Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Last week we were in Belgium as we visited the Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta (Brussels).

Today we’re headed to Graecia as we check out the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae!

Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae

This famous temple to to Apollo Epikourios (Apollo the Helper), the god of healing and the sun, was built towards the middle of the 5th Century BC in the lonely heights of the Arcadian mountains. The temple, which has the oldest Corinthian capital yet found, combines the Archaic style and the serenity of the Doric style with some daring architectural features.

The temple is aligned north-south, in contrast to the majority of Greek temples which are aligned east-west. This temple’s principal entrance is from the north.

This was necessitated by the limited space available on the steep slopes of the mountain. To overcome this restriction a door was placed in the side of the temple, perhaps to let light in to illuminate the cult statue.

Floor plan of the Temple of Apollo (1 = Opisthodomos, 2 = Adyton, 3 = Naos, 4 = Pronaos).

It was relatively sparsely decorated on the exterior. Inside, however, there was a continuous Ionic frieze showing Athenians in battle with Amazons and the Lapiths engaged in battle with Centaurs.

The temple had been noticed first in November 1765 by the French architect J. Bocher, who was building villas at Zante and came upon it quite by accident. The site was explored in 1812 with the permission of Veli Pasha, the Turkish commander of the Peloponnese, by a group of British antiquaries who removed 23 slabs from the Ionic cella frieze and transported them to Zante along with other sculptures.

The temple’s remoteness has worked to its advantage for its preservation. Due to its distance from major metropolitan areas it also has less of a problem with acid rain which quickly dissolves limestone and damages marble carvings.

How This Relates to Rome:

The Greek peninsula first came under Roman rule in 146 BC after the Battle of Corinth when Macedonia became a Roman province, while southern Greece came under the surveillance of Macedonia’s Praefect.

Life in Greece continued under the Roman Empire much the same as it had previously. Roman culture was highly influenced by the Greeks.

Many temples and public buildings were built in Greece by Emperors and wealthy Roman nobility. Greece remained part of the relatively unified eastern half of the empire, which eventually became the center of the remaining Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire.

Thanks for stopping by and we hope you join us again soon. Be sure to check us out again since you never know where we’ll wind up.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

The Grand Tour: No Longer Just for Rich Men

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If you are anything like us, then you love to travel. As part of our travels, we love to learn about where we are going.

What should we see? Why should we go this tour instead of that? Where should we eat? How do we get around?

Today we embark on the most lavish journey (maybe ever) as we set out on The Grand Tour!

Map of 18th Century Grand Tour (typical route shown in blue).

Before we begin, without knowing a thing about this tour you should probably be able to guess that it is something special since “Grand” is in the name. The Grand Tour was the traditional trip of Europe undertaken by mainly upper class, young European men of means, or those of more humble origin who could find a sponsor.

Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland (1640–1702), painted in classical dress in Rome by Carlo Maratti.

The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transport in the 1840s, and was associated with a standard travel itinerary. Seen as an educational rite of passage, this trip was primarily associated with the British nobility and wealthy landed gentry.

Similar trips were made by wealthy young men of Protestant Northern European nations, and from the latter half of the 18th Century, by some South and North Americans. The tradition declined with the lapse of neoclassical enthusiasm and after rail and steamship travel made the journeys much easier.

The primary value of The Grand Tour lay in the exposure both to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, and to the aristocratic and fashionably polite society of the European continent. In addition, it provided the only opportunity to view specific works of art, and possibly the only chance to hear certain music.

Cicerone on The Grand Tour

A Grand Tour could last from several months to several years, mostly depending on how much money you had. It was commonly undertaken in the company of a Cicerone (knowledgeable guide or tutor).

The Grand Tour had more than superficial cultural importance. E. P. Thompson stated, “ruling-class control in the 18th Century was located primarily in a cultural hegemony, and only secondarily in an expression of economic or physical (military) power.”

The most common itinerary of The Grand Tour shifted across generations in the cities it embraced, but the British tourist usually began in DoverEngland and crossed the English Channel to Ostend, in the Netherlands / Belgium, or to Calais or Le Havre in France. From there the tourist, usually accompanied by a bear-leader (tutor) and, if wealthy enough, a troop of servants could rent or acquire a coach (which could be resold in any city or disassembled and packed across the Alps, as in Giacomo Casanova‘s travels, who resold it on completion), or opt to make the trip by boat as far as the Alps, either travelling up the Seine to Paris, or up the Rhine to Basel.

The Louvre in Paris was a definite stop for anyone on The Grand Tour.

Upon hiring a French-speaking guide, as French was the dominant language of the elite in Europe during the 17th and 18th Centuries, the tourist and his entourage would travel to Paris. There the traveler might undertake lessons in Frenchdancingfencing, and riding.

The appeal of Paris lay in the sophisticated language and manners of French high society, including courtly behavior and fashion. This served the purpose of preparing the young man for a leadership position at home, often in government or diplomacy.

From Paris he would typically go to urban Switzerland for a while, often to Geneva (the cradle of the Protestant Reformation) or Lausanne. From there the traveler would endure a difficult crossing over the Alps into northern Italy (such as at the Great St Bernard Pass).

This would include dismantling the carriage and luggage. If one was wealthy enough, one might be carried over the hard terrain by servants.

Venice and the Grand Canal

Once in Italy, the tourist would visit Turin (and, less often, Milan), then might spend a few months in Florence, where there was a considerable Anglo-Italian society accessible to travelling Englishmen “of quality” and where the Tribuna of the Uffizi gallery brought together in one space the monuments of High Renaissance paintings and Roman sculptures that would inspire picture galleries adorned with antiquities at home. Side trips would be taken to Pisa, then move on to PaduaBologna, and Venice since the British viewed it as the “locus of decadent Italianate allure” making Venice an epitome and cultural setpiece of the Grand Tour.

The interior of the Pantheon in the 18th Century, painted by Giovanni Paolo Panini.

From Venice the traveler went to Rome to study the ruins of Ancient Rome, and the masterpieces of painting, sculpture, and architecture of Rome’s Early Christian, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Some travelers also visited Naples to study music, and (after the mid-18th Century) to appreciate the recently discovered archaeological sites of Herculaneum and Pompeii, and perhaps (for the adventurous) an ascent of Mount Vesuvius.

Later in the period the more adventurous, especially if provided with a yacht, might attempt Sicily (the site of Greek ruins), Malta or even Greece itself (though still under Turkish rule). But Naples, or later the further south Paestum, was the usual last stop.

Portrait of 18th Century Vienna

From here the traveler again traversed the Alps heading north through to the German-speaking parts of Europe. The traveler might stop first in Innsbruck before visiting ViennaDresdenBerlin, and Potsdam, with perhaps some study time at the universities in Munich or Heidelberg.

From Germany, travelers then visited Holland and Flanders with more gallery-going and art appreciation. Once they got their fill, the travelers would return back across the Channel to England.

Portrait of Douglas, 8th Duke of Hamilton, on his Grand Tour with his physician Dr John Moore and the latter’s son John (view of Geneva is in the distance), by Jean Preudhomme in 1774.

The Grand Tour was neither a scholar’s pilgrimage nor a religious one, though a pleasurable stay in Venice and a cautious residence in Rome were essential. Catholic Grand Tourists followed the same routes as Protestant Whigs.

Since the 17th Century, a tour to such places was also considered essential for budding young artists to understand proper painting and sculpture techniques. The trappings of The Grand Tour (valets, coachmen, a bear-leader, and perhaps a cook) were usually beyond their reach though.

The advent of popular guides did much to popularize such trips, and following the artists themselves, the elite considered travel to such centers as necessary rites of passage. For gentlemen, some works of art were essential to demonstrate the breadth and polish they had received from their tour.

In Rome, antiquarians like Thomas Jenkins provided access to private collections of antiquities, enough antiquities proved to be for sale that the English market raised the price of such things. Purchasing coins and medals, which formed more portable souvenirs, proved to be a respected gentleman’s guide to ancient history.

Pompeo Batoni made a career of painting English milordi posed with graceful ease among Roman antiquities. Rome for many centuries had been the goal of pilgrims, especially during Jubilee when they visited the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome.

The title page of Coryat’s Crudities, printed in 1611.

In Britain, an early influence on The Grand Tour was Thomas Coryat‘s travel book Coryat’s Crudities (1611), which was published during the Twelve Years’ Truce. However, it was the far more extensive tour through Italy as far as Naples undertaken by the ‘Collector’ Earl of Arundel with his wife and children in 1613–14 that established the most significant precedent.

This is partly because he asked Inigo Jones, not yet established as an architect but already known as a ‘great traveler’ and masque designer, to act as his Cicerone. Larger numbers of tourists began their tours after the Peace of Münster in 1648.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded use of the term ‘The Grand Tour’ (perhaps its introduction to English) was by Richard Lassels, an expatriate Roman Catholic priest, in his book The Voyage of Italy, which was published posthumously in 1670. Lassels’s introduction listed 4 areas in which travel furnished “an accomplished, consummate Traveler”: the intellectual, the social, the ethical, and the political.

Contrast between Roman ruins and modern peasants of the Roman Campagna, by Nicolaes Pietersz Berchem (1661, Mauritshuis).

The idea of travelling for the sake of curiosity and learning was a developing idea in the 17th Century. With John Locke‘s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), it was argued, and widely accepted, that knowledge comes entirely from the external senses, that what one knows comes from the physical stimuli to which one has been exposed.

Thus, one could use the environment, taking from it all that is offered, requiring a change of place. Travel, therefore, was necessary for one to develop the mind and expand knowledge of the world.

As a young man at the outset of his account of a repeating The Grand Tour, historian Edward Gibbon remarked, “According to the law of custom, and perhaps of reason, foreign travel completes the education of an English gentleman.” Consciously adapted for intellectual self-improvement, Gibbon was “revisiting the Continent on a larger and more liberal plan”.

William Beckford’s Grand Tour through Europe (shown in red).

Most Grand Tourists did not pause more than briefly in libraries. On the eve of the Romantic era in which he played a significant part in introducing, William Beckford wrote a vivid account of his Grand Tour that made Gibbon’s unadventurous Italian tour look distinctly conventional.

The typical 18th Century sentiment was that of the studious observer travelling through foreign lands reporting his findings on human nature for those unfortunate enough to have stayed home. Recounting one’s observations to society at large to increase its welfare was considered an obligation.

British Army Officer William Gordon in front of the Roman Colosseum, by Pompeo Batoni (1765-66).

The Grand Tour flourished in this mindset for it offered a liberal education, and the opportunity to acquire things otherwise unavailable at home, thus lending an air of accomplishment and prestige to the traveler. Grand Tourists would return with crates full of books, works of art, scientific instruments, and cultural artifacts to be displayed in libraries, cabinets, gardens, drawing rooms, and galleries built for that purpose.

The trappings of The Grand Tour, especially portraits of the traveler painted in iconic continental settings, became the obligatory emblems of worldliness, gravitas and influence. Artists who especially thrived on Grand Tourists included Carlo Maratti, who was first patronized by John Evelyn as early as 1645, Pompeo Batoni, and the vedutisti such as CanalettoPannini and Guardi.

Pannini’s gallery of Roman antiques

The less well-off could return with an album of Piranesi etchings. Not everyone was made of money, and most of these trips happened before postcards and souvenirs were created.

After the arrival of steam-powered transportation (around 1825) The Grand Tour custom continued, but it was of a qualitative difference (cheaper to undertake, safer, easier, open to anyone). During much of the 19th Century, most educated young men of privilege undertook The Grand Tour which now included Germany and Switzerland in a more broadly defined circuit.

A Room with a View book cover

Later, it became fashionable for young women as well. A trip to Italy, with a spinster aunt as chaperon, was part of the upper-class woman’s education, as in E. M. Forster‘s novel A Room with a View.

It is important to see the contribution of anthropology to the study of The Grand Tour. An anthropologist argues that The Grand Tour emerged in England and was rapidly adopted by other Northern countries because its cultural roots came from Norse Mythology.

Among Indo-Arian mythologies, Norse culture is the only one where its major god, Odin, travels long distances to learn the customs and habits of humans. The ruler of Asgaard was accustomed to undertake his adventures in the form of animals.

Odin has been described as an ongoing wanderer whose hunger of adventure and risk has no limits. Operating under many disguises and using false identities, Odin is said to symbolize how pain is a necessary step to access unlimited knowledge, and this is the main value that The Grand Tour emulates.

The Grand Tour – Volume 1 by Thomas Nugent (1 January 1749).

Published personal accounts of The Grand Tour provide illuminating detail and a first-hand perspective of the experience. Examining some accounts offered by authors in their own lifetimes, they should be approached as travel literature rather than unvarnished accounts.

Examples of such literature come from Joseph Addison, William Beckford (whose Dreams, Waking Thoughts, and Incidents was a published account of his letters back home in 1780, embellished with stream-of-consciousness associations), William Coxe, Elizabeth CravenJohn Moore (tutor to successive dukes of Hamilton), Samuel Jackson PrattTobias SmollettPhilip Thicknesse, and Arthur YoungLord Byron‘s letters to his mother with the accounts of his travels have also been published.

Ida Saxton on The Grand Tour (before she became First Lady to US President McKinley).

Inventor Sir Francis Ronalds’ journals and sketches of his 1818–20 tour to Europe and the Near East have been published on the web. The letters written by sisters Mary and Ida Saxton of Canton, Ohio in 1869 while on a 6-month tour offer insight into The Grand Tour tradition from an American perspective.

In 1998, the BBC produced an art history series Sister Wendy’s Grand Tour presented by Carmelite nun Sister Wendy. Presumably an art history series, the journey takes her from Madrid to Saint Petersburg with stop-offs to see the great masterpieces.

In 2005, British art historian Brian Sewell followed in the footsteps of the Grand Tourists for a 10-part television series Brian Sewell’s Grand Tour. Produced by UK’s Channel Five, Sewell travelled by car and confined his attention solely to Italy stopping in Rome, Florence, Naples, Pompeii, Turin, Milan, Cremona, Siena, Bologna, Vicenza, Paestum, Urbino, Tivoli and concluding at a Venetian masked ball.

Brian Sewell’s Grand Tour poster

In 2008, The New York Times described The Grand Tour in this way:

Three hundred years ago, wealthy young Englishmen began taking a post-Oxbridge trek through France and Italy in search of art, culture and the roots of Western civilization. With nearly unlimited funds, aristocratic connections and months (or years) to roam, they commissioned paintings, perfected their language skills and mingled with the upper crust of the Continent.

Cover of serial Vol. 4 of Dickens’ Little Dorrit (March 1856).

In 2009, The Grand Tour featured prominently in a BBC/PBS miniseries based on Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. Set mainly in Venice, it portrayed The Grand Tour as a rite of passage.

Kevin McCloud presented Kevin McCloud’s Grand Tour on Channel 4 in 2009, with McCloud retracing the tours of British architects. The 2016 Amazon motoring program The Grand Tour is named after the traditional Grand Tour, and refers to the show being set in a different location worldwide each week.

The legacy of The Grand Tour lives on to the modern day and is still evident in works of travel and literature. From its aristocratic origins and the permutations of sentimental and romantic travel to the age of tourism and globalization, The Grand Tour still influences the destinations tourists choose and shapes the ideas of culture and sophistication that surround the act of travel.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure, maybe even inspiring you on a Grand Tour of your own. Be sure to stop by again soon for we never know where we’ll end up.

17th Century painting of the Arch of Constantine with the Colosseum in the background (Rome, Italy).

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Bignamini, Ilaria; Hornsby, Clare. Digging and Dealing in Eighteenth Century Rome. Yale University Press, 2010.

Bohls, Elizabeth; Duncan, Ian. Travel Writing 1700–1830 : An Anthology. Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-19-284051-7

Buzard, James. “The Grand Tour and after (1660–1840)”. The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing, 2002. ISBN 0-521-78140-X.

Chaney, Edward. The Evolution of the Grand Tour: Anglo-Italian Cultural Relations since the Renaissance. Routledge, 2000. ISBN 0-7146-4474-9.

Chaney, Edward. The Evolution of English Collecting. Yale University Press, 2003.

Chaney, Edward; Wilks, Timothy. The Jacobean Grand Tour: Early Stuart Travellers in Europe. I.B. Tauris, 2014. ISBN 978 1 78076 783 3.

Colletta, Lisa. The Legacy of the Grand Tour: New Essays on Travel, Literature, and Culture. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2015. ISBN 978 1 61147 797 9.

Fussell, Paul. “The Eighteenth Century and the Grand Tour”. The Norton Book of Travel, 1987. ISBN 0-393-02481-4.

Gross, Matt. “Lessons From the Frugal Grand Tour.” New York Times, 5 September 2008.

Hornsby, Clare. “The Impact of Italy: The Grand Tour and Beyond”. British School at Rome, 2000.

Stephens, Richard. A Catalogue Raisonné of Francis Towne (1739–1816). Paul Mellon Centre, 2016. doi:10.17658/towne.

Trease, Geoffrey. The Grand Tour. Yale University Press, 1991.

Witon, Andrew; Bignamini, Ilaria. Grand Tour: The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth-Century. Tate Gallery Exhibition Catalogue, 1997.

Pompeii (#4)

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Today we continue examining the list of 52 Ancient Roman Monuments which had been claimed as a “must see” by Touropia Travel Experts. The last location we had checked out was #5 – Pont du Gard.

Today we’re headed to the Campania region of Italy as we explore #4 – Pompeii!

Forum of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius (Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection).

The ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii are located near the modern suburban town of Pompei (nowadays written with a single ‘i’). It stands on a spur formed by a lava flow to the north of the mouth of the Sarno River (known in ancient times as the Sarnus).

It was a major city in the region of Campania, covering a total of 170 acres, and was home to approximately 11,000 to 11,500 people on the basis of household counts. Today it is some distance inland, but in ancient times was nearer to the coast.

An eruption of Vesuvius seen from Portici, by Joseph Wright (ca. 1774-6).

Pompeii is about 5 miles away from Mount Vesuvius, which led to its demise. Along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, Pompeii was mostly destroyed and buried under 13 to 20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Researchers believe that the town was founded in the 7th or 6th Ccentury BC by the Osci. It came under the domination of the Res Publica Romana (Roman Republic) in the 4th Century BC, and was conquered and became a Colonia (Roman Colony) in 80 BC after it joined an unsuccessful rebellion against Rome.

Annotated map of Pompeii

By the time of its destruction, 160 years later, Pompeii had a complex water system, an amphitheatre, gymnasium, and a port. This destruction was a major blow to Rome both physically and psychologically.

The archaeological digs at the site extend to the street level of the AD 79. Deeper digs in older parts of Pompeii and core samples of nearby drillings have exposed layers of jumbled sediment that suggest that the city had suffered from other seismic events before the eruption.

Three sheets of sediment have been found on top of the lava that lies below the city and, mixed in with the sediment, archaeologists have found bits of animal bone, pottery shards and plants. Carbon dating has placed the oldest of these layers from the 8th-6th Centuries BC (around the time the city was founded).

Layers in the earth around Pompeii.

The other 2 strata are separated either by well-developed soil layers or Roman pavement, and were laid in the 4th and 2nd Century BC. It is theorized that the layers of the jumbled sediment were created by large landslides, perhaps triggered by extended rainfall.

The town was founded by the Osci people of central Italy on what was an important crossroad between CumaeNola and Stabiae. It had already been used as a safe port by Greek and Phoenician sailors.

Porta Nocera Necropolis Pompeii

According to Strabo, Pompeii was also captured by the Etruscans, and in fact recent excavations have shown the presence of Etruscan inscriptions and a 6th Century BC necropolis.

The excavated city offers a snapshot of Roman life in the 1st Century, frozen at the moment it was buried on 24 August AD 79. The forum, the baths, many houses, and some out-of-town villas like the Villa of the Mysteries remain well preserved.

Details of everyday life are even well preserved. For example, on the floor of one of the houses (Sirico’s), a famous inscription Salve, Lucru (Welcome, Profit) indicates a trading company owned by a pair of partners, Sirico and Nummianus.

Mural painting from fullonica at Pompeii (National museum of Naples).

Other houses provide details concerning professions and categories, such as for the laundry workers (Fullones). Wine jars have been found bearing what is apparently the world’s earliest known marketing pun Vesuvinum (combining Vesuvius and the Latin for wine, vinum).

The numerous graffiti carved on the walls and inside rooms provides a wealth of information regarding Vulgar Latin, the form of Latin spoken colloquially rather than the literary language of the classical writers.

By the 1st Century AD, the area had a substantial population which had grown prosperous from the region’s renowned agricultural fertility. The eruption occurred on 24 August AD 79, just one day after Vulcanalia, the festival of the Roman god of fire, including that from volcanoes.

The black cloud represents the general distribution of ash, pumice and cinders from the 79 AD eruption (modern coast lines are shown).

A multidisciplinary study of the eruption products and victims, merged with numerical simulations and experiments, indicates that heat was the main cause of death of people at Vesuvius and surrounding towns, previously believed to have been ash suffocation. The results of the study, published in 2010, show that exposure to at least 482 °F hot surges (known as pyroclastic flows) at a distance of 6 miles from the vent was sufficient to cause instant death, even if people were sheltered within buildings.

Pliny the Younger

The people and buildings of Pompeii were covered in up to 12 different layers of tephra, in total 82 feet deep, which rained down for about 6 hours. Pliny the Younger provided a first-hand account of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius from his position across the Bay of Naples at Misenum, in a version he wrote 25 years after the event.

His uncle, Pliny the Elder, died while attempting to rescue stranded victims. As Admiral of the Fleet, Pliny the Elder had ordered the ships of the Imperial Navy stationed at Misenum to cross the bay to assist evacuation attempts.

Pliny the Elder

The eruption was documented by contemporary historians and is generally accepted as having started on 24 August 79, relying on a version of the text of Pliny’s letter. However the archeological excavations of Pompeii suggest that the city was buried about 3 months later, and is supported by another version of the letter, which gives the date of the eruption as 23 November.

People buried in the ash appear to have been wearing heavier clothing than the light summer clothes typical of August. The fresh fruit and vegetables in the shops are typical of October while the summer fruit typical of August was already being sold in dried form.

Wine fermenting jars had been sealed, which would have happened around the end of October. Coins found in the purse of a woman buried in the ash include one with a 15th Imperatorial acclamation among the Emperor‘s titles.

These coins could not have been minted before the 2nd week of September. There is no definitive theory as to why there should be such an apparent discrepancy.

After thick layers of ash covered the surrounding towns, they were abandoned and eventually their names and locations were forgotten.

Archaeologists uncovering a bread-oven among the ruins of Pompeii (1880s Stretched Canvas Print).

The site was lost for about 1,500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599, when the digging of an underground channel to divert the Sarno River ran into ancient walls covered with paintings and inscriptions. Architect Domenico Fontana was called in and he unearthed a few more frescoes.

Fontana then covered them over again, and nothing more came of the discovery. A wall inscription had mentioned a decurio Pompeii (the town councilor of Pompeii) but its reference to the long-forgotten Roman city was missed.

Satyr and nymph mosaic from Pompeii, 2nd Century BC (National Archaeological Museum, Naples).

Fontana’s covering over the paintings has been seen both as censorship, in view of the frequent sexual content of such paintings and as a broad-minded act of preservation for later times. He would have known that paintings of the hedonistic kind later found in some Pompeian villas were not considered in good taste in the climate of the counter-reformation.

Herculaneum was properly rediscovered in 1738 by workmen digging for the foundations of a summer palace for the King of NaplesCharles of Bourbon. Charles of Bourbon took great interest in the findings even after becoming king of Spain because the display of antiquities reinforced the political and cultural power of Naples.

Almost 150 years later, a broader rediscovery of Pompeii occurred as the result of intentional excavations by Spanish military engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre in 1748. The objects that lay beneath the city have been preserved for centuries because of the lack of air and moisture.

Plaster casts of the victims from the Garden of the Fugitives.

These artefacts provide an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city during the Pax Romana. During the excavation, plaster was used to fill in the voids in the ash layers that once held human bodies which allowed archaeologists to see the exact position the person was in when he or she died.

Swiss architect and engineer Karl Weber directed the opening actual excavations, and was followed in 1764 by military engineer Franscisco la Vega. Franscisco la Vega was succeeded by his brother, Pietro, in 1804, then during the French occupation Pietro worked with Christophe Saliceti.

Pompeii has been a popular tourist destination for over 250 years, aside from the unique story of the city it still has many intact buildings and wall paintings people find intriguing. It became so popular that the site was put on the Grand Tour.

A paved street of Pompeii

By 2008 Pompeii was attracting almost 2.6 million visitors per year, making it one of the most popular tourist sites In Italy. It is part of a larger Vesuvius National Park and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Excavations in the site have generally ceased due to the suspension imposed by the superintendent of the site, Professor Pietro Giovanni Guzzo. Additionally, the site is generally less accessible to tourists, with less than a third of all buildings open in the 1960s being available for public viewing today.

To combat problems associated with tourism the governing body for Pompeii, the Soprintendenza Archaeological di Pompei, has begun issuing new tickets that allow for tourists to also visit the other lost cities. By encouraging visitors to see sites like HerculaneumStabiae, or the Villa Poppaea will hopefully help reduce pressure on the remains of Pompeii.

Roman fresco Villa dei Misteri

Pompeii is also a driving force behind the economy of the nearby town of Pompei. Many residents are employed in the tourism and hospitality business, serving as taxi or bus drivers, waiters or hotel operators.

The ruins can be easily reached on foot from the Circumvesuviana train stop called Pompei Scavi, directly at the ancient site. There are also car parks nearby.

Pompeii Guided Tour

Nevertheless, the sections of the ancient city open to the public are extensive, and tourists can spend several days exploring the whole site. Maybe you will want to make the journey to Pompeii and Vesuvius National Park yourself.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and thank you for stopping by. Be sure to Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Beard, Mary. Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town. Profile Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1-86197-596-6.

Butterworth, Alex; Laurence, Ray. Pompeii: The Living City. St. Martin’s Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-312-35585-2.

Kraus, Theodor. Pompeii and Herculaneum: The Living Cities of the Dead. H. N. Abrams. ISBN 978-0-81090-418-7.

Parslow, Christopher. Rediscovering antiquity: Karl Weber and the excavation of Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabiae. Cambridge University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-521-47150-8.

Shelley Hales; Joanna Paul. Pompeii in the Public Imagination from Its Rediscovery to Today. Oxford University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-19956-936-6.

Wallace, Alia. “Presenting Pompeii: Steps towards Reconciling Conservation and Tourism at an Ancient Site”. Papers from the Institute of ArchaeologyUbiquity Press, 2012. doi:10.5334/pia.406.

Ancient History Encyclopedia – Pompeii

Official website

Tubilustrium: Celebrating the Campaigning Season

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Some days you just need to cut loose and have a festival, no matter what it’s for. Martius (March), although not as many celebratory days as Februarius (February), is still not without its festivities.

So if you’re in the mood, or just need a reason to revel in something, join us as today we experience Tubilustrium!

Relief showing the war trumpets played for Tubilustrium.

In Ancient Rome, the month of Martius was the traditional start of the campaigning season. The Tubilustrium was a ceremony to make the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) fit for war.

The festival was held on 23 March, the last day of the Quinquatria festival held in tribute to the Roman God Mars and Nerine, a Sabine goddess. The event took place again on 23 May.

Salii parading in the streets.

The ceremony was held in Rome in a building called the Hall of the Shoemakers (Atrium Sutorium) and involved the sacrifice of a ewe lamb. Romans who did not attend the ceremony would be reminded of the occasion by seeing the Salii dancing through the streets of the city.

The ceremony was said to have involved sacred trumpets called tubae. Tubae were originally war trumpets, but later they were used for ceremonial occasions.

However, Roman Catholic theologian and scholar of patristics, Johannes Quasten, argues that the common term (tubae) for war trumpets is not the same as the tubi form here. Quasten states that tubi was only used for trumpets used in sacrifices and goes on to show how this ceremony was a feast to cleanse and purify the trumpets used in sacrifices.

Image of Roman Soldiers preparing for the Campaign Season.

It is a good example, Quasten argues, of the special connection between music and cult in Rituale Romanum (Roman Ritual). It is not clear if the Army was involved in the celebrations, or if it was merely a ceremony to purify the trumpets used in summoning the assembly on the following day.

Ovid, a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus, mentions the Tubilustrium  in his poem Fasti III. He writes:

The last day of the five exhorts us to purify The tuneful trumpets, and sacrifice to the mighty god. Now you can turn your face to the Sun and say: `He touched the fleece of the Phrixian Ram yesterday’. The seeds having been parched, by a wicked stepmother’s Guile, the corn did not sprout in the usual way. They sent to the oracle, to find by sure prophecy, What cure the Delphic god would prescribe for sterility. But tarnished like the seed, the messenger brought news That the oracle sought the death of Helle and young Phrixus: And when citizens, season, and Ino herself compelled The reluctant king to obey that evil order, Phrixus and his sister, brows covered with sacred bands, Stood together before the altar, bemoaning their mutual fate. Their mother saw them, as she hovered by chance in the air, And, stunned, she beat her naked breasts with her hand: Then, with the clouds as her companions, she leapt down Into serpent-born Thebes, and snatched away her children: And so that they could flee a ram, shining and golden, Was brought, and it carried them over the wide ocean. They say the sister held too weakly to the left-hand horn, And so gave her own name to the waters below. Her brother almost died with her, trying to help her As she fell, stretching out his hands as far as he could. He wept at losing her, his friend in their twin danger, Not knowing she was now wedded to a sea-green god. Reaching the shore the Ram was raised as a constellation, While his golden fleece was carried to the halls of Colchis.

Phrixus and Helle

Ovid mentions the story of Phrixus, who was the prince who was saved on the point of sacrifice by a magical flying ram. Phrixus escaped together with his sister Helle on the animal’s back.

Helle became dizzy and fell into the sea (giving her name to the Hellespont). But Phrixus fetched up in Colchis on the mysterious periphery of the heroic world.

Here he sacrificed the ram to Zeus, and hung the ram’s golden fleece in the sacred grove of Ares (Greek god of war). This became the object of the famous quest by Jason and the Argonauts.

If marching off to war is not something you care to celebrate, then just think of it as now the official start to the traveling season. We hope you enjoyed the merriment of the day and look forward to having you back again soon.

Tubilustrium Mosaic from the Villa Dar Buc Ammera.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Herbert-Brown, Geraldine. Ovid and the Fasti: An Historical Study. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994.

Newlands, Carole E. Playing with Time: Ovid and the Fasti. Cornell University Press, 1995.

Quasten, J. Music & Worship in Pagan & Christian Antiquity. 1983.

Richardson, Jr, L. A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome. JHU Press, 1 October 1992. ISBN 978-0-8018-4300-6.

Rüpke, Jörg. The Roman Calendar from Numa to Constantine: Time, History, and the Fasti. John Wiley & Sons, 4 February 2011. ISBN 978-1-4443-9652-2.

Sears, Gareth; Keegan, Peter; Laurence, Ray. Written Space in the Latin West, 200 BC to AD 300. A&C Black, 18 July 2013. ISBN 978-1-4411-8876-2.

The Falling Sickness: Revisited

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Having courses to take for my teaching certification, working full-time, along with trying to be a good husband and father sometimes leaves me with little time for writing new articles for the site. While this is not a new article, it just may be new for you.

In light of events that have recently taken place at my workplace, I thought we should revisit The Falling Sickness.

Me and Caesar Augustus in Roma
Me and Caesar Augustus in Roma

Now this may not sound like it has anything to do with Ancient Rome, but please trust me when I say that it does. The easiest way to begin is to say I have epilepsy.

Unlike some people, I was not born with this condition. I was initially diagnosed when I was 18 years old.

The reason I mention this is because recently a co-worker of mine had a seizure at the end of the school day. It was a big thing since it was her first seizure and, from what I could tell, the first at the school.

It got me thinking about when my primary care doctor sent me to see a neurologist about my condition. At first I was a bit down about it, well a lot down actually.

I tried to hide it and not let anyone know I was “different”. People, no matter what I told them, treated me like I was fragile due to this new illness I had.

Just like my co-worker now, my life was turned upside down. When you grow up not having seizures, or any traumatic injuries, the first time it happens is a really big deal.

Your drivers license gets taken away. Depending upon the severity of the condition, you may miss quite a lot of work or school, and you have an almost endless succession of doctors appointments to attend.

Back when this started for me, my passion for all things Roman had not yet developed into what it is today. I had always loved history though, and recalled hearing that the great and powerful Gaius Julius Caesar had seizures.

He came. He saw. He conquered.

I thought to myself that if this man could conquer and rule such a large portion of the known world, while having seizures, why could I not do great things too? Why could I not live the life I wanted, without the diagnosis of epilepsy weighing me down?

It was then that I decided having epilepsy did not mean my life was done. Big things could still await me.

Veni, Vidi, Vici was to now be my motto. This led me to look deeper into Caesar’s life and find out how he lived with what the ancients called the “Falling Sickness”.

A picture depicting Jesus helping a man with seizures. The unconscious jerking motions were thought to be of a different world, so were often associated with the Church.

Epilepsy dates back to prehistoric times, roughly 2000 BC. It is also known as the “Sacred Disease” since it was believed seizures were “thought to be an illness sent by the gods”.

Because of this, animal sacrifices would be made before priest-doctors in or near temples. Just to let you know, I have never tried this to ease or cure my epilepsy.

Found in an ancient Mesopotamian text an “unknown author describes some symptoms of a patient mid-seizure: sporadic, jerky movements and muscle rigidity.” This is actually a very accurate description, and is basically how modern experts would describe it.

Sticking with the illness being brought on by the gods, the Mesopotamians believed the vengeful god of the moon caused this to happen.

The oldest known detailed record of the disease itself is in the Sakikku, a Babylonian cuneiform medical text from 1067–1046 BC. This text gives signs and symptoms, details treatment and likely outcomes, and describes many features of the different seizure types.

Greek goddess Selene, known to Romans as Luna.

When ancient Greece rose to power a larger number of accounts of epilepsy and seizures were recorded. The majority of the Greek population associated the condition with genius and the divine, and believed that seizures were brought about by gods, in particular the goddess Selene.

These people believed that if the afflicted spent the night in Selene’s temple the goddess would come to you in a dream, thus removing the illness. There was obviously something about the moon bringing on seizures in the eyes of ancient people.

In all honesty, most of my seizures have come on in the later part of the evening. If you had not already realized it, epilepsy is called “The Falling Sickness” since people typically fall down while having a seizure.

Greek physician Hippocrates

Hippocrates, a well-respected Greek physician, looked at the illness differently however.  He believed everything had a natural cause to it, hence why he is considered “The Father of Western Medicine”.

Hippocrates believed that diet, lifestyle and medicine (many of which were herbal) was how to treat the sick. Again, this sounds very similar to modern medicine.

Statue of Caesar where he was assassinated (Roman Forum). He probably would’ve preferred another seizure instead.

When the Romans rose to power those having seizures were shunned and looked down upon. This is probably a solid reason for Julius Caesar not wanting to make his illness known to the public.

In Ancient Rome people did not eat or drink with the same pottery as that used by someone who was affected. People of the time would spit on their chest believing that this would keep the problem from affected them.

According to Apuleius and other ancient physicians, in order detect epilepsy it was common to light a piece of gagates, whose smoke would trigger the seizure. Occasionally a spinning potter’s wheel was used, perhaps a reference to photosensitive epilepsy.

Call him Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus, but just call him.

Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus, he is referred in history by both names, came to describe epilepsy accurately in his writings Medical Definitions. Galen was a Greek philosopher living in the Roman Empire.

He “was able to discern 3 forms of epilepsy: 1) Idiopathic, attributed to primary brain disorder (an analogue to grand mal epilepsies); 2) Secondary forms, attributed to disturbance of cardiac function transmitted through the flow of liquids secondarily to the brain (epilepsy by sympathy); and 3) a third type attributed to disturbance of another part of human body which is secondarily transmitted to the brain”.

Aretaeus of Cappadocia
Aretaeus of Cappadocia

During the reign of Nero or Vespasian, Aretaeus of Cappadocia was the earliest to describe premotionary symptoms of epilepsy (hallucinations which occasionally can precede the seizures).

He also noted the tendency of seizures to recur, once established, and the phenomenon of epileptic insanity. After the fall of the epileptic to the ground, Aretaeus, distinguished three main periods: manifestation, abatement, cessation.

Ruta graveolens, commonly known as Rue.

Ruta graveolens, a strongly scented herb, was then used by the Romans upon its discovery within the Empire. Rue is native to Southern Europe and used for many ailments.

Thought to cure cancer, remove warts or repel insects, Rue was also used for treating epilepsy.

In a modern study done with Rue and its effects on the central nervous system (CNS) of mice, it was found that Rue “induces a depressant activity on the CNS” thus helping reduce seizures. This also supports the Romans use of the herb.

Medical evidence suggests that epileptic seizures are usually not a random event. Seizures are often brought on by factors such as stress, alcohol abuse, flickering light, or a lack of sleep, among others.

The Falling Sickness has been around for quite some time, and has afflicted many people across the planet. From then till now the cause has not truly ever been known but a variety of remedies has been used.

It really just depends on how the culture at the time which one lives helps to determine the treatment. Those that had epilepsy that came before me did not give up, and hopefully those that come after me will not even have to ever live with the illness.

Courtesy of Matthew Rodriguez

One thing is for certain, though, seizures should only serve as a hiccup in a person’s life, depending on their frequency that is. I wish others like me will use it as a challenge to live life to its fullest.

As for my co-worker, her life is about to change but it doesn’t have to be for the worse. The course she is now on is simply a new road, not totally new to anyone, just for her.

We are doing our best to help her during this adjustment. We here at RAE are also doing our best to keep people aware of various medical conditions that seem to have a stigma attached to them.

Thank you for allowing me to take the time and share a little about myself within the context of history. Remember to come on back to see what journey we’ll be onto next.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!


Chang BS, Lowenstein DH. “Epilepsy”. New England Journal of Medicine. 349 (13), 2003. doi:10.1056/NEJMra022308.

Eadie, Mervyn J.; Bladin, Peter F. A Disease Once Sacred: A History of the Medical Understanding of Epilepsy. John Libbey Eurotext, 2001. ISBN 978-0-86196-607-3.

Magiorkinis, E; Kalliopi, S; Diamantis, A. “Hallmarks in the history of epilepsy: epilepsy in antiquity”. Epilepsy & behavior : E&B. 17 (1), Jan 2010. doi:10.1016/j.yebeh.2009.

Michael, GE; O’Connor, RE. “The diagnosis and management of seizures and status epilepticus in the prehospital setting”. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 29 (1), Feb 2011. doi:10.1016/j.emc.2010.08.003

Pandolfo, M. “Genetics of epilepsy”. Semin Neurol. 31 (5), Nov 2011. doi:10.1055/s-0031-1299789.

Temkin, Owsei. The Falling Sickness: A History of Epilepsy from the Greeks to the Beginnings of Modern Neurology. JHU Press. ISBN 9781421400532.

“Epilepsy: An historical overview”. World Health Organization. Feb 2001.

Epilepsie Museum


The Roman Navy: From Rivers to Oceans

Ahoy and welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Throughout our time here we have covered various battles and the expansion of Rome from city-state to Empire. During our travels, we have relied upon the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) to carry the load of Rome’s development and expansion.

Most recently we shared the prowess of Rome’s military might in The Roman Navy: Unsung Champion of the Ancient Seas. Now that we are familiar with what the Roman Navy actually was, it’s now time to explore its scale.

That is why today we are discovering the Roman Navy various Fleets and Ports of Call!

Roman bireme depicted in a relief from the Temple of Fortuna Primigenia in Praeneste (Palastrina), c. 120 BC (Museo Pio-Clementino in the Vatican Museums).

Upon destroying Carthage and subduing the Hellenistic kingdoms of the eastern Mediterranean, Rome went on to achieve complete mastery of the inland sea, which they called Mare Nostrum (Our Sea). On “Their Sea” the Romans would set up major ports at Portus Julius (Misenum, Southern Italy), Port of Ravenna (Ravenna, Northern Italy), Alexandria (Egypt), Leptis Magna (Roman Libya), Ostia Antica and Portus (Central Italy), and the Port of Mainz (Rhine River, Germania).

The 2 major Fleets (Ostia Antica and Portus) were stationed in Italy and acted as a central naval reserve, directly available to the Emperor. In the absence of any seafaring threat, their duties mostly involved patrolling and transporting.

These duties were not simply confined to the waters around Italy, but throughout the Mediterranean. There is epigraphic evidence for the presence of sailors of the 2 Praetorian Fleets at Piraeus and Syria.

Classis Misenensis Roman Quinquereme

The larger of the 2 Fleets was the Classis Misenensis, which was established in 27 BC and based at Portus Julius. Later its name was changed to Classis Praetoria Misenesis Pia Vindex to which detachments of the fleet served at tributary bases, such as Ostia, PuteoliCentumcellae and other harbors.

The smaller of the 2 Fleets was the Classis Ravennas, which was made in 27 BC and based at Ravenna. Later its classification was changed to Classis Praetoria Ravennatis Pia Vindex.

Replica of a trireme, the main ship operated by Classis Ravennas (Mainz, Germany).

The various Provincial Fleets were smaller than the Praetorian Fleets, composed mostly of lighter vessels. Nevertheless, it was these Provincials that saw action in full campaigns or raids on the fringe of the Empire.

The Classis Pannonica, another fluvial fleet controlling the Upper Danube from Castra Regina in Raetia (modern Regensburg) to Singidunum in Moesia (modern Belgrade). Its exact date of establishment is unknown, but some trace it to Augustus’ campaigns in Pannonia circa 35 BC.

River biremes and triremes of the Classis Pannonica on the Danube.

The Fleet was certainly in existence by 45 AD, for under the Flavian Dynasty it received the cognomen Flavia. Its main base was probably Taurunum (modern Zemun) at the confluence of the river Sava with the Danube.

The Classis Alexandrina, based in Alexandria, controlled the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. Founded by Augustus around 30 BC, the Classis Alexandrina was most likely comprised of ships that fought at the Battle of Actium, and was manned mostly by Greeks of the Nile Delta.

Depiction of a typical Roman ship from the Classis Alexandrina.

Having supported Emperor Vespasian in the Civil War of AD 69, it was awarded of the cognomen Augusta. The fleet was responsible chiefly for the escort of the grain shipments to Rome (and later Constantinople), and also apparently operated the Nile river patrol.

Ship of the Classis Flavia Moesica.

The Classis Flavia Moesica was established sometime between 20 BC and 10 AD, and was based in Noviodunum. The honorific Flavia was awarded to this Fleet as it controlled the Lower Danube from the Iron Gates to the northwestern Black Sea as far as the Crimea.

The Classis Germanica was established in 12 BC by Drusus at Castra Vetera. It controlled the Rhine and was mainly a fluvial Fleet, although it also operated in the North Sea.

Replica of a ship from the Classis Germanica.

It is noteworthy that the Romans’ initial lack of experience with the tides of the ocean left Drusus’ Fleet stranded on the Zuiderzee. After around 30 AD, the Fleet moved its main base to the castrum of Alteburg, some 2.5 miles south of Colonia Agrippinensis (modern Cologne).

Later, the Classis Germanica granted the honorifics Augusta Pia Fidelis Domitiana following the suppression of the Revolt of Saturninus.

The Classis Britannica, established in 40 or 43 AD at Gesoriacum (Boulogne-sur-Mer). It participated in the Roman invasion of Britain and the subsequent campaigns in the island.

The Roman Fleet landing on the coast of Britain for the Emperor Claudius’ invasion, earning the title Classis Britannica.

The fleet was probably based at Rutupiae (Richborough) until 85 AD, when it was transferred to Dubris (Dover). Other bases were Portus Lemanis (Lympne) and Anderitum (Pevensey), while Gesoriacum on the Gallic coast likely remained active.

During the 2nd-3rd Centuries, the fleet was chiefly employed in transport of supplies and men across the English Channel. The Classis Britannica disappears (at least under that name) from the mid-3rd Century, and the sites occupied by it were soon incorporated into the Saxon Shore system.

The Classis Perinthia was established after the annexation of Thracia in 46 AD, and was based in Perinthus. Probably based on the indigenous navy, it operated in the Propontis and was united with the Classis Pontica at a later stage.

The Classis Pontica, founded in 64 AD from the Pontic royal fleet, was based in Trapezus. Although, on occasion, it was moved to Byzantium and Cyzicus.

This Fleet was used to guard the southern and eastern Black Sea, and the entrance of the Bosporus. According to the historian Josephus, in the latter half of the 1st Century, the Fleet numbered 40 warships and 3,000 men.

Ship from Vespasian’s Classis Syriaca.

The Classis Syriaca was probably established under Vespasian (69-79 AD), and based in Seleucia Pieria (hence the alternative name Classis Seleucena) in Syria. This Fleet controlled the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.

The Classis Mauretanica, based at Caesarea Mauretaniae (modern Cherchell), controlled the African coasts of the western Mediterranean sea. This fleet was established on a permanent basis after the raids by the Moors in the early 170s.

The Classis Nova Libyca, first mentioned in 180 AD, was most likely based at Ptolemais on the Cyrenaica.

The Classis Africana Commodiana Herculea was established by Commodus in 186 AD after the model of the Classis Alexandrina. Its creation was to help secure the grain shipments (annona) from North Africa to Italy.

Banner of the Legio X Fretensis

In addition, there is significant archaeological evidence for naval activity by certain Legions, which in all likelihood operated their own squadrons. Legio XXII Primigenia was active on the Upper Rhine and Main Rivers, while Legio X Fretensis patrolled the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee, as several Legionary Squadrons were stationed on the Danube frontier.

The best source for the structure of the late Roman military is the Notitia Dignitatum, which matches the situation of the 390s for the Eastern Empire and the 420s for the Western Empire. Notable in the Notitia is the large number of smaller squadrons that have been created, most of these fluvial and of a local operational role.

The Classis Pannonica and the Classis Moesica were broken up into several smaller squadrons. There was the Classis Histrica which had authority of the frontier commanders (duces), with bases at Mursa in Pannonia SecundaClassis Florentia in Pannonia ValeriaClassis Arruntum in Pannonia Prima; Classis Viminacium in Moesia Prima; and Classis Aegetae in Dacia Ripensis.

Two-banked lburnians of the Danube fleets during Trajan’s Dacian Wars (Trajan’s Column, Rome).

Naval units were complemented by port garrisons and Marines (Muscularii), drawn from the Exercitus Romanus. In the Danube frontier these were:

In Pannonia Prima and Noricum Ripensis, Naval Detachments (Milites Liburnarii) of Legio XIV Gemina and Legio X Gemina at Carnuntum and Arrabonae, along with Legio II Italica at Ioviacum.

In Pannonia Secunda, Legio I Flavia Augusta (at Sirmium) and Legio II Flavia are listed under their Prefects.

In Moesia Secunda, 2 units of Sailors (Milites Nauclarii) were stationed at Appiaria and Altinum.

In Scythia Minor, Marines of Legio II Herculia were at Inplateypegiis along with Sailors at Flaviana.

Roman Marine units

In the West, and in particular in Gaul, several fluvial Fleets had been established. These came under the command of the Magister Peditum of the West, and were:

The Classis Anderetianorum which was based at Parisii (Paris) and operating in the Seine and Oise Rivers.

The Classis Ararica was based at Caballodunum (Chalon-sur-Saône) and operated in the Saône River.

Classis Barcariorum was composed of small vessels docked at Eburodunum (modern Yverdon-les-Bains) at Lake Neuchâtel.

The Classis Comensis, stationed at Lake Como, truly made the lake their own.

Painting of a ship from the Classis Misenatis.

The old Praetorian Fleets, the Classis Misenatis and the Classis Ravennatis are still listed, albeit with no distinction indicating any higher importance than the other fleets. The Praetorian surname is still attested until the early 4th Century, but absent from Vegetius or the Notitia.

The Classis Fluminis Rhodani was based at Arelate and operated in the Rhône River. It was complemented with a Marine Detachment (Milites Muscularii) based at Massalia.

The Classis Sambrica was based at Locus Quartensis (unknown location) operating on the Somme River and the Channel. It came under the command of the Dux Belgica Secunda.

The Classis Venetum, based at Aquileia, operated in the northern Adriatic Sea. This Fleet may have been established to ensure communications with the Imperial Capitals in the Po Valley (Ravenna and Milan) and with Dalmatia.

It is notable that, with the exception of the Praetorian Fleets (whose retention in the list does not necessarily signify an active status), the old fleets of the Principate are missing. The Classis Britannica vanishes under that name after the mid-3rd Century, but its remnants were later incorporated in the Saxon Shore system.

Barbarians crossing of the Rhine

By the time of the Notitia Dignitatum, the Classis Germanica had ceased to exist, most probably due to the collapse of the Limes Germanicus (Germanic Frontier) after the Crossing of the Rhine by the barbarians in winter 405-406 AD. The Mauretanian and African Fleets had been disbanded or taken over by the Vandals.

As far as the East is concerned, we know that the Classis Alexandrina and the Classis Seleucena continued to operate, and that around 400 AD the Classis Carpathia was detached from the Syrian Fleet and based at the Aegean island of Karpathos. A Fleet is known to have been stationed at Constantinople itself, but no further details are known about it.

We hope you enjoyed setting sail with the various Fleets of the Roman Navy. We wish you safe passage on future journeys, and look forward to having you back again soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Casson, Lionel. The Ancient Mariners: Seafarers and Sea Fighters of the Mediterranean in Ancient Times. Princeton University Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0-691-01477-7.

Casson, Lionel. Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8018-5130-0.

Cleere, Henry. “The Classis Britannica”CBA, 1977.

Connolly, Peter. Greece and Rome at War. Greenhill, 1998.

Gardiner, Robert. AGE OF THE GALLEY: Mediterranean Oared Vessels since pre-Classical Times. Conway Maritime Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-85177-955-3.

Goldsworthy, Adrian. The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265–146 BC. Cassell, 2000. ISBN 0-304-36642-0.

Goldsworthy, Adrian. The Complete Roman Army. Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2003. ISBN 0-500-05124-0.

Goldsworthy, Adrian. “A Roman Alexander: Pompey the Great“. In the name of Rome: The men who won the Roman Empire. Phoenix, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7538-1789-6.

Gruen, Erich S. The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome: Volume IIUniversity of California Press, 1984. ISBN 0-520-04569-6.

Lewis, Archibald Ross; Runyan, Timothy J. European Naval and Maritime History, 300-1500. Indiana University Press, 1985. ISBN 0-253-20573-5,

MacGeorge, Penny. “Appendix: Naval Power in the Fifth Century”. Late Roman WarlordsOxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0-19-925244-2.

Meijer, Fik. A History of Seafaring in the Classical World. Routledge, 1986. ISBN 978-0-7099-3565-0.

Potter, David. “The Roman Army and Navy”. The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic. Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-521-00390-2.

Rodgers, William L. Naval Warfare Under Oars, 4th to 16th Centuries: A Study of Strategy, Tactics and Ship Design. Naval Institute Press, 1967. ISBN 978-0-87021-487-5.

Saddington, D.B. “Classes. The Evolution of the Roman Imperial Fleets”. A Companion to the Roman ArmyBlackwell Publishing Ltd., 2007. ISBN 978-1-4051-2153-8.

Starr, Chester G. The Roman Imperial Navy: 31 BC-AD 324 (2nd Edition). Cornell University Press, 1960.

Starr, Chester G. The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History. Oxford University Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-19-505667-9.

Treadgold, Warren T. A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8047-2630-2.

Warry, John. Warfare in the Classical World. Salamander Books Ltd., 2004. ISBN 0-8061-2794-5.

Webster, Graham; Elton, Hugh. The Roman Imperial Army of the First and Second Centuries AD. University of Oklahoma Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8061-3000-8.

Workman-Davies, Bradley. Corvus: A Review of the Design and Use of the Roman Boarding Bridge During the First Punic War 264 -241 BC. Lulu.com, 2006. ISBN 978-1-84728-882-0.

The Roman Fleet, Roman-Empire.net

The Roman Navy: Masters of the Mediterranean, HistoryNet.com

Port of Claudius, the museum of Roman merchant ships found in Fiumicino (Rome)

Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta (Brussels)

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Last week we were in Switzerland as we visited the Abbey of Saint Gall.

Today we’re headed from WesternCentral Europe into true Western Europe, specifically Belgium, as we check out the Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta (Brussels)!

Hôtel Tassel

The Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta – Hotel Tassel (1893), Hotel Solvay (1894), Hotel van Eetvelde (1895) and the House and Workshop of Victor Horta – located in Brussels, are outstanding examples of Art Nouveau. These 4 houses, that bear testimony to the immense talent of this Belgian architect, achieve a remarkable sense of unity with meticulous attention to the smallest detail of the building, from the door handle or bell to the least piece of furniture.

Horta, one of the earliest instigators, heralded the modern movement of Art Nouveau architecture. The stylistic revolution represented by these works is characterized by their open plan, diffusion and transformation of light throughout the construction, the creation of a decor that brilliantly illustrates the curved lines of decoration embracing the structure of the building, the use of new materials (steel and glass) and the introduction of modern technical utilities.

Through the rational use of the metallic structures, often visible or subtly dissimulated, Victor Horta conceived flexible, light and airy living areas, directly adapted to the personality of their inhabitants.

The principle of a double house connected by a glass-covered circulation area is adopted for the Hotel Tassel and the Hotel van Eetvelde. This area, that generally contains a winter garden, is enchantingly represented at the Hotel Solvay, the most ambitious and spectacular work of Horta in the Art Nouveau period.

The staircase of its house-workshop is decorated and enjoys this type of particularly elegant arrangement. The interior decors benefited from surprising inventiveness, with the motifs flowing smoothly from the mosaic floor to the painted walls, including the wrought iron work and the custom furniture.

These 4 houses revived the tradition of the Bourgeois houses and private mansions of the 19th Century, combining residential and representational functions which require a subtle organization of spaces and differentiated circulation. Revisited by the creative genius of Victor Horta, each one of them represents the personality of their owners and forms a coherent ensemble that illustrates the willingness to treat the architecture and decoration as a whole.

How This Relates to Rome:

The name Belgium is derived from Gallia Belgica, a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul that before Roman invasion in 100 BC, was inhabited by the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples. A gradual immigration by Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th Century brought the area under the rule of the Merovingian kings.

Before we leave you today, we be remiss if we failed to wish Mrs. Carolyn Norris (aka my mother) a very Happy Birthday. We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure, and we hope you check us out again soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Pont du Gard (#5)

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Today we continue examining the list of 52 Ancient Roman Monuments which had been claimed as a “must see” by Touropia Travel Experts. The last location we had checked out was #6 – Amphitheater of El Jem.

Today we’re headed to the South of France as we explore #5 – Pont du Gard!

Side view of the Pont du Gard showing the 2rows of arches.

The Pont du Gard (Bridge of the Gard) is an Ancient Roman aqueduct that crosses the Gardon River near the town of Vers-Pont-du-Gard. Constructed by the Roman Empire, Pont du Gard is the highest of all elevated Roman aqueducts.

The Pont du Gard, along with the Aqueduct of Segovia, is one of the best preserved. Its construction, historical importance, and preservation helped it to be added to UNESCO‘s list of World Heritage Sites in 1985.

The Roman aqueduct from Fontaine d’Eure near Uzès to Nemausus (Nîmes) passes over the Pont du Gard, and many other significant bridges.

The aqueduct bridge is part of a 31 mile-long system built in the 1st Century AD to carry fresh water from a spring at Uzès to the Roman colony of Nemausus (Nîmes). Because of the uneven terrain between its starting and ending points, the mostly underground aqueduct followed a long, winding route that called for a bridge across the gorge of the Gardon River.

The bridge has 3 tiers of arches, standing 160 feet high, and descends a mere 1 inch (a gradient of only 1 in 18,241), while the whole aqueduct descends in height by only 56 feet over its entire length. This is quite indicative of the great precision that Roman engineers were able to achieve, using simple technology.

The aqueduct formerly carried an estimated 44,000,000 gallons of water per day to the fountains, baths and homes of the citizens of Nîmes. It may have been in use as late as the 6th Century, with some parts used for significantly longer.

Early 19th Century Marble Bust of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.

The construction of the aqueduct has long been credited to Augustus‘ son-in-law and aide, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, around the year 19 BC. At the time, he was serving as Aedile, the Senior Magistrate responsible for managing the water supply of Rome and its colonies.

Historians linked the construction of the aqueduct with Agrippa’s visit to Narbonensis in that year. Newer excavations suggest the construction may have taken place between 40 and 60 AD.

Tunnels dating from the time of Emperor Augustus had to be bypassed by the builders of the Nîmes aqueduct. Coins discovered in the outflow in Nîmes, however, are no older than the reign of the Emperor Claudius (41–54 AD).

On this basis, a team led by Guilhem Fabre has argued that the aqueduct must have been completed around the middle of the 1st Century AD. Either way, it is believed to have taken about 15 years to build, employing between 800 and 1,000 workers.

Stonework on the Pont du Gard, showing the protruding blocks that were used to support the scaffolding.

The aqueduct was constructed entirely without the use of mortar. The aqueduct’s stones (some of which weigh up to 6 tons) were precisely cut to fit perfectly together eliminating the need for mortar.

From the 4th Century onwards, the aqueduct’s maintenance was neglected as successive waves of invaders disrupted the region. It became clogged with debris, encrustations and plant roots, greatly reducing the flow of the water.

Interior of the water conduit of the Pont du Gard.

The resulting deposits in the conduit, consisting of layers of dirt and organic material, are up to 20 inches thick on each wall. An analysis of the deposits originally suggested that it had continued to supply water to Nîmes until as late as the 9th Century, but more recent investigations suggest that it had gone out of use by about the 6th Century.

After the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, the aqueduct fell into disuse. Although some of its stones were plundered for use elsewhere, Pont du Gard remained largely intact.

Its survival was due to its use as a toll bridge across the valley. In the 13th Century the French king granted the seigneurs of Uzès the right to levy tolls on those using the bridge.

The right later passed to the Bishops of Uzès, who then became responsible for maintaining the bridge and keeping it in good repair. However, Pont du Gard suffered serious damage during the 1620s when Henri, Duke of Rohan made use of the bridge to transport his artillery during the wars between the French royalists and the Huguenots, whom he led.

The underside of an arch on the second tier of the Pont du Gard.

To make space for his artillery to cross the bridge, the duke had one side of the 2nd row of arches cut away to a depth of about one-third of their original thickness. This left a gap on the lowest deck wide enough to accommodate carts and cannons, but severely weakened the bridge in the process.

In 1703 the local authorities renovated Pont du Gard to repair cracks, fill in ruts, and replace the stones lost in the previous century. A new bridge was built by the engineer Henri Pitot in 1743–47 next to the arches of the lower level, so that the road traffic could cross on a purpose-built bridge.

The novelist Alexandre Dumas was strongly critical of the construction of the new bridge, commenting that “it was reserved for the eighteenth century to dishonor a monument which the barbarians of the fifth had not dared to destroy.” The Pont du Gard continued to deteriorate and by the time Prosper Mérimée saw it in 1835 it was at serious risk of collapse from erosion and the loss of stonework.

Napoleon III, who had a great admiration for all things Roman, visited Pont du Gard in 1850 and took a close interest in it. He approved plans by the architect Charles Laisné, with funding provided by the Ministry of State, to repair the bridge in a project which was carried out between 1855–58.

Cross section of the Pont du Gard (right) and the 18th Century road bridge (left) (Alfred Léger, 1875).

The work involved substantial renovations that included replacing the eroded stone, infilling some of the piers with concrete to aid stability and improving drainage by separating the bridge from the aqueduct. Stairs were installed at one end and the conduit walls were repaired, allowing visitors to walk along the conduit itself in reasonable safety.

There have been a number of subsequent projects to consolidate the piers and arches of the Pont du Gard. It has survived 3 serious floods over the last century.

In 1958 the whole of the lower tier was submerged by a giant flood that washed away other bridges. In  1998 another major flood affected the area, with a further flood in 2002 badly damaging nearby installations.

For centuries, Pont du Gard has been France’s most popular tourist attractions. It has a long association with French monarchs seeking to associate themselves with a symbol of Roman imperial power, as well as attracting the attention of a succession of literary and artistic visitors.

King Charles IX of France visited in 1564 during his Grand Tour of France and was greeted with a grand entertainment laid on by the Duc d’Uzès. Twelve young girls dressed as nymphs came out of a cave by the riverside near the aqueduct and presented the king with pastry and preserved fruits.

Le Pont du Gard, painted by Hubert Robert for King Louis XVI in 1787.

A century later, Louis XIV and his court visited the Pont du Gard during a visit to Nîmes in January 1660 shortly after the signature of the Treaty of the Pyrenees. In 1786 his great-great-great-grandson Louis XVI commissioned the artist Hubert Robert to produce a set of paintings of Roman ruins of southern France to hang in the king’s new dining room at the Palace of Fontainebleau, including a picture depicting the Pont du Gard in an idealized landscape.

The outstanding quality of the bridge’s masonry led to it becoming an obligatory stop for French journeymen masons on their traditional tour around the country, many of whom have left their names on the stonework. From the 18th Century onwards, particularly after the construction of the new road bridge, it became a famous staging-post for travelers on the Grand Tour and became increasingly renowned as an object of historical importance and French national pride.

In 1985 when Pont du Gard was added to the list of World Heritage Sites on the criteria of “Human creative genius; testimony to cultural tradition; significance to human history”. The description on the list states:

The hydraulic engineers and … architects who conceived this bridge created a technical as well as artistic masterpiece.

Pont du Gard (Roman Aqueduct) – Unesco’s World Heritage Collection.

By the 1990s the Pont du Gard had become a hugely popular tourist attraction but was congested with traffic since vehicles were still allowed to drive over the 1743 road bridge. It was also cluttered with illegally built structures and tourist shops lining the river banks.

As the architect Jean-Paul Viguier put it, the “appetite for gain” had transformed the Pont du Gard into “a fairground attraction”. In 1996 the General Council of the Gard département began a major 4-year project to improve the area, sponsored by the French government, in conjunction with local sources, UNESCO and the EU.

The road bridge adjacent to the aqueduct.

The entire area around the bridge was pedestrianized and a new visitor center was built on the north bank to a design by Jean-Paul Viguier. The redevelopment has ensured that the area around the Pont du Gard is now much quieter due to the removal of vehicle traffic, and the new museum provides a much improved historical context for visitors.

Today Pont du Gard is one of France’s top five tourist attractions, with 1.4 million visitors reported in 2001. Hopefully we all can visit, or revisit, this impressive testament to Roman engineering.

Visitors Center

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and thank you for stopping by. Be sure to Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.


Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Bromwich, James. Roman Remains of Southern France: A Guide Book. Routledge, 2006. ISBN 978-0-415-14358-5.

Deming, David. Science and Technology in World History, Volume 1: The Ancient World and Classical Civilization. McFarland, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7864-3932-4.

Fabre, Guilhem. The Pont du Gard: Water and the Roman town. Caisse nationale des monuments historiques et des sites, 1992. ISBN 2-87682-079-X.

Hodge, A. Trevor. Roman aqueducts & water supply (2 ed). Duckworth, 2002. ISBN 978-0-7156-3171-3.

Lewis, Michael Jonathan Taunton. Surveying instruments of Greece and Rome. Cambridge University Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-521-79297-4.

Magnusson, Roberta J. Water Technology in the Middle Ages: Cities, Monasteries, and Waterworks after the Roman Empire. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0801866265.

O’Connor, Colin (1993). Roman Bridges. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-39326-4.

“Pont du Gard (Roman Aqueduct) – UNESCO World Heritage Centre”. whc.unesco.org. 2012.

“Map of the Roman Aqueduct to Nîmes”. Athena Review Image Archive. Athena Review.

Official Pont du Gard museum website

Pont du Gard at Structurae

600 Roman aqueducts with 35 descriptions in detail among which is the Pont du Gard

Liberalia: Celebrating Maturity

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

A couple of weeks ago we explored the deities that are the Aventine Triad, specifically Liber. You can check out the articles: The Aventine Triad: Watchers of the Plebs and Liber: The Free One.

On this special day, we take advantage of the festivities to celebrate Liberalia!

Liberalia Feast
Liberalia Feast

The Liberalia was the festival of Liber Pater (The Free Father) and his consort Libera. Held after the Ides of March, on 17 March, the Romans celebrated Liberalia with sacrifices, processions, ribaldry, ungraceful songs, and masks which were hung on trees.

The celebration on 17 March was meant to honor Liber Pater, an ancient god of fertility and wine (like Bacchus, the Roman version of the Greek god Dionysus). Liber Pater was also a vegetation god, responsible for protecting seed.

Celebrating Liberalia

Priests and aged priestesses, adorned with garlands of ivy, carried through the city wine, honey, cakes (libia), and sweet-meats, together with an altar with a handle (ansata ara). In the middle of the ansata ara there was a small fire-pan (foculus), in which from time to time sacrifices were burnt.

Over time this feast evolved and included the goddess Libera, and the feast divided so that Liber governed the male seed and Libera the female. Ovid in his almanac entry for the festival identifies Libera as the celestial manifestation of Ariadne.

bulla praetexta
Bulla Praetexta

This feast celebrates the maturation of young boys to manhood. Roman boys, from age 14 to 16, would remove the bulla praetexta (a hollow charm of gold or leather) which parents placed about the necks of children to ward off evil spirits.

At the Liberalia ceremony the young men might place the bulla on an altar (with a lock of hair or the stubble of his first shave placed inside) and dedicate it to the Lares, who were gods of the household and family. Mothers often retrieved the discarded bulla praetexta and kept it out of superstition.

toga virilis
The Toga Virilis

If the son ever achieved a Triumphus (Public Triumph), the mother could display the bulla to ward off any evil that might be wished upon the son by envious people. The young men discarded the toga praetexta, which was probably derived from Etruscan dress and was decorated with a broad purple border and worn with the bulla, by boys and girls.

The boys donned the clothing of adulthood, the pure white toga virilis (man’s gown). The garment identified him as a citizen of Rome, making him an eligible voter.

To the Forum
Presentation of Roman Citizenship in the Forum.

The fathers of the young men took them to the city’s Forum and presented them as adults and Citizens. This was in the days when male rites of passage were encouraged.

An infans (infant) was incapable of doing any legal act. An impubes (under-age), who had passed the limits of infantia (childhood), could do any legal act with the Auctoritas (Authority) of his tutor.

Without such Auctoritas the boy could only do those acts which were for his benefit. With the attainment of pubertas, a person obtained the full power of his property, and the Tutela ceased. The now Roman Citizen could also dispose of his property by will, and he could contract marriage.


This ancient ceremony was a country or rustic ceremony. The processional featured a large phallus which the devotees carried throughout the countryside to bring the blessing of fertility to the land and the people.

The procession and the phallus were meant also to protect the crops from evil. At the end of the procession, a virtuous and respected matron placed a wreath upon the phallus.

While Liberalia is a relatively unknown event in the modern time, references to Liberalia and the Roman goddess Libera are still found today online and in astrology.

It seems that Liberalia would be similar to the Jewish tradition of Bar and Bat Mitzvah, or the Latin American Quinceañera.

Pottery depicting Liberalia celebration.

All across the world rites of passage, for young men or women, are quite important. It’s not really how it is celebrated simply that it is indeed celebrated.

Back in 2015 we shared a video about being a youth in Ancient Rome entitled A Glimpse of Teenage Life in Ancient Rome. This will help showcase a bit of the festivities.

Liberalia may not have been the biggest of Roman parties, but it was definitely one that was to be enjoyed by Rome’s newest Citizens.

We hope you enjoyed this little party and look forward to having you back again soon. Make sure to stop by again for we never know what we might be celebrating or where we may be journeying off to.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



T.P. WisemanRemus: a Roman myth, Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Fasti 3.459-516.