The structure is about 98 ft in height, or 115 ft including its large pedestal. The shaft is made from a series of 20 colossal Carrara marble drums, each weighing about 32 tons, with a diameter of over 12 ft.
The 620-foot frieze winds around the shaft 23 times. Inside the shaft, a spiral staircase of 185 steps provides access to a viewing platform at the top.
Ancient coins indicate preliminary plans to top the column with a statue of a bird, probably an eagle. After construction, though, a statue of Trajan was put in place.
This statue of Trajan, however, disappeared in the Middle Ages. On 4 December 1587, the top was crowned by Pope Sixtus V with a bronze figure of St. Peter, which remains to this day.
We hope you enjoyed the video and look forward to having you back again. Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and Twitter.
As we get closer to the end of the season of Lent, we here at RAE are going back to the past to bring something new today. This article about will have 3 different videos to watch, and will also be supplemented with some data to read.
Most people are at least familiar with the story of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. After he was found guilty by the Jews and condemned under GovernorPontius Pilate, Jesus was made to haul the cross on which he was to be crucified on through the streets of Jerusalem to a mount just outside the city walls.
Calvary, also called Golgotha, was a site immediately outside Jerusalem’s walls and just north of Mount Zion according to the Gospels. Calvary as an English name for the place is derived from the Latin word for skull (calvaria or Calvariæ Locus), which is used in the Vulgate translation of “place of a skull”.
This explanation is given in all 4 Gospels of the Aramaic word Gûlgaltâ which was the name of the place where Jesus was crucified.
The text does not indicate why it was named Calvary or Golgotha, but there are 3 prominent theories. First is that as a place of public execution, Calvary may have been strewn with the skulls of abandoned victims.
This would be contrary to Jewish burial traditions, but not the Romans.
Second is that Calvary is named after a nearby cemetery which matches modern sites. Third is that the name was derived from the physical contour of its location meaning the mount appears to look like a skull.
(Crucifixion begins at 30:54)
The Gospels describe it as a place near enough to the city that those coming in and out could read the inscription Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. The location itself is mentioned in all 4 Gospels:
Matthew: And when they came to a place called Gol’gotha (which means the place of a skull).
Mark: And they brought him to the place called Gol’gotha (which means the place of a skull).
Luke: And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.
John: So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Gol’gotha.
The traditional location of Golgotha derives from its identification by Helena, the mother of EmperorConstantine the Great, in 325 AD. A few yards nearby, Helena also identified the location of the Tomb of Jesus and claimed to have discovered the True Cross.
On the left hand is the little hill of Golgotha where the Lord was crucified. About a stone’s throw from thence is a vault [crypta] wherein his body was laid, and rose again on the third day. There, at present, by the command of the Emperor Constantine, has been built a basilica; that is to say, a church of wondrous beauty.
Jerusalem is not in Europe so this may be passed our limits. There is a connection with the Roman Empire though, and Easter is almost upon us.
We hope you will join us again here at Rome Across Europe for more fun and exploration.
Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!
Ball, Warwick. Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire.
The Pyramid of Cestius was built about 18-12 BC as a tomb for Gaius Cestius, a Magistrate and member of 1 of the 4 great religious corporations in Rome, the Septemviri Epulonum. It is of brick-faced concrete covered with slabs of white marble standing on a travertine foundation.
The pyramid measures 100 Roman feet (97 ft) square at the base and stands 125 Roman feet (121 ft) high. In the interior is the burial chamber, a simple barrel-vaulted rectangular cavity measuring 20 ft long, 13 ft wide and 16 ft high.
The Pyramid of Cestius has a sharply pointed shape and is strongly reminiscent of the pyramids of Nubia, which had been attacked by Rome in 23 BC. The similarity suggests that Cestius had possibly served in that campaign and perhaps intended the pyramid to serve as a commemoration.
In any case, the pyramid was built during a period when Rome was going through a fad for all things Egyptian. The Circus Maximus was adorned by Augustus with an Egyptian obelisk, and pyramids were built elsewhere in the Imperium Rōmānum (Roman Empire) around this time.
During the construction of the Aurelian Walls between 271 and 275 AD, the pyramid was incorporated into the walls to form a triangular stronghold. It was one of many structures in the city to be reused to form part of the new walls.
This helped to reduce the wall’s cost while enabling the structure to be built quicker. The Pyramid of Cestius still forms part of a well-preserved stretch of the walls, a short distance from the Porta San Paolo.
During the Middle Ages, the origins of the pyramid were forgotten. Rome’s inhabitants came to believe that the pyramid was the tomb of Remus and that its counterpart near the Vatican was the tomb of Romulus.
Pope Alexander VII‘s excavations in the 1660s, which cleared the vegetation that had overgrown the pyramid, uncovered the inscriptions on its faces, tunneled into the tomb’s burial chamber and found the bases of two bronze statues that had stood alongside the pyramid. There was no trace left of any other contents in the tomb, which had been plundered in antiquity.
The tomb had been sealed when it was built, with no exterior entrance. It is not possible for visitors to access the interior, except by special permission typically only granted to scholars.
A dedicatory inscription is carved into the east and west flanks of the pyramid, so as to be visible from both sides. It reads:
C · CESTIVS · L · F · POB · EPULO · PR · TR · PL
VII · VIR · EPOLONVM
Gaius Cestius, son of Lucius, of the gens Pobilia, member of the College of Epulones, praetor, tribune of the plebs, septemvir of the Epulones
Below the inscription on the east-facing side is a second inscription recording the circumstances of the tomb’s construction. This reads:
PONTI · P · F · CLA · MELAE · HEREDIS · ET · POTHI · L
The work was completed, in accordance with the will, in 330 days, by the decision of the heir [Lucius] Pontus Mela, son of Publius of the Claudia, and Pothus, freedman
Another inscription on the east face is of modern origins, having been carved on the orders of Pope Alexander VII in 1663. Reading INSTAVRATVM · AN · DOMINI · MDCLXIII, it commemorates the excavation and restoration work of the tomb between 1660-1662 AD.
The Pyramid of Cestius would have stood in open countryside when it was initially built since tombs were forbidden within the city walls. Rome grew enormously during the Imperial Period, so by the 3rd Century AD, the pyramid would have been surrounded by buildings.
It originally stood in a low-walled enclosure, flanked by statues, columns and other tombs. Two marble bases were found next to the pyramid during excavations in the 1660s, complete with fragments of the bronze statues that originally had stood on their tops.
The bases carried an inscription recorded by Bartoli in an engraving of 1697:
Cestius had stated in his will that the cloths were to be deposited in the tomb, but this practice had been forbidden by a recent edict passed by the Aedīlēs.
In 2001, the pyramid’s entrance and interior underwent restoration. In 2011, further work was announced to clean and restore the badly damaged marble cladding, through which water seepage has endangered the frescoes within.
That is why today we are re-imagining Roman architecture as we explore the Peristylium!
Upon conquering a new region, the greatest of efforts was made to make this new place feel as much like Rome (aka home) as possible. First the Legionaries, and then the Praetoror Consul, would construct any new city according to a specific plan, while existing cities were altered as much as possible to fit said design.
Something common to all these places was the architecture, specifically the use of the Peristylium. So as someone who may not be a Rome-aholic or get all geeked up on the past, like us at Rome Across Europe, don’t worry if you don’t know what a Peristyliumis.
Once we get rolling, you’ll know exactly what’s going on. The peristyle originates from Hellenistic Greek architecture.
The easiest way to describe the peristyle would be as a columned porch, or open colonnade in a building, surrounding a court that may contain an internal garden. Tetrastoon (Four Arcades) is another name for this feature.
As with other cultural staples of Rome, Roman architecture took what the Ancient Greeks had developed and just made it better & bolder. In the Christian ecclesiastical architecture that developed from Roman Basilica, a courtyard peristyle and its garden came to be known as a cloister.
Although Ancient Egyptian architecture predates Greek and Roman antiquity, historians frequently use the term peristyle to describe similar, earlier Egyptian structures. In Ancient Egyptian palace architecture and in Levantine houses, known as Liwan Houses, the peristyle was a common feature.
In rural settings, a wealthy Roman would usually surround his villa(sorry ladies) with terraced gardens. Within the city, Romans created their gardens inside the domus.
The Peristylium was an open courtyard within the house with columns or square pillars surrounding the garden supported a shady roofed portico. The inner walls of the portico were often embellished with elaborate wall paintings of landscapes and Trompe-l’oeil architecture.
Sometimes the Lararium, a shrine for the Lares, the gods of the household, was located in this portico. If not it would be found in the atrium.
The courtyard would typically contain flowers and shrubs, fountains, benches, sculptures and even fish ponds. Romans devoted as large a space to the Peristylium as site constraints permitted.
Even in the grandest development of the urban peristyle house, as it evolved in Roman North Africa, often a range of the portico was eliminated, for a larger open space.
The end of the Roman domusis a mark of the extinction of the Late Classical culture. After AD 550, no new peristyle houses were built.
As houses and villas were increasingly abandoned in the 5th Century, a few palatial structures were expanded and enriched as classical culture and public life withdrew to the Basilica.
In the Eastern Roman Empire, Late Antiquity lingered longer. The latest known Peristyle house built from scratch as the “House of the Falconer” at Argos, dating from the style of its floor mosaics about 530-550 AD.
Existing houses were subdivided to accommodate a larger population in a labyrinth of small spaces. Columned porticoes were enclosed in small cubicles, as at the House of Hesychius at Cyrene.
In the Christian ecclesiastical architecture that developed from Roman precedents, a Basilica, such as Old St Peter’s in Rome, would stand behind a peristyle forecourt that sheltered it from the street. In time the cloister developed from the Peristylium.
The Grand Trianon was originally called the Marble Trianon in reference to the pilasters that give its façades their rhythm. A colonnaded portico piercing the palace through the middle linked the courtyard and gardens, opening it up to the outdoors.
At least that was the new building’s main idea. Wrongly called a Peristyle since the period of Louis XIV, the portico provides the Grand Trianon with the transparency that makes it novel.
Visitors walk from the courtyard into the gardens even without noticing. This is exactly what the Romans wanted to accomplish.
In 1810, Napoleon had the peristyle glazed on both sides to facilitate communication between his apartment and that of the empress. This alteration formed the vestibule, where a military tribunal presided by the duc d’Aumale tried Marshal Bazaine from October to December 1873. The glazing was removed in 1910.
Among the most popular Split attractions, Peristyle Square is the center of cultural life in Split. Here the extraordinary acoustics maintain traditional cultural and musical events, including the Split Summer Festival.
City Park in New Orleans is an example of using a Peristyle in the New World. In 1907, architect Paul Andry created this neoclassical open-air pavilion with a colonnade.
The Peristyle overlooks picturesque Bayou Metairie and has been lovingly maintained over the years through several renovation projects, in 1989 and 2012.
Another New World example is the Prospect Park Peristyle in New York City. To most it’s known as the Grecian Shelter, the Colonnade, or the Croquet Shelter, the building is regarded in architectural circles as the finest neoclassical Peristyle in New York City.
So the Peristylium is something that you’re already familiar with, right? We knew once we showed you a few examples it would jog your memory.
There are lots more examples here in the States. Go out and let us know if there’s one by you.
Thanks for stopping by. We hoped you enjoyed learning about the Peristyle and will come back again.
J.A. Dickmann. “The peristyle and the transformation of domestic space in Hellenistic Pompeii”, Journal of Roman Archeology 1997.
E.B. MacDougall, W.M.F. Jashemski, eds., Ancient Roman Gardens: Dumbarton Oaks Colloqium on the History of Landscape Architecture, 1979.
Yvon Thébert, “Private life and domestic architecture in Roman Africa”, in Paul Veyne, ed. A History of Private Life, I: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium (1985, Arthur Goldhammer, tr., 1987) esp. “The peristyle”, pp 357-64.
Simon P. Ellis, “The End of the Roman House” American Journal of Archaeology 92.4 (October 1988:565-576) opened the article’s abstract with these words.
In 113 BC, Parthians conquered and held the city until 165 AD. The only interruption in the Parthian was a single, brief Roman intermission (114 AD).
Under Parthian rule, it became an important provincial administrative center. The Romans decisively captured Dura-Europos again in 165 AD and greatly enlarged it as their easternmost stronghold in Mesopotamia, until it was captured by Sassanians after a siege in 256-7 AD.
Its population was deported and it was abandoned. Like most things in the desert, Dura-Europos was covered by sand and mud and disappeared from sight.
Dura-Europos is extremely important for archaeological reasons. As it was abandoned after its conquest in 256-7 AD, nothing was built over it and no later building programs obscured the architectonic features of the ancient city.
The excavations revealed temples to Greek, Roman and Palmyrene gods. There was also a Mithraeum, as one would expect in a Roman military city.
Originally a fortress, it was founded in 303 BC with the name Dura by the Seleucids on the intersection of an east-west trade route and the trade route along the Euphrates. Dura controlled the river crossing on the route between his newly founded cities of Antioch and Seleucia on the Tigris.
Its rebuilding as a great city built after the Hippodamian model, with rectangular blocks defined by cross-streets ranged round a large central agora, was formally laid out in the 2nd Century BC. The traditional view of Dura-Europos as a great caravan city is becoming nuanced by the discoveries of locally made manufactures and traces of close ties with Palmyra.
Instead, Dura Europos owed its development to its role as a regional capital. The Parthian period was a phase of expansion at Dura-Europos favored by abandonment of the town’s military function.
All the space enclosed by the walls gradually became occupied, and the installation of new inhabitants with Semitic and Iranian names alongside descendants of the original Macedonian colonists contributed to an increase in the multicultural population.
The entirely original architecture of Dura-Europos was perfected during the Parthian period. This period was characterized by a progressive evolution of Greek concepts toward new formulas in which regional traditions, particularly Babylonian ones, played an increasing role.
The population, originally based on the Greek settler element, were increasingly outnumbered by people of Semitic stock and by the 1st Century BC, the city was predominantly eastern in character. The Romans called the city with the name Dura-Europus, because the local aristocracy was made of Macedonians descendants (pinpointing so that the city was ruled by “Europeans” from Macedonia).
The Romans returned in 165 and 170 AD to besiege Dura-Europos held by the Parthes. Romans used the city as a starting point for the conquest of the territories of Osroene and as outpost for expeditions against the Parthian empire and their Tigris capital in 198 AD.
In AD 194, EmperorSeptimius Severus divided the province of Syria to limit the power of its previously rebellious governors. As a result, Dura became part of the new province of Syria Coele.
In its later years, it also attained the status of a Roman Colonia. By the 3rd Century, this was an honorary title bestowed upon an important town.
The military importance of the site was confirmed after 209 AD. The northern part of the site was occupied by a Roman camp, isolated by a brick wall.
Soldiers were housed between the civilians, among others in the so-called “House of Scribes”. Romans built a palace on the edge of a cliff for the commander of the military region, .
In 216 AD a small amphitheater for soldiers was built in the military area, while the new synagogue, completed in 244 AD, and a house of Christians were embellished with frescoes of important characters wearing Roman tunics, caftans and Parthian trousers. These splendid paintings that cover the walls testify to the richness of the Jewish and Christian community.
The population of Dura-Europos, at the rate of 450-650 houses grouped to 8 per island, is estimated at about 5000 people per maximum. Around 256 AD, the city was taken by the Sassanids led by Shapur I, who deported the entire surviving population after killing all the Roman defenders.
The good state of preservation of these buildings and their frescoes was due to their location, close to the main city wall facing west, and the military necessity to strengthen the wall. The Sassanid Persians had become adept at tunneling under such walls in order to undermine them and create breaches.
As a countermeasure the Roman garrison decided to sacrifice the street and the buildings along the wall by filling them with rubble to bolster the wall in case of a Persian mining operation, so the Christian chapel, the synagogue, the Mithraeum and many other buildings were entombed. They also buttressed the walls from the outside with an earthen mound forming a glacis and sealed it with a casing of mud brick to prevent erosion.
There is no written record of the siege of Dura. However, the archaeologists uncovered quite striking evidence of the siege and how it progressed.
In January 2009, researchers claimed they had found evidence that the Persian Empire used poisonous gases at Dura against the Roman defenders during the siege. Excavations at Dura have discovered the remains of 19 Roman and 1 Persian soldiers at the base of the city walls.
Archaeologists have suggested that bitumen and sulphur crystals were ignited to create poisonous gas, which was then funneled through the tunnel with the use of underground chimneys and bellows. The Roman soldiers had been constructing a counter-mine, and Sassanian forces are believed to have released the gas when their mine was breached by the Roman counter-mine.
The lone Persian soldier discovered among the bodies is believed to be the individual responsible for releasing the gas before the fumes overcame him as well.
The existence of Dura-Europos was long known through literary sources. It was rediscovered by the American “Wolfe Expedition” in 1885, when the Palmyrene Gate was photographed by John Henry Haynes.
British troops under Capt. Murphy in the aftermath of World War I and the Arab Revolt also explored the ruins. On 30 March 1920, a soldier digging a trench uncovered brilliantly fresh wall-paintings.
The first archaeology on the site, undertaken by Franz Cumont and published in 1922-23, identified the site with Dura-Europos, and uncovered a temple, before renewed hostilities in the area closed it to archaeology. Later, renewed campaigns directed by Michael Rostovtzeff continued until 1937, when funds ran out with only part of the excavations published.
World War II intervened. Since 1986 excavations have resumed in a joint Franco-Syrian effort under the direction of Pierre Leriche.
Not the least of the finds were astonishingly well-preserved arms and armor belonging to the Roman garrison at the time of the final Sassanian siege of 256 AD. Finds included painted wooden shields and complete horse armor, preserved by the very finality of the destruction of the city that journalists have called “the Pompeii of the desert”.
There was also identified the Dura-Europos church, the earliest Christianhouse church, located by the 17th tower and preserved by the same defensive fill that saved the synagogue. They were an evidently open and tolerated presence in the middle of a major Roman garrison town revealing that the history of the early Church was not simply a story of pagan persecution.
The building consists of a house conjoined to a separate hall-like room, which served as the meeting room for the church. The surviving frescoes of the baptistry room are probably the most ancient Christian paintings.
We can see the “Good Shepherd” (this iconography had a very long history in the Classical world), the “Healing of the paralytic” and “Christ and Peter walking on the water”. These are the earliest depictions of Jesus Christ ever found and date back to 235 AD.
Fragments of parchment scrolls with Hebrew texts have also been unearthed, which just happened to be Christian Eucharistic prayers. They were so closely connected with the prayers in Didache that they were able to fill lacunaein the light of the Didache text.
The location of Dura-Europos on the edge of empires made for a co-mingling of cultural traditions, much of which was preserved under the city’s ruins. Some remarkable finds have been brought to light, including numerous temples, wall decorations, inscriptions, military equipment, tombs, and even dramatic evidence of the Sassanian siege.
The Jury of the International Carlo Scarpa Prize for Gardens unanimously decided the 2010 annual award given to Dura-Europos.
In 1999 Dura Europos has been included in the possible “Tentative List” of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Successively in 2011 has been included again, in the possible nominated list, with the nearby ancient city of Mari.
After over 70% of Dura-Europos was looted and destroyed by the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Syrian Civil War, it was finally demolished by ISIS. National Geographic reports further looting on a massive scale by the terrorist group ISIS in order to fund their aggressive devastation on the region.
We are sad to have such treasures taken away from us by such menaces, but we keep hold of the time for which we were able to share them. Hopefully you were able to enjoy today’s adventure and will join us again.
Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!
Cumont, Franz; Francis, Eric David, ed. “The Dura Mithraeum”. Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies. Manchester UP, 1975.
Dirven, L.A. The Palmyrenes of Dura-Europos: A study of religious interaction in Roman Syria. Brill, 1999.
Francis, Eric David. “Mithraic graffiti from Dura-Europos”. Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies. Manchester UP, 1975.
For centuries Palmyra was an important and wealthy city located along the caravan routes linking Persia with the Mediterranean ports of Roman Syria. Today there is still much to see and explore at the Palmyra site of its distant past.
Palmyra is an ancient Semitic city, with archaeological finds dating back to the Neolithic period, in present-day Homs Governorate, Syria. Palmyra changed hands on a number of occasions between different empires before becoming a subject of the Roman Empire in the 1st Century AD.
The city grew wealthy from trade caravans for the Palmyrenes were renowned merchants who established wealthy colonies along the Silk Road and operated throughout the Roman Empire. The Palmyrenes were a mix of Amorites, Arameans, and Arabs.
The city’s social structure was tribal, and its inhabitants spoke Palmyrene (a dialect of Aramaic). Greek was used for commercial and diplomatic purposes.
By the 3rd Century AD, Palmyra was a prosperous regional center reaching the apex of its power in the 260s, when Palmyrene King Odaenathus defeated Persian Emperor Shapur I. The king was succeeded by regent Queen Zenobia, who rebelled against Rome and established the Palmyrene Empire.
In AD 273, Roman EmperorAurelian destroyed the city, which was later restored by Diocletian at a reduced size. The Palmyrenes converted to Christianity during the 4th Century and to Islam in the latter half of the 1st millennium, after which the Palmyrene and Greek languages were replaced by Arabic.
Before 273 AD, Palmyra enjoyed autonomy and was attached to the Roman province of Syria, having its political organization influenced by the Greek city-state model during the 1st 2 Centuries AD. The city became a Roman colonia during the 3rd Century, leading to the incorporation of Roman governing institutions, before becoming a monarchy in AD 260.
Following its destruction in AD 273, Palmyra became a minor center under the Byzantines and later empires. Its destruction by the Timurids in 1400 reduced it to a small village, then under French Mandatory rule in 1932 the inhabitants were moved into a new village thus making the ancient site available for excavations.
In 2015, Palmyra came under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which later destroyed a number of the site’s buildings. The city was retaken by the Syrian Army on 27 March 2016 but was retaken by ISIL on 11 December 2016 and further destruction of the site followed in 2017.
The name Palmyra appeared during the early 1st Century AD in the works of Pliny the Elder, and was used throughout the Greco-Roman world. It is generally believed that Palmyra derives from Tadmor for the Romans altered the name from Tadmor to Talmura, then to Palmura (from the Latin word palma, meaning palm) in reference to the city’s palm trees, before finally settling on Palmyra.
Palmyra is 134 mi northeast of the Syrian capital, Damascus, in an oasis surrounded by palms (of which 20 varieties have been reported). Two mountain ranges overlook the city – the northern Palmyrene mountain belt from the north and the southern Palmyrene Mountains from the southwest.
In the south and the east Palmyra is exposed to the Syrian Desert. A small wadi (Wadi al-Qubur, Valley of Tombs) crosses the area, flowing from the western hills past the city before disappearing in the eastern gardens of the oasis.
South of the wadi is a spring, Efqa. Pliny the Elder described the town in the 70s AD. He noted it as being famous for its desert location, the richness of its soil, and the springs surrounding it which made agriculture and herding possible.
The Palmyrenes buried their dead in elaborate family mausoleums, most with interior walls forming rows of burial chambers (loculi) in which the dead, laying at full length, were placed. A relief of the person interred formed part of the wall’s decoration, acting as a headstone.
Sarcophagi appeared in the late 2nd Century and were used in some of the tombs. Many burial monuments contained mummies embalmed embalmed in a method similar to that used in Ancient Egypt.
Palmyra began as a small settlement near the Efqa spring on the southern bank of Wadi al-Qubur. The settlement, known as the Hellenistic settlement, had residences expanding to the wadi‘s northern bank during the 1st Century AD.
Although the city’s walls originally enclosed an extensive area on both banks of the wadi, the walls rebuilt during Diocletian’s reign surrounded only the northern-bank section. Most of the city’s monumental projects were likewise built on the wadi‘s northern bank.
Like its art, Palmyra’s architecture was influenced by the Greco-Roman style, while preserving local elements. Enclosed by a massive wall flanked with traditional Roman columns, Bel’s sanctuary plan was primarily Semitic.
Similar to the Second Temple, the sanctuary consisted of a large courtyard with the deity’s main shrine off-center against its entrance (a plan preserving elements of the temples of Ebla and Ugarit). The Senate building, largely ruined, was a small building that consisted of a Peristyle courtyard and a chamber that ending with an apse and rows of seats around it.
Much of the Baths of Diocletian (Thermae Diocletiani) are ruined and do not survive above the level of the foundations. The complex’s entrance is marked by 4 massive Egyptian granite columns each 4 ft 3 in in diameter, 41 ft high and weighing 20 tons. Inside, the outline of a bathing pool surrounded by a colonnade of Corinthian columns is still visible in addition to an octagonal room that served as a dressing room containing a drain in its center.
The Agora of Palmyra is part of a complex that also includes the Tariff Court and the Triclinium, built in the latter half of the 1st Century AD. The agora is a massive 233 by 276 ft structure with 11 different entrances.
Inside the agora, 200 columnar bases that used to hold statues of prominent citizens were found. The inscriptions on the bases allowed an understanding of the order by which the statues were grouped; the eastern side was reserved for Senators, the northern side for Palmyrene officials, the western side for soldiers and the southern side for caravan chiefs.
The Tariff Court is a large rectangular enclosure south of the agora and sharing its northern wall with it. Originally, the entrance of the court was a massive vestibule in its southwestern wall.
However, the entrance was blocked by the construction of a defensive wall and the court was entered through 3 doors from the Agora. The court gained its name by containing a 16.4 ft long stone slab that had the Palmyrene tax law inscribed on it.
The Triclinium of the Agora, located to the northwestern corner of the Agora, could host up to 40 people. It is a small 39 by 49 ft hall decorated with Greek key motifs that run in a continuous line halfway up the wall.
The building was probably used by the rulers of the city. Henri Arnold Seyrig proposed that it was a small temple before being turned into a banqueting hall.
The Temple of Bel was dedicated in 32 AD on the site of an earlier temple (known as the Hellenistic temple). It was rectangular in shape, oriented north-south, and consisted of a large precinct lined by porticos.
The exterior wall was 673 ft long with a propylaea. The cella stood on a podium in the middle of the enclosure.
The Temple of Baalshamin dates to the late 2nd Century BC in its earliest phases. Its altar was built in 115 AD, and it was substantially rebuilt in 131 AD.
The temple consisted of a central cella and 2 colonnaded courtyards north and south of the central structure. A vestibule consisting of 6 columns preceded the cella which had its side walls decorated with pilasters in Corinthian order.
The now, largely-ruined Temple of Nabu was Eastern in its design. The outer enclosure’s propylaea led to a 66 by 30 ft podium through a portico of which the bases of the columns survives.
The Temple of Al-lāt is largely ruined with only a podium, a few columns and the door frame remaining. Inside the compound, a giant lion relief (Lion of Al-lāt) was excavated and in its original form, was a relief protruding from the temple compound’s wall.
The ruined Temple of Baal-hamon was located on the top of Jabal al-Muntar hill which oversees the spring of Efqa. Constructed in 89 AD, it consisted of a cella and a vestibule with 2 columns.
The temple had a defensive tower attached to it. A mosaic depicting the sanctuary was excavated and it revealed that both the cella and the vestibule were decorated with merlons.
The Great Colonnade was Palmyra’s 0.68 mi main street, extended from the Temple of Bel in the east, to the Funerary Temple no.86 in the city’s western part. Most of the columns date to the 2nd Century AD and each is 31.2 ft high.
The Funerary Temple no.86 (also known as the House Tomb) is located at the western end of the Great Colonnade. It was built in the 3rd Century AD and has a portico of 6 columns and vine patterns carvings. Inside the chamber, steps leads down to a vault crypt where a shrine might have connected to the royal family as it is the only tomb inside the city’s walls.
The Tetrapylon was erected during the renovations of Diocletian at the end of the 3rd Century. It is a square platform with each corner containing a grouping of 4 pink granite columns originally brought from Egypt.
Each column group supports a 150 tons cornice and contains a pedestal in its center that originally carried a statue. Out of 16 columns, only 1 is original while the rest are from reconstruction work by the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities in 1963, using concrete.
The city’s current walls were erected during the reign of Diocletian whose fortification of the city enclosed about 198 acres, a much smaller area than the original pre-273 AD city. The Diocletianic walls had protective towers and fortified gateways.
Citing the Palmyrenes’ combat skills in large, sparsely populated areas, the Romans formed a Palmyrene auxilia to serve in the Imperial Roman Army. Vespasian reportedly had 8,000 Palmyrene archers in Judea, and Trajan established the initial Palmyrene Auxilia in AD 116 (a camel cavalry unit, Ala I Ulpia dromedariorum Palmyrenorum).
Interrupted by World War II, excavation of Palmyra resumed soon after the war’s end. Seyrig started with the Temple of Bel in 1929, and between 1939 and 1940 he excavated the Agora.
Daniel Schlumberger conducted excavations in the northwest Palmyrene countryside in 1934 and 1935, where he studied different local sanctuaries in the Palmyrene villages. From 1954 to 1956, a Swiss expedition organized by UNESCO excavated the Temple of Baalshamin.
Since 1958, the site has been excavated by the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities, and Polish expeditions led by many archaeologists including Kazimierz Michałowski (until 1980) and Michael Gawlikowski (until 2011).
The Temple of Baal-hamon was discovered by Robert du Mesnil du Buisson in the 1970s. The Palmyrene irrigation system was discovered in 2008 by Jørgen Christian Meyer, who researched the Palmyrene countryside through ground inspections and satellite images.
Most of Palmyra still remains unexplored especially the residential quarters in the north and south while the necropolis has been thoroughly excavated by the Directorate and the Polish expedition. Excavation expeditions left Palmyra in 2011 due to the Syrian Civil War.
In 1980, the historic site including the necropolis outside the walls was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. In November 2010 the Austrian media manager Helmut Thoma admitted looting a Palmyrene grave in 1980, stealing architectural pieces for his home.
Whether this has sparked your interest about the Roman Middle East, or maybe inspired you to travel to a similar region, we thank you for joining us today. Please come back again soon to see what’s upcoming.
Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!
Addison, Charles Greenstreet. Damascus and Palmyra: a journey to the East, 1838. OCLC833460514.
Ando, Clifford. Imperial Rome AD 193 to 284: The Critical Century. Edinburgh University Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-7486-5534-2.
Andrade, Nathanael J. Syrian Identity in the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge University Press, 2013. ISBN 978-1-107-01205-9.
Ball, Warwick. Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire. Routledge, 1999. ISBN 978-1-134-82387-1.
Brauer, George C. The Age of the Soldier Emperors: Imperial Rome, A.D. 244–284. Noyes Press, 1975. ISBN 978-0-8155-5036-5.
Browning, Iain. Palmyra. Noyes Press, 1979. ISBN 978-0-8155-5054-9.
Bryce, Trevor. The Routledge Handbook of the Peoples and Places of Ancient Western Asia: The Near East from the Early Bronze Age to the fall of the Persian Empire. Routledge, 2009. ISBN 978-1-134-15907-9.
Butcher, Kevin. Roman Syria and the Near East. The British Museum Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0-7141-2235-9.
De Blois, Lukas. The Policy of the Emperor Gallienus. Brill, 1976. ISBN 978-90-04-04508-8.
Edwell, Peter. Between Rome and Persia: The Middle Euphrates, Mesopotamia and Palmyra Under Roman Control. Routledge, 2008. ISBN 978-1-134-09573-5.
Elton, Hugh. Frontiers of the Roman Empire. Indiana University Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0-253-33111-3.
Mackay, Christopher S. Ancient Rome: A Military and Political History. Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-521-80918-4.
McLaughlin, Raoul. Rome and the Distant East: Trade Routes to the ancient lands of Arabia, India and China. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4411-6223-6.
Mennen, Inge. Power and Status in the Roman Empire, AD 193–284. Brill, 2011. ISBN 978-90-04-20359-4.
Millar, Fergus. The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337. Harvard University Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0-674-77886-3.
Tuck, Steven L. A History of Roman Art. John Wiley & Sons, 2015. ISBN 978-1-4443-3025-0.
As we venture from East to West and from North to South, it’s always nice to just get back home. In this case we do not mean Texas, we are talking about Rome.
The mausoleum is a large tomb built by the Emperor Augustus in 28 BC on the Campus Martius in Rome, Italy. The mausoleum is located on the Piazza Augusto Imperatore, near the corner with Via di Ripetta as it runs along the Tiber.
The grounds cover an area equivalent to a few city blocks, and nestle between the Church of San Carlo al Corso and the Museum of the Ara Pacis. The interior of the mausoleum is not open to tourists.
The mausoleum was one of the original projects initiated by Augustus following his victory at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. The mausoleum was circular in plan, consisting of several concentric rings of earth and brick, planted with cypress trees on top of the building and capped by a conical roof and a 15 ft-tall bronze statue of Augustus.
Vaults held up the roof and opened up the burial spaces below. The completed mausoleum measured 295 ft in diameter by 137 ft in height.
A corridor ran from the entryway into the heart of the mausoleum. Here there was a chamber with 3 niches to hold the golden urns enshrining the ashes of the Imperial Family.
After the disastrous defeat of the Commune of Rome at the hands of the Count of Tusculum in AD 1167, the Colonna were disgraced and banished, and their fortification in the Campo was dismantled. The area thus became a ruin.
In the early 20th Century the Mausoleum of Augusts was made into a concert hall. It was not until the 1930s that the site was opened as a preserved archaeological landmark along with the newly moved and reconstructed Ara Pacis nearby.
The restoration of the Mausoleum of Augustus to a place of prominence was part of Benito Mussolini‘s ambitious reordering of the city. This stripping away of everything modern upon the ruins and monuments of Rome was his attempt to connect the aspirations of Italian Fascism with the former glories of the Roman Empire.
Mussolini viewed himself especially connected to the achievements of Augustus, seeing himself as a “reborn Augustus” ready to usher in a new age of Italian dominance. We all know Augustus, and that Mussolini was no Augustus.
At the original time of this article (almost a year ago) Rome Commissioner Francesco Paolo Tronca had approved a €6-million preliminary project to complete restoration work at the Mausoleum of Augustus. Funding was to serve to finish structural work on the monumental tomb including covering it, building a circular catwalk around it, and preparing it to open for public visits.
This commitment to restoring Rome’s historical monuments not only benefits tourism, but it also keeps alive remnants from a dominate world culture for future generations. Keeping Rome’s past intact benefits everyone.
With the Telecom Italia’s €6-million for restoration and upgrades, both inside and out, this monument should be a new tourist draw for Rome. Having once been 1 of the key monuments in the history of mankind, the Mausoleum of Augustus is set to reclaim that title.
Tourists will be immersed in the most sensational story of humanity, from imperial Rome to the beginnings of Christianity and the Baroque period,” said Giuseppe Recchi, the president of Telecom Italia.
We hope you enjoyed our trip to the Romani Patriae and look forward to having you back again. Make sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter as well.
Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!
Dal Maso, Leonardo B. Rome of the Caesars. Bonechi: Florence, 1974.
Lanciani, Rodolfo. Pagan and Christian Rome. 1892. On-line.
Young, Norwood; P. Barrera. Rome and Its Story. J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd: London, 1951.
It was about 2 years to the day that my wife and I had planned out the trip of a lifetime to Paris. We had planned to spend Christmas and New Years in Paris, France not Paris, TX.
It was to be an adventure since neither of us had ever been before. But that trip never happened for not too long after we found out that we were going to have a child, and that the due date of the baby was to be 2 weeks before our vacation.
Since we haven’t yet traveled overseas due to the arrival of our son on 29 November 2015, today we revisit our plan for traveling to Paris!
When we began the planning, after securing our airfare and hotel accommodations, we were about a year away from the trip. Questions were coming hard and fast.
What are we interested in seeing? How do we want to travel? Do we want to get plane tickets own their own, or bundle them together with the hotel?
Do we want to stay in one location the entire trip, or move about? Are we traveling on a budget? The questions can go on and on.
The first question, sites we want to see, was fairly easy to answer. We want to see it all!
These are just obvious. However, we were not against becoming part of the “City of Lights” and strolling off of the tourist path.
To make lasting memories, the plan will be to experience as much as we possibly can. Hopefully this can also be accomplished in the most cost efficient means available.
To do so, the next most important decision is the location in which to stay. This is where some speed bumps will arise.
Paris is a very large city. As most cities of a similar size, like London or New York, the city is broken up into smaller districts.
The Parisians call their smaller areas Arrondissement (neighborhoods). They are divided up into 20 of these municipal areas.
If you imagine a spiral, how it starts in the center and continues to loop clockwise around from there, this is how the Arrondissements are formed.
The River Seine divides Paris almost in half, thus creating a Right (North) Bank and a Left (South) Bank. The Right Bank contains the following Arrondissements: 1-4, 8-12, and 16-20 while the Left Bank contains Arrondissements: 5-7 and 13-15.
One would think that it would not be so challenging to choose which Arrondissements to stay in due to the breakdown. Well that is not the case.
Each neighborhood has its own feel and its own charm. Plus there is at least 1 attraction in each neighborhood that visitors want to see.
From sites that I have gone through, it appears all of the districts are safe. If you have yet to visit “The City of Love” then here are brief descriptions of each.
The Palais-Royal is opposite the Louvre. The larger inner courtyard, the Cour d’Honneur, has since 1986 contained Daniel Buren‘s site-specific art piece Les Deux Plateaux, known as Les Colonnes de Buren.
Primarily a business district, the 2nd, aka the smallest Arrondissement, is also home to a number of historic shopping arcades. What’s here? The Paris Bourse, theBibliothèque nationale de France, lots of cafés and delivery trucks.
The Paris Bourse is the historical Paris stock exchange, known as Euronext Paris from 2000 onward. The Bibliothèque nationale de France is the National Library of France, and is the national repository of all that is published in France.
The Place des Vosges, originally Place Royale, is the oldest planned square in Paris and one of the finest in the city. It is located in the Marais district of Paris, and was a fashionable and expensive square during the 17th and 18th Centuries.
The Musée Picasso is an art gallery located in the Hôtel Salé in rue de Thorigny, dedicated to the work of the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. The Carnavalet Museum is dedicated to the history of the city, and occupies 2 neighboring mansions: the Hôtel Carnavalet and the former Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau.
The 4th is the oldest part of Paris. With designer boutiques and fancy cuisine, lots of hipsters have taken to this area.
Notre-Dame de Paris, or simply Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholiccathedral widely considered to be one of the finest examples of FrenchGothic architecture. It is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world.
The Arènes de Lutèce was a Roman amphitheater that could once seat 15,000 people and was used to present gladiatorial combats. The Thermes de Cluny are a Roman Bath complex built by the influential guild of boatmen of 3rd Century Roman Paris (Lutetia), as the consoles on which the barrel ribs rest are carved in the shape of ships’ prows.
The iconic 6th is what Paris’s Left Bank is all about. It is popular with locals and visitors alike, which makes it a popular place to stay.
Les Invalides (The National Residence of the Invalids) is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building’s original purpose.
Another Arrondissement loaded with tourist attractions. The 8th is like Oprah-rich.
The Place de la Concorde is the major public squares in Paris, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées. The Élysée Palace has been the official residence of the President of France since 1848.
A multifaceted Arrondissement, the 9th holds prestigious boulevards in the south and not so prestigious red light district (Pigalle area) in the north. The Rue Saint-Denis is where senior citizen prostitutes can be found.
The Galeries Lafayette is an upmarket French department store chain, with its flagship store is on Boulevard Haussmann. The Église de la Sainte-Trinité is a Roman Catholic church of the Second Empire period, built as part of the beautification and reorganization of Paris under Baron Haussmann.
The 10th is noted as being very “down to earth”. It is spread out too, so it is no wonder that both of Paris’s main railway stations (the Gare de l’Est and Gare du Nord) are found in the 10th.
A very low profile Arrondissement, known around the city as the Oberkampf, the 11th is mostly residential. This Right Bank district is better known for its nightlife than its landmarks, so it may feel a little too “festive” for a first time visitor to Paris.
The Cirque d’Hiver (Winter Circus) has been a prominent venue for circuses, exhibitions of dressage, musical concerts, and other events, including exhibitions of Turkish wrestling and even fashion shows. The church of Saint-Ambroise was named after its neighborhood, the quartier Saint-Ambroise.
Largely residential, the 13th is more out of the way from the typical tourist sites. It is home to the city’s largest Chinatown, while Butte-aux-Cailles (Quail Hill) boasts a stretch of restaurants, cafés and bars.
Today the Butte-aux-Cailles area assembles a young, trendy and festive Parisian population in its many small bars and restaurants. The Pitié-Salpêtrière University Hospital is a celebrated teaching hospital of Sorbonne University, and is 1 of Europe’s largest hospitals.
The Catacombs of Paris are underground ossuaries which hold the remains of more than 6 million people in a small part of the ancient Mines of Paris tunnel network. The Paris Observatory is the foremost astronomical observatory of France, and 1 of the largest astronomical centers in the world.
As a hit-or-miss district, the 15th is the largest of the 20 Arrondissements in Paris (both in size and population). Filled mostly with concrete 1970s high-rises, the 15th is not very lively unless you go to where it borders the 7th.
Maine-Montparnasse Tower, also commonly named Tour Montparnasse, is a 689 ft office skyscraper located in the Montparnasse area of Paris. Parc André Citroën is a 35 acres public park located on the Left Bank of the river Seine.
The 16th has the reputation of being the richest, with lots of Americans living here with their families. It is also viewed as being very safe, but more quiet and residential.
Batignolles was an independent village outside Paris until 1860, when the EmperorNapoleon III annexed it to the capital. The Palais des congrès de Paris is a concert venue, convention center and shopping mall.
Home of the famous Moulin Rouge, the 18th is like a vintage postcard of Paris. The once bohemian, and still village-like, district is often inundated with tourists.
That being said, avoid any hotel or hostel that is off of the Barbès-Rochechouart or Château Rouge metro stop. This is not the best district for wondering around the desolate side streets at night.
Moulin Rouge (Red Mill) is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica and often simply Sacré-Cœur, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Another large Arrondissement, the 19th is a bit out of the way for Paris newcomers. The markets here are interesting to do as a day trip. Come night fall in Belleville, an area bordering the 19th and 20thArrondissements, there is a large community of young prostitutes.
The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is a public park occupying 61 acres, was opened by Emperor Napoleon III. The Parc de la Villette is another public park which houses 1 of the largest concentration of cultural venues in Paris, including the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (City of Science and Industry, Europe’s largest science museum), 3 major concert venues, and the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris.
The final, and mostly residential, Arrondissement is cosmopolitan and has no real attractions. The 20th still gets its fair share of tourists.
In order to provide you with engaging daily content, due to my newly hectic schedule, I have chosen to revisit some articles from early on in RAE’s history. Maybe I missed something or maybe something new has been shared since the article’s original publishing.
An unknown biographer of EmperorPublius Aelius Hadrianus Augustus (aka Hadrian) wrote that “(Hadrian) was the first to build a wall 80 miles long to separate the Romans from the barbarians“, but the true reason(s) for the construction of the wall vary. What we do know is that The Wall was not to divide Roman England from Barbarian Alba since the entire wall resides in England.
The only ancient source for its provenance is the Augustan History. No sources survive to confirm what the Wall was called in antiquity, and no historical literary source gives it a name.
However, the discovery of the Staffordshire Moorlands Pan in Staffordshire in 2003 has provided a clue. A small enameled bronze Roman trulla (ladle), dating to the 2nd Century AD, is inscribed with a series of names of Roman forts along the western sector of the wall, together with a personal name and phrase: MAIS COGGABATA VXELODVNVM CAMBOGLANNA RIGORE VALI AELI DRACONIS.
These are the 4 of the westernmost forts on Hadrian’s Wall, but excluding Aballava.
RIGORE is the ablative singular form of the Latin word rigor, but can also mean straight line, course or direction. This sense was used by Roman surveyors and appears on several inscriptions to indicate a line between places. So the meaning could be “according to the course”.
Vallum Aelium, aka Hadrian’s Wall, is not only the name of the momumental momument but it is also a blanket term. The term includes 5 distinct elements when viewed in a cross-section from north to south, so from above the big wall to behind it.
There is a Ditch, a Berm with or without obstacles, the Curtain (or Wall itself), the Military Way, and then the Vallum.
Out of the local rock, some limestone some volcanic, the ground was formed into a steep V-shape. In order to keep the integrity of the Wall, a small to moderate depression was created to drain water from low-lying areas near the structure.
This is the narrow portion of ground from the base of the Wall Curtain to the edge of the Ditch. This was approximately a width of 3 meters. In the eastern edge of the Wall, various obstacles have been found on the Berm that would function like stakes.
This is the portion made of stone or turf that folks think of when referring to Harian’s Wall. In stone, the Curtain spans from Wallsend to Birdoswald. From turf and timber the Curtain spans from Birdoswald to Bowness-on-Solway.
The Curtain crosses the River Tyne (at Cilurnum) and River Irthing (at Willowford near Banna). Although the thickness of the stone portion of the Curtain is not agreed upon, the height has been confirmed to be just under 15 feet.
The narrow road immediately behind the Wall Curtain was added in the 2nd Century AD. The Way was the direct connection to the forts, milecastles, and turrium built into the Wall Curtain.
Romans were known for road making and having the travels be as easy as possible. These physical infrastructures vital to the maintenance and development of the Roman state, and were built from about 300 BC through the expansion and consolidation of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire.
This featured a steep, flat-bottomed ditch with an earthern mound on both the north and south sides. The Vallum ran from east (at Newcastle) to west (at Bowness), very close to the Wall Curtain.
There were diviations around the forts and crossings across the ditches and through the mounds.
Hadrian’s Wall is more than just rock and mortar. There’s a lot more to it. Aside from being the most popular tourist attraction in Northern England, in 1987 it was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
Touring Hadrian’s Wall is can be done via Hadrian’s Wall Path. Although one can walk or bike, the Wall is more easily accessed by car, bus or taxi.
A great way to see Hadrian’s Wall is by going to Vindolanda. There are tours and museums of the turrets and mileforts.
If you care to read more about Hadrian’s Wall or the forts/towns along it, please check out these articles:
Built at the end of the 1st Century AD to seat 24,000 spectators, the Arena of Nîmes was one of the biggest Roman amphitheaters in Gallia. During the Middle Ages a fortified palace was built within the amphitheatre.
Later a small neighborhood developed within its confines, complete with 700 inhabitants and 2 chapels. In 1863 the arena was remodeled to serve as a bullring and today it hosts 2 annual bullfights as well as other public events.
We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure. Apologies for the briefness, but sometimes short is sweet.