Amphitheatre of El Jem

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Last week we were in the Ukraine to uncover the Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora.

Today we’re traveling out of Europe, but still within the Imperium Rōmānum, to Tunisia as we check out the Amphitheatre of El Jem!

The Amphitheatre of El Jem bears outstanding witness to Roman architecture, notably monuments built for spectator events, in Africa. Located in a plain in the center of Tunisia, this amphitheatre is built entirely of stone blocks, with no foundations and free-standing.

In this respect it is modeled on the Colosseum of Rome without being an exact copy of the Flavian construction. Its size (big axis of 162 yards and small axis 133 yards) and its capacity (judged to be 35,000 spectators) make it without a doubt among the largest amphitheatres in the world.

Its facade comprises 3 levels of arcades of Corinthian or composite style. Inside, the monument has conserved most of the supporting infrastructure for the tiered seating.

The wall of the podium, the arena and the underground passages are practically intact. This architectural and artistic creation built around 238 AD, constitutes an important milestone in the comprehension of the history of Roman Africa.

The Amphitheatre of El Jem also bears witness to the prosperity of the small city of Thysdrus (current El Jem) at the time of the Roman Empire.

How This Relates to Rome:

The toponym Thysdrus has Berber roots, and the city was founded by the Romans on the site of an ancient, small Berber Punic village. Thysdrus probably received Julius Caesar‘s veterans as settlers in 45 BC.

Thysdrus did not become a Municipium (settlement with partial rights of citizenship) until the reign of Septimius Severus. In 244 AD it was declared Colonia by Emperor Gordian III.

Thysdrus grew to be the main center of olive oil production in Roman Africa thanks to the Romano-Berber Emperor Septimius Severus and his successors. So, by the early 3rd Century AD, when the huge amphitheater was built, Thysdrus rivaled Hadrumetum (modern Sousse) as the 2nd City of Roman North Africa, after Carthage.

Thanks for taking the tour with us today. We hope you’re inspired to take further adventures within the Roman Empire.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Book 6; Thought 23

As to the animals which have no reason and generally all things and objects, do thou, since thou hast reason and they have none, make use of them with a generous and liberal spirit. But towards human beings, as they have reason, behave in a social spirit. And on all occasions, call on the gods, and do not perplex thyself about the length of time in which thou shalt do this; for even three hours so spent are sufficient.

Hercules (2014): A Film Made by The Rock

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If you’ve made it to this page then you certainly know a thing or two about Classical Antiquity. Based on this presumption, we shall infer that you are also familiar with Greco-Roman Mythology.

One of the most revered Classical Heroes was a well-known demi-god. Even though he was supposed to be Greek by birth, you know him by his Roman name.

Since many a movie has been made about this hero, today we review the 2014 film Hercules!

Theatrical release poster of or Hercules (copyright Paramount Pictures).

Based on the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars, Hercules is an action/fantasy/adventure film directed by Brett Ratner and written by Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Starring Dwayne Johnson (Hercules), Ian McShane (Amphiaraus the Seer), Rufus Sewell (Autolycus the Rogue), and John Hurt (Cotys, King of Thrace), the film was distributed jointly by Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

As 1 of 2 Hollywood-studio Hercules films released in 2014 (the other one being Lionsgate‘s The Legend of Hercules), this version earned $244 million on a $100 million budget and received mixed reviews from critics, who, however, praised the action sequences and Johnson’s acting.

Full cast of the film

Also in the film are Aksel Hennie (Tydeus the Wild Child/Barbarian), Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Atalanta the Archer), Reece Ritchie (Iolaus the Storyteller), Joseph Fiennes (King Eurystheus), Tobias Santelmann (Rhesus), Peter Mullan (Sitacles), Rebecca Ferguson (Ergenia), Isaac Andrews (Arius), Joe Anderson (Phineas), Steve Peacocke (Stephanos), Irina Shayk (Megara), and Barbara Palvin (Antimache).

To prepare for the role of Hercules, Johnson took on a grueling training routine, stating:

I trained and worked harder than ever for 8 months for this role. Lived alone and locked myself away (like a moody 260-lb. monk) in Budapest for 6 months while filming. Goal was to completely transform into this character. Disappear in the role. Press journalist asked me today, with the mental and physical toll the role had on me, would I do it again? Not only would I do it again…I’d do it twice.

In North America, Hercules was released on 25 July 2014 at 3,595 theaters, and grossed $11 million its opening day and $29 million its opening weekend. Hercules, described as “pumping some much-needed life into a lackluster summer at U.S. and Canadian theaters,” did financially better than expected, as it “topped the expectations of analysts by roughly $4 million”.

Dwayne Johnson truly could be the modern Hercules.

Outside North America, the film was released in 26 foreign markets in 3,364 locations and earned $28.7M. Hercules dominated the Russian box office with a strong debut ($12M from 930), along with Australia ($3.5M from 222), Malaysia ($1.6M from 110), Philippines ($1.2M from 134), Taiwan ($1.2M) and Singapore ($1.1M from 27).

Hercules received mixed reviews from critics with the general sentiment being, however, that the film was a pleasant surprise. Ridiculously critical review site Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 60%, based on reviews from 104 critics, with an average rating of 5.4/10.

Actor Dwayne Johnson and director by Brett Ratner seen on set of the movie Hercules.

Scott Foundas, chief film critic for Variety, wrote a positive review stating that the film was grandly staged, solidly entertaining, and cuts the mythical son of Zeus down to human size (or as human as you can get while still being played by Dwayne Johnson). Elizabeth Weitzman of New York Daily News stated Hercules was fun and packed with eye-popping action and impressive effects, but star Dwayne Johnson’s massive powerful physique perfectly suited the title role of the large-scale movie.

The film is about the hero Hercules, leader of a band of mercenaries composed of the these not so merry men: a spear-wielding prophet, a knife-throwing thief, a feral warrior, an Amazon archer, and Hercules own nephew storyteller. Hercules is said to be the demigod son of Zeus, who completed the legendary Twelve Labors, only to be betrayed by Hera who drove him insane and caused him to murder his wife Megara and their children during a visit to King Eurystheus.

Hercules fighting the Nemean lion as on of his Twelve Labors.

Throughout the film, it is not clearly established that Hercules is truly the son of Zeus, and many are skeptical of the claim as well as of the stories of Hercules’ famous Twelve Labors. Despite this, Hercules displays unusual strength and unmatched skill in combat.

After finishing a recent mission and saving his nephew on the Macedonian Coast in Northern Greece in 358 BC, Hercules and his team are celebrating and drinking at a tavern. During the celebration they are approached by Ergenia on behalf of her father Lord Cotys who wants Hercules to train the armies of Thrace to defend the kingdom from bloodthirsty warlord Rhesus.

Hercules accepts after he and his men are offered his own weight in gold, and the band is welcomed to Thrace by King Cotys and General Sitacles, leader of the Thracian army. However, Rhesus has reached the Bessi tribe in Central Thrace and Cotys insists that Hercules lead the army into battle to defend the Bessi, despite their lack of training.

Atalanta and Hercules lead the Thracians.

After the Bessi are defeated, Hercules properly trains the army, then Hercules and Sitacles confront Rhesus and his soldiers on the battlefield before Mount Asticus. The Thracians force Rhesus’ army to retreat, but Rhesus himself rides out to confront Hercules and is defeated by him.

Rhesus is taken back to Thrace as a prisoner, where he is tortured and humiliated. Hercules mentions Rhesus’ actions of burning down villages, but Rhesus tells him it was not him or his army and that Hercules has been fighting on the wrong side.

Ergenia confronts Hercules

Later in the palace hall, Rhesus has been chained up and left on display. Noticing that Ergenia has taken pity to him, Hercules confronts her and finds out Rhesus was telling the truth in that he was merely retaliating against Lord Cotys’s aggressive attempts to expand his kingdom.

After receiving their reward, the mercenaries are ready to leave. Hercules, though, decides to stay behind to stop Cotys, and all but Autolycus choose to follow him.

Coming to collect their gold.

However, they are overpowered and captured by Sitacles and his men. While chained, Hercules is confronted by King Eurystheus, who is in league with Lord Cotys.

Eurystheus reveals that he drugged Hercules the night his family died, viewing him as a threat to his power. Hercules’s family was in fact killed by 3 vicious wolves sent by Eurystheus, resulting in Hercules’s constant hallucinations of Cerberus.

I am Hercules!

When Lord Cotys orders Ergenia to be executed for her betrayal, Hercules is encouraged by Amphiaraus to believe in himself just as everyone believes in him. In a show of superhuman strength, Hercules breaks free of his chains, saving Ergenia and slaying the wolves with his bare hands.

Hercules releases the prisoners, including Rhesus, and then confronts King Eurystheus, impaling him with his own dagger. He is attacked by Sitacles, who is then stabbed by Iolaus.

Outside, Hercules and his forces battle Lord Cotys and his army. Arius is taken hostage, but then rescued by Autolycus, who has decided to return to help his friends.

Hercules tumbles the Thracian statue of Hera.

In the final battle, Tydeus is mortally wounded while protecting Arius, but fights on slaughtering numerous Thracian soldiers. Hercules again uses inhuman strength and pushes a massive statue of Hera from its foundations and uses it to crush Lord Cotys and many of his soldiers.

The remaining soldiers see Hercules as lightning flashes in the background. The surviving soldiers bow to Hercules, and Arius takes the throne, with Ergenia at his side, while Hercules and his men depart in search of other adventures.

As the credits roll, an animated retelling of the Twelve Labors shows how Hercules accomplished these feats with the help of his companions.

He is Hercules

As the professionals had previously stated, Hercules is, indeed, a role perfectly suited for Dwayne Johnson. The new take on a familiar character, along with the action and special effects, make for quite the entertaining film.

You don’t have to write articles for a living to recognize a fun, adventurous film when you see it. If you are looking for some fast-paced adventure, with a little history mixed in, then look no farther than Hercules starring Dwayne Johnson.

We hope you enjoyed today’s look into a worthwhile film. Maybe you’ve seen it already and care to reply, or maybe you’ll now want to watch it.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Berardinelli, James. “Hercules”ReelViews, 25 July 2014.

Busch, Anita. “Box Office: ‘Lucy’ To Overpower ‘Hercules’ And ‘Apes’ This Weekend”. Deadline.com, 21 July 2014.

DeFore, John. “Brett Ratner’s ‘Hercules’ is actually entertaining in places”The Washington Post, 25 July 2014.

Kay, Jeremy. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes surges to $54.8m international box office”. screendaily.com, 27 July 2014.

Kit, Borys. “Ian McShane Joins Dwayne Johnson in ‘Hercules’ for MGM and Paramount (Exclusive)”The Hollywood Reporter. 21 March 2013.

Kroll, Justin. “Ingrid Bolsø Set to Battle with Dwayne Johnson in ‘Hercules’ (Exclusive)”Variety, 2 May 2013.

McClintock, Pamela. “Brett Ratner and Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules to Hit Theaters in August 2014”The Hollywood Reporter, 15 January 2013.

Weitzman, Elizabeth. “Hercules: movie review”New York Daily News, 25 July 2014.

Zuckerman, Esther. “The Most Unexpected Quotes from ‘Hercules’ Reviews”The Wire, 24 July 2014.

“Hercules 3D Blu-ray”Blu-ray.com.

“Hercules (2014)”. Box Office Mojo. 25 July 2014.

“The Rock Opens Up About ‘Hercules’ Preparation”. Muscleandfitness.com.

“Hercules”. Rotten Tomatoes. 1970-01-01.

“Hercules Reviews”. Metacritic.

Book 6; Thought 20

Sphaeristerium ~ This was an open-air gymnasium attached to a public bath complex.

In the gymnastic exercises suppose that a man has torn thee with his nails, and by dashing against thy head has inflicted a wound. Well, we neither show any signs of vexation, nor are we offended, nor do we suspect him afterwards as a treacherous fellow; and yet we are on our guard against him, not however as an enemy, nor yet with suspicion, but we quietly get out of his way. Something like this let thy behavior be in all the other parts of life; let us overlook many things in those who are like antagonists in the gymnasium. For it is in our power, as I said, to get out of the way, and to have no suspicion nor hatred.

Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Last week we were in Greece to uncover the Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessalonika.

Today we’re traveling all the way to the Ukraine as we check out the Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora!

Remains of the theatre from the ancient city of Tauric Chersonese.

Tauric Chersonese and its chora are the remains of an ancient city, founded in the 5th Century BC as a colonial settlement of the Dorian Greeks, located on the Heraclean Peninsula in south-west Crimea. The polis and extended chora of Tauric Chersonese form an outstanding example of an ancient cultural landscape, consisting of a Greek polis and its agricultural hinterland established as part of colonist activities in the 4th and 3rd Century BC.

The significant archaeological ruins of the city retain physical remains constructed between the 5th Century BC and the 13th Century AD laid out on an orthogonal grid system. The basic orientation of this orthogonal grid continues into the wider landscape where fragments of a vast land demarcation system of 400 equal allotments in an area of 24,710 acres have been preserved.

The Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its chora is an exceptional example of a peripheral center of movement of people which acted as an important gateway to the north-eastern parts of the Greek trade influence, including the Crimea and the Scythian state. The city maintained its strategic role over almost 2 millennia and provides a unique example for the continuity and longevity of a mercantile outpost connecting the different Black Sea trade routes.

The site features several public building complexes and residential neighborhoods, as well as early Christian monuments alongside remains from Stone and Bronze Age settlements; Roman and Medieval tower fortifications and water supply systems; and exceptionally well-preserved examples of vineyard planting and dividing walls.

How This Relates to Rome:

Beginning in the 6th Century BC, colonies of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and the Byzantine Empire, such as Tyras, Olbia and Chersonesus, were founded on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea. These colonies thrived well into the 6th Century AD being known as the most productive wine center of the Black Sea and remained a hub of exchange between populations north of the Black Sea.

The 1935 Basilica, named as such since the true name has never been discovered.

Chersonesus was subject to Rome from the middle of the 1st Century BC until the 370s AD, when it was captured by the Huns.

It became a Byzantine possession during the Early Middle Ages and withstood a siege by the Göktürks in 581. Byzantine rule was slight, and there was a small imperial garrison more for the town’s protection than for its control.

Its isolation made it a popular place of exile for those who angered the Roman and later Byzantine governments. Among its more famous “inmates” were Pope Clement IPope Martin I, and the deposed Byzantine Emperor Justinian II.

Thanks for taking the tour with us today. We hope you’re inspired to take further adventures within the Roman Empire.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Porolissum: A Military Camp in Roman Dacia

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Many of you may not know that I am trying to be a teacher for Grades 4-8. I really want History (obviously) but would enjoy Language Arts as well.

That being said, for the past month I have been studying for my certification exam. That leaves only 1 more test to take before I can become a certified teacher here in Texas.

Today we bring you brand new content as we head to Roman Dacia and uncover Porolissum!

Porolissum was an Ancient Roman city in Dacia. Established as a military camp in AD 106 during Trajan’s Dacian Wars, the city quickly grew through trade with the native Dacians and became the capital of the Provincia (Province) Dacia Porolissensis in AD 124.

The site is one of the largest and best-preserved archaeological sites in modern-day Romania. It is almost 5 miles away from the modern city of Zalău, in Jac village, Creaca Commune, Sălaj County.

On the Limes Daci (Dacian Frontier Boundary) in the north-west of Romania, in the center of Porolissum, an underground building was discovered in 1984. From the excavations thereafter we have come to discover a once healthy Roman castrum (fort).

Roman Legionaries at Porolissum Fest

In AD 106, at the beginning of his Second Dacian War, Emperor Trajan established a military stronghold at the site to defend the main passageway through the Carpathian Mountains. The castrum, initially built of wood on stone foundations, was garrisoned with 5,000 Auxilia (Auxiliary) troops transferred from HispaniaGallia and Britannia.

Set on the Pomet Hill and the adjacent Citera Hill, the earliest phase of occupation consisted of the administrative headquarters, military barracks, and storage facilities constructed in timber. A massive defensive system surrounding the city was fabricated in a series of concentric rings consisting of earthen mounds, ditches, and wooden palisades.

Reconstruction of Porolissum

The name Porolissum appears to be Dacian in origin, and was thought to be an already established village. However, archaeologists have not been able to uncover any evidence of a Dacian settlement preceding the Roman fort.

In the following decades, possibly under the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the castrum was enlarged and rebuilt in stone. A Canaba, a civilian settlement developed around the military center, was also added at this point.

Altar dedicating Porolissum

In AD 124 when Hadrian created the new province Dacia Porolissensis, named for the now sizable city, Porolissum became the administrative center of the province. Under Emperor Septimius Severus, the city was granted municipium status, allowing its leaders and merchants to act independently.

Although the Romans withdrew from Dacia around AD 271 under Aurelian, Porolissum may have been gradually abandoned in the course of the 260’s. Evidence from the excavations and research is still being conducted to prove this.

Even though the city was founded as a military center in the middle of a war, the garrison of Porolissum seems to have lived in peaceful coexistence with their Dacian neighbors. Several Dacian villages that were apparently founded after the city of Porolissum have been uncovered by archaeologists on the surrounding hills.

There are also some inscriptions mentioning city officials with Romano-Dacian names. This would indicate a close cooperation on a political level.

The temple of Nemesis

The sanctuary of Porolissum was built in the 2nd Century AD. Probably it was a place of worship of other deities, it seems that the primary deity would have been Nemesis (goddess of justice, fortune and destiny).

Said to influence the fate of those who frequently faced death and danger, Nemesis was especially worshiped by Legionarii (Legionaries) and gladiators. The goddess was also closely linked to world of amphitheaters, and due to this places of worship dedicated to Nemesis are near amphitheaters or even embedded in the building.

The amphitheater (157 AD)

The amphitheater of Porolissum was built as a wood structure during the reign of Hadrian. Later, in 157 AD, it had been rebuilt in stone.

The aim of the teaching excavation has been the careful clearing of the building and clarification of its function. All work has been integrated into an international university community of interest of teachers and students, composed of archaeologists, architects, archaeobotographers, restorers and surveyors.

ERASMUS supports the work within an intensive program, whereby it is possible to bring together students of different disciplines and to provide them with an in-depth, interdisciplinary education for archaeological field work.

The temple of Liber Pater

Limited archaeological work at Porolissum began in the 19th Century, but it was not until 1977 when Romanian archaeologists began larger-scale, systematic excavations. The excavations by a number of teams have uncovered remnants of both the military installations and the civilian city, including public baths, a customs house, a Templum (Temple) to Liber Pater, an amphitheatre, Insulae consisting of 4 buildings, and a number of houses.

The Porta Praetoria (Main Gate) of the stone fortress has been rebuilt. A joint American-Romanian team, the Porolissum Forum Project, excavated an area of the civilian settlement from 2004-2011 but the team confirmed that while this area served a public function, it was not necessarily a forum.

The rebuilt Praetorian Gate (Porta Praetoria)

In the 1980s, Nicolae Gudea carried out extensive investigations in the Roman fort, which had previously been known by excavations at the fortifications and the headquarters building. Gudea clarified the building structures, and came across an underground building west of the staff building.

The finds from the then discovered cellar were very unusual for a simple building: statuette fragments, inscription fragments and wall plastering were indicative of a construction with a special function. It seemed possible that it was a meeting room for followers of the Mithras cult.

In 2008, a new project was set up to examine in detail the building and to clarify the architecture, age and function. Before the excavation, the area was surveyed and used geophysics.

The temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus Dolichenus

After the protective building was erected and a surveying network was installed, 4 sections were created, in which participants participated in international teams. Here, all the excavation steps, such as large-scale and fine earthworks, surveying, the graphic, photographic and written documentation of the findings and the expert collection of finds were learned.

Architecture students and study students measured the building’s own buildings, and the restoration of the restoration ensured fragile materials. All participants were encouraged to work in the other working groups in order to gain practical insights into the post-biodiversity.

Roman road leading to Porolissum

The excavations have shown that the floor of the building has been preserved approximately 13 feet below the present surface. It consists of carefully laid-out brick slabs.

The walls of the walls, which are up to 5.6 feet upright, are curved in the upper part and probably have supports for a wooden roof structure. Since there are no traces of a roofing tile, despite the good judgment, the question of roofing is still open.

With the southernmost section, the south end of the basement building could be reached, so that its total expansion of 18 x 72 feet (inside) is now fixed. In the interior, massive rubble layers were again found from the collapse of the stone walls of the building and its neighboring building.

It was confirmed that the floor was made of interlocked brick slabs. On the south side of the building a clay pipe was discovered, which had been laid across the southern wall.

As in the previous year, parallel to the excavation, a survey was made, in which ceramics were washed, sighted, registered, drawn and photographed, and small finds were restored and documented. In addition, soil samples from the interior of the building were used for palaeobotanical investigations, the samples were slurried and paleobotanic residues were sorted out.

Excavation of the fort’s Headquarters

In 2011, the final state of the investigations in the underground building located west of the Principia (Fort Headquarters) was recorded in a 3D laser scanner. The start of construction of the 24.6 x 82 feet plant is made possible by a building sacrifice, consisting of a play stone, an iron object (perhaps a trowel), a half bovine mandible and 3 coins that have a terminus post quem in the reign of Antoninus Pius.

The cistern with a well-connected well to the south was rebuilt several times, and may not have been used continuously as water storage. This is indicated by various, not water-resistant, plasterings of the room.

Dacian combatants at Porolissum Fest

In the filling, which fell into the building immediately after its task, there were plenty of ceramic vessels, above all drinking utensils, as well as numerous round-cut ceramic pieces, which were to be interpreted as playing stones in the context of glass and leg sketches as well as 2 dice. The found material, which is characteristic of Tabernae, probably comes from a space above the water storage.

From 2006 until 2011, another project, “Necropolis Porolissensis”, was running focused on the cemetery of the municipium Porolissum, on the spot known as “Ursoies”. From 2008 to 2011 a Romanian-German-Hungarian team was excavating an underground-building in the center of the castle, probably a water cistern.

In 2015, archaeologists from Zalău County Museum unearthed a stone sarcophagus containing skeletal remains of a young person. The sarcophagus is unusual because it was not found in the cemetery, rather it was discovered by chance during restoration of another part of the ruins.

Magura Moigrad as seen from Porolissum.

The limestone lid has carvings that were common in Roman times. A hole in the lid suggests that the grave was robbed in antiquity.

A contemporary use of “Polissum” is the primary setting of Gunpowder Empire, a science fiction novel by Harry Turtledove, set in Dacia Province. It is unclear whether the name change is a mistake or a deliberate obfuscation.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure and look forward to having you back again soon. Be sure to keep track of us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Gudea, N. Dacia: A Roman province between the Carpathians and the Black Sea. Mainz, 2006).

Gudea, N.; Tamba, D. “Sanctuaries and Military in Porolissum”. Proceedings of the XIXth International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies held in Pécs, Hungary, September 2003.

Schütte, Gudmund. “Ptolemy’s maps of northern Europe, a reconstruction of the prototypes”. The Royal Danish Geographical Society, 1917.

Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites – Entry for Porolissum.

Romanian-German-Hungarian excavation inside the castle

Porolissum Forum Project