented by Pliny the Elder, historian of the time. It is fortunate for us that it was documented since after Nero’s suicide in 68 AD, the whole complex became an embarrassment to his successors. It was filled with earth and built over. Notably, it was discovered at the end of the 15th century when a young Roman fell through a small narrow opening in the hillside which covered Nero’s Golden House.
The Coliseum was begun in 72 AD by Vespasian on part of the grounds of the Domus Aurea, It was completed in 80 AD by his son Titus. It was originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre, and it could accommodate 50,000 spectators.
The Temple of Vespasian 87 AD
Trajan’s Forum and Markets built around 100 AD are very intact by comparison with some of the other buildings and it contains remnants of a library.
The Pantheon built about 126 AD is significant because of its rotunda, which has a coffered concrete dome with a hole in the center. Called an occulus, the opening is 142 feet high and 142 feet in diameter. It is the world’s largest unreinforced dome --- 2000 years later.
Hadrian’s Mausoleum / Castel Sant’ Angelo was built in 138 AD. It held the cremains of Hadrian and his family and other emporers till Caracalla in 217 AD. It was turned into a military fortress in 401 AD. In the 1400, the popes converted the Mausoleum into a castle. In 1277 the Passetto di Borgo was constructed. At almost ½ mile, it connected Castel Sant’Angelo to St Peter’s Basilica and offered safe passage for the popes and others at various times of turbulence.
The Temple of Antonius and Faustina, begun in 141 AD, later consecrated as the Roman Catholic Church San Lorenzo in Miranda maybe as early as the 7th century AD.
This book also touches on other aspects of the Vatican and briefly on Pompeii.
Pompeii is of course more thoroughly covered in the second book, with overlays depicting the Eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Pompeii was buried under up to 20 feet of ash until its rediscovery in 1749. At this time, this area of Italy was under the control of Charles, the King of Naples and Sicily who was a member of the Bourbon dynasty. Excavations began almost immediately, but very haphazardly. Archaeology was not the science that is now practiced. Instead, the goal was to gather as many artifacts that the moneyed gentry would purchase.
Until the Unification in 1861, the control of this region was under the control of the Spanish House of Borbonne, the Austian Hapsburgs and the French under Napoleon. Napoleon’s sister Caroline had a great interest in the excavation of the site and invested her personal wealth and prestige to continue the work.
After the Unification, work started again with improved excavation techniques and greater interest and care given to preservation.
From 1910 to 1961, excavation was almost feverish. The boundaries of the city were finally established. Vittorio Spinazolla was the director of Archeological Works from 1910 until 1924. Under his guidance the route from the Amphitheater was united with the center of the city. More importantly, he was convinced and later proved that prior excavations had not only damaged intact roofs, but also misrepresented buildings which originally had more than one story.
Spinazolla was succeeded by Amedeo Maiuri in 1924. His work continued until 1961. In the 1930, he was able to fully identify the boundary walls of the city. He also was able to successfully and scientifically remove all of the piles of earth from previous excavations so that the whole archeological area was usable.
Since 1961, the emphasis has been on the preservation and restoration of what has already been uncovered. In November 2010, the House of the Gladiators collapsed. The cause of the collapse has not been fully established, but it is believed to have been caused by water infiltration due to heavy rains. Pompeii is visited annually by 2 ½ million people each year.
Other structures covered include the Temple of Apollo, the Basilica, the Forum, and the Temple of the Genius of Vespasian. The House of the Tragic Poet is notable for a floor mosaic of a dog which decorates the entry. Under the dog are the words Cave Canem, which roughly translates to “Beware of the Dog”.
The House of the Faun is a large and aristocratic dwelling. The House of the Faun also has an interesting mosaic on the floor of its entry. Spelled out is “HAVE”, a variation of “Ave”, a greeting for meeting and parting, making it mosaic a kind of welcome mat. The House of the Vettii (named for 2 freedmen who owned the house.). Modestums Bakery is complete with millstones for grinding grain. The millstones were turned by slaves or donkeys. Benches where the dough
was prepared and even the ovens are intact, along with 81 carbonized loaves of bread. Photo overlays also cover the Stabian Baths and the Temple of Isis.