Category Archives: Historical Sites

The Peristylium: Still Not Your Average Column

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Rome, and the later capitals in the Imperium Rōmānum, was a grand achievement based on many things. The Empire was a terrific blend of both art and culture.

From the North Atlantic to the Persian Gulf and from the Black Sea to the Red Sea, the greatness of Rome can still be felt. Something that can still be experienced, aside from the art, is the architecture.

That is why today we are re-imagining Roman architecture as we explore the Peristylium!

Typical design of a 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 Praetor or Consulwould 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 Peristylium is.

“In the Peristyle” John William Waterhouse (1849-1917). Rochdale Art Gallery, Rochdale, England.

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.

Liwan House
A Liwan House

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.

Reconstruction of a Roman Peristylum
Reconstruction of a Roman peristylum (peristyle) and peristylium (courtyard) of Pompeii.

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.

A Villa’s Outer Peristyle

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 domus is a mark of the extinction of the Late Classical culture. After AD 550, no new peristyle houses were built.

Basilica of Constantine
Remains of the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine (Rome). The building’s northern aisle is all that remains.

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.

Old St. Peter Basilica
Drawing of the Old St. Peter’s Basilica

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.

Grand Trianon
Peristyle of the Grand Trianon (Versailles, France)

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.

A great original example of a Roman Peristylium can be found in Split, Croatia. At the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Diocletian’s Palace you can visit Peristyle Square, in front of the bell tower and Cathedral of St. Domnius.

Peristyle Square
Peristyle Square (Split, Croatia)

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 NOLA Peristyle
City Park NOLA Peristyle

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.

Prospect Park Peristyle
Prospect Park (New York) Peristyle

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.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Barbara F. McManus. THE PERISTYLIUM.

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.

Dura-Europos: A Border City of the Euphrates River

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Recently we visited a part of the Roman Empire that we normally leave for others, that is the Middle East. Even though it was indeed part of Rome as a whole, our main focus here is typically Europe.

This last journey was to a UNESCO World Heritage Site at Palmyra. In case you missed that adventure you can find it here.

So today we journey back to the desert as we explore Dura-Europos!

Fresco of Moses and the Exodus, from the Dura-Europos synagogue.

Dura-Europos was a HellenisticParthian and Roman border city built on an escarpment 300 ft above the right bank of the Euphrates. It is located near the village of Salhiyé, in today’s Syria.

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.

A view of the southern wadi and part of the walls of the city of Dura-Europos.

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.

Once a cosmopolitan society, controlled by a tolerant Macedonian aristocracy descended from the original settlers. In the course of its excavation, over a 100 parchment and papyrus fragments and many inscriptions have revealed texts in Greek and Latin, Palmyrene, HebrewHatrianSafaitic, and Pahlavi.

The excavations revealed temples to GreekRoman and Palmyrene gods. There was also a Mithraeum, as one would expect in a Roman military city.

Map of Dura-Europus, Syria.

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.

Theriomorph found at Dura

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.

Dura was taken by the Roman army of Lucius Verus during the Roman–Parthian War of 161–166. The townspeople however retained considerable freedom as a regional headquarters for the section of the river between the Khabur and modern Abu Kemal.

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 Palmyrene Gate, the principal entrance to the city of Dura-Europos.

In 114 AD, Emperor Trajan occupied the city for a couple of years. The Legio III Cyrenaica (Third Cyrenaica Legion) erected a Triumphal Arch to the west of the Gate of Palmyra.

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.

Roman re-enactors portraying Legio III Cyrenaica.

In AD 194, Emperor Septimius 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, .

Fresco of Rome’s Palmyrene soldiers.

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.

Taken in the 1930s, this original excavation photo depicts an archway in Dura’s Mithraeum (Yale University Art Gallery).

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.

Tunnel warfare in Dura-Europos

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 American archaeologist James Henry Breasted was alerted. Major excavations were carried out in the 1920s and 1930s by French and American teams.

Temple of Zeus

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”.

The 1922 excavation site

Finds from Dura-Europos are on display in the Deir ez-Zor Museum and the Yale University Art Gallery.

There was also identified the Dura-Europos church, the earliest Christian house 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.

Frescos of scenes from the Bible

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.

A much larger fresco depicts two women approaching a large sarcophagus, probably the three Marys visiting Christ’s tomb. There were also frescoes of Adam and Eve as well as David and Goliath.

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 lacunae in the light of the Didache text.

In 1933, among fragments of text recovered from the town dump outside the Palmyrene Gate, a fragmentary text was unearthed from an unknown Greek harmony of the gospel accounts — comparable to Tatian‘s Diatessaron, but independent of it.

Painting of Jeremiah from the Bible.

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.

James, Simon. “Stratagems, Combat, and “Chemical Warfare” in the Siege Mines of Dura-Europos”American Journal of Archaeology #115, 2011.

James, Simon. “Dura-Europos, the ‘Pompeii of the Desert'”.

Hopkins, C. The Discovery of Dura Europos. New Haven and London, 1979.

Rostovtzeff, M.I. Dura-Europos and Its Art. Oxford University Press, 1938.

Weitzmann, Kurt, ed. Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century. Catalogue of the Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, November 19, 1977, Through February 12, 1978. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979. ISBN 9780870991790.

Wilford, John Noble. “A Melting Pot at the Intersection of Empires for Five Centuries”. New York Times, 19 December 2011.

Young, Penny. Dura Europos: A City for Everyman. Twopenny Press, 2014.

Dura Europos: Crossroads of Antiquity, eds. Lisa R. Brody and Gail L. Hoffman. McMullen Museum of Art, with University of Chicago Press, 2011.

Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos, eds. Jennifer Y. Chi and Sebastian Heath. New York University and Princeton University Press, 2011.

“Dura-Europos: Excavating Antiquity” at the Yale University Art Gallery

The Dura-Europos Gospel Harmony

“7 vs. 8: The Battle Over the Holy Day at Dura-Europos”

Palmyra (#11)

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 #12 – Amphitheatre Nîmes.

Today we’re headed to the eastern Mediterranean boundary of the Roman Empire as we head to Syria to bring to you #11 – Palmyra!

Ruins of Palmyra

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 Silk Road

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 AmoritesArameans, 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.

The culture of Palmyra was influenced by Greco-Roman culture and produced distinctive art and architecture that combined eastern and western traditions. The city’s inhabitants worshiped local deities and Mesopotamian and Arab gods.

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 Emperor Aurelian 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.

Diocletian’s Camp

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.

Pliny the Elder

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.

The northern Palmyrene mountain belt

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.

Efqa spring, which dried up in 1994.

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.

Diocletian’s Walls

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.

The Senate

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.

Baths of Diocletian

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.

Palmyra’s Agora; the 2 front entrances lead to the interior, the city’s marketplace.

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.

Palmyra’s landmarks (as seen from above)

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.

Fortifications at the Temple of Bel

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’s interior (destroyed in 2015).

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 Lion of Al-lāt (first century AD), which stood at the entrance of the Temple of Al-lāt (destroyed in 2015).

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 Colonnade

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 marked the 2nd pivot in the route of the colonnaded street (It was destroyed in 2017).

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 ArmyVespasian 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).

Roman Infantry helmet (late 1st Century)

Palmyrene units were deployed throughout the Roman Empire, serving in Dacia late in Hadrian‘s reign, and at El Kantara in Numidia and Moesia under Antoninus Pius. During the late 2nd Century Rome formed the Cohors XX Palmyrenorum, which was stationed in Dura-Europos.

Palmyra’s earliest excavations were conducted in 1902 by Otto Puchstein, followed by Theodor Wiegand in 1917. In 1929, French general director of antiquities of Syria and Lebanon Henri Arnold Seyrig began large-scale excavation of the site.

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.

Palmyra’s theater (damaged in 2017)

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.

Arch of Triumph in the eastern section of Palmyra’s colonnade (destroyed in 2015).

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. OCLC 833460514.

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.

Mausoleum of Augustus: Restoration and Updates are Coming

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Have we got some big news for you. On 16 January 2017, it was shared that an Italian telecommunications company has contributed €6-million for its restoration.

The company was not named, unfortunately, but its director promising an elaborate multimedia show that will tell the story of Augustus and ancient Rome. If you care to read the article from The Telegraph you can do so here.

This got us excited about what lies ahead for the resting place of Augustus, Rome‘s 1st Emperor. Back on 6 June 2016, we wrote an article called Mausoleum of Augustus: Resting Place for Rome’s Original Emperor.

With all the good news we thought it’d be a perfect time to revisit the Mausoleum of Augustus!

Mausoleum of Augustus on the Campus Martius.

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.

Location of the Mausoleum of Augustus in the Campus Martius on the banks of the Tiber.

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.

Original design for the Mausoleum of Augustus.

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.

The arched entryway to the Mausoleum of Augustus.

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.

The traditional story is that in AD 410, during the sack of Rome by Alaric, the pillaging Visigoths rifled the vaults, stole the urns and scattered the ashes, without damaging the structure of the building. In the Middle Ages the tumulus was fortified as a castle— as was the mausoleum of Hadrian, which was turned into the Castel Sant’Angelo— and occupied by the Colonna family.

Inside Plan
Inside plan of the mausoleum.

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.

Augustus – “I found a Rome of bricks; I leave to you one of marble.”

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.

Quirinal Fountain
Quirinal Fountain

Twin pink granite obelisks also once flanked the arched entryway, but have since been removed. One now stands at the Piazza dell’Esquilino (on the northwest side of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore) and the other at the Quirinal Fountain.

Even though the monument was to be the final resting place of The First Emperor, Augustus was not the original person laid to rest there.

Included among those whose remains were laid inside the mausoleum before the death of Augustus were: Marcus Claudius Marcellus, who was the 1st to be buried there in 23 BC; Marcus Agrippa in 12 BC; Nero Claudius Drusus in 9 BC; Octavia Minor, the sister of Augustus in 9 or 11 BC; then Gaius (4 AD) and Lucius (2 AD), grandsons and heirs of Augustus.

After the death of Augustus, the mausoleum hosted the ashes of: Livia, wife of Augustus; GermanicusAgrippina the Elder; Julia Livilla, Agrippina’s daughter; Nero, son of Germanicus; Drusus Caesar, son of Germanicus; CaligulaTiberius; Drusus Julius Caesar, son of Tiberius; Antonia Minor, mother of Claudius; Claudius; Britannicus, the son of Claudius; the embalmed body of Poppaea Sabina wife of Nero;  Julia Domna, who was later moved to the Mausoleum of Hadrian; and Nerva, the last Emperor for whom the mausoleum was opened.

Inside the mausoleum

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.

Painting showing a contemporary view of the Mausoleum of Augustus.

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.

Mausoleum of Augustus Restoration Project to Begin”. Archaeology News Network. 04 March 2016.

Squires, Nick. “Giant mausoleum in Rome that held the remains of the emperor Augustus to be restored after decades of neglect”. The Telegraph. 16 January 2017.

First Time In Paris? We Haven’t Been Yet Either

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

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.

Trip over.

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!

Eiffel Tower New Years
Fireworks above the Eiffel Tower on New Year’s Eve.

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.

Notre Dame de Paris

The first question, sites we want to see, was fairly easy to answer. We want to see it all!


Seriously though, Jenn and I want to get the best from our first Paris experience. We are tourists and we want to see the major tourist locations: Notre Dame de Paris, Arc de Triomphe, The Louvre, and The Eiffel Tower.

Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe

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.

Arrondissements of Paris

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.

The Louvre

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.

1st Arrondissement

The Colonnes de Buren in the Cour d’Honneur of the Palais-Royal.

The least populated, but most expensive, of the 20 Arrondissements is right in the center of Paris. What’s here? The Louvre Museum, Palais-Royal, Tuileries Garden, Forum des Halles, Bourse du Commerce, and the upscale Place Vendôme.

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.

2nd Arrondissement

The Paris Bourse

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, the Bibliothèque 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.

3rd Arrondissement

The main entrance of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM), or National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts.

Another small Arrondissement, the 3rd contains the northern part of the historic Marais district. What’s here? The Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, the Picasso Museum and the Carnavalet Museum.

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.

4th Arrondissement

Place des Vosges
Place des Vosges

The 4th is the oldest part of Paris. With designer boutiques and fancy cuisine, lots of hipsters have taken to this area.

What’s here? Notre-Dame, the Place des Vosges, City Hall and the Gothic Tour St-Jacques. To contrast all the historic buildings is the modern Centre Georges Pompidou.

Notre-Dame de Paris, or simply Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. It is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world.

5th Arrondissement

Arènes de Lutèce, the most important remains from the Gallo-Roman era in Paris.

The 5th, or Latin Quarter, holds the renowned Sorbonne University. The school brings a more youthful crowd.

What’s here? The Panthéon, the Val-de-Grâce, the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, the Cluny Museum, Jardin des Plantesand the Roman-era Arènes de Lutèce and Thermes de Cluny.

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.

6th Arrondissement

Church of Saint-Sulpice
Church of Saint-Sulpice

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.

What’s here? The Jardin du Luxembourg, the Odéon Theatre, the Church of Saint-Sulpice, and the 11th Century Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

The Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe is 1 of France’s 6 national theatres. Saint-Sulpice is a Roman Catholic church, only slightly smaller than Notre-Dame, and is dedicated to Sulpitius the Pious.

7th Arrondissement

Les Invalides
Les Invalides

The 7th is filled with government institutions and major landmarks. This is also quite an upscale Arrondissement.

Being expensive overall, if money is any concern of yours then this is not the place to stay. What’s here? The Eiffel Tower, the Invalides (with Napoleon‘s Tomb), the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée Rodin, the Musée du Quai Branly, the Palais Bourbon, and the UNESCO Headquarters.

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.

8th Arrondissement

Élysée Palace
Élysée Palace

Another Arrondissement loaded with tourist attractions. The 8th is like Oprah-rich.

This is where fashion meets Sex and the City finale. What’s here? The Champs-Élysées (probably the world’s most famous boulevard), the Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, the Élysée Palace, Madeleine church, and Monceau Park.

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.

9th Arrondissement

Église de la Sainte-Trinité

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.

What’s here? The former Opéra Garnier, the Galeries Lafayette, and Sainte-Trinité.

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.

10th Arrondissement

Facade of the Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul.

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.

What’s here? Canal Saint-Martin and Saint-Vincent-de-Paul.

The Canal Saint-Martin is a 2.8 mile long canal connecting the Canal de l’Ourcq to the river Seine, and runs underground between Bastille (Paris Métro) and République (Paris Métro). The Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul is a church dedicated to Saint Vincent de Paul.

11th Arrondissement

Church of Saint-Ambroise
Church of Saint-Ambroise

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.

What’s here? The Cirque d’Hive and the Church of Saint-Ambroise.

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.

12th Arrondissement

Bastille Opera House
Bastille Opera House

The 12th is large and mostly residential, but it is affordable and safe with access to major metro lines. What’s here? The Bastille Opera House, AccorHotels Arena, along with the Vincennes.

The Opéra Bastille (Bastille Opera House) is a modern opera house and the main facility of the Paris National Opera, France’s principal opera company. Vincennes is a commune in the Val-de-Marne department in the eastern suburbs of Paris, famous for its castle, the Château de Vincennes, and its park, the Bois de Vincennes.

13th Arrondissement

The Mazarin entrance to the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital.

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.

What’s here? The Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrièrel.

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.

14th Arrondissement

Catacombs of Paris

Not considered a lively Arrondissement, the 14th does have its own sleepy charm and quiet streets. What’s here? The Paris Catacombs, Place Denfert-Rochereau, and the Observatoire de Paris (how the 14th Arrondissement got its name).

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.

15th Arrondissement

Tour Maine Montparnasse
Tour Maine Montparnasse

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.

What’s here? Tour Maine Montparnasse and the Parc André Citroën.

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.

16th Arrondissement

Palais de Chaillot
Palais de Chaillot

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.

What’s here? The Palais de Chaillot, the Musée Guimet, the Palais de Tokyo, and the Musée Marmottan.

The Palais de Chaillot was also the initial headquarters of NATO, and the buildings now house a number of museums. Musée Marmottan Monet is a museum featuring a collection of over 300 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Paul Signac and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

17th Arrondissement

Pétanque, the outdoor bowling-game, as played in Batignolles.

This is a diverse Arrondissement outside the center of Paris most visited by tourists. The 17th is home to up-and-coming Batignolles area that houses many established French artists and writers.

What’s here? The Batignolles Cemetery, the Square des Batignolles, and the Palais des Congrès.

Batignolles was an independent village outside Paris until 1860, when the Emperor Napoleon III annexed it to the capital. The Palais des congrès de Paris is a concert venue, convention center and shopping mall.

18th Arrondissement

Moulin Rouge
The famous Moulin Rouge

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.

What’s here? Sacré-Coeur Basilica and the Place du Tertre.

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.

19th Arrondissement

Panoramic view of the island within the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.

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 20th Arrondissements, there is a large community of young prostitutes.

What’s here? The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont and the Parc de la Villette.

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.

20th Arrondissement

Père Lachaise Cemetery

The final, and mostly residential, Arrondissement is cosmopolitan and has no real attractions. The 20th still gets its fair share of tourists.

What’s here? The Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.

Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in the city (110 acres) and is notable for being the original garden cemetery, as well as the original municipal cemetery.

So now Jenn and I know what we are up against. With some information on our side, finding a place to stay will not seem so daunting.

The key to collecting information on traveling is to get different views. One website may not like a past experience and may downplay what happens to be true.

I found using a more “hip” site and a more “informative” site helped balance things. With the boy now, I’ll probably have to go check out a “family friendly” site.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure, and maybe were even inspired to check out Paris for yourself. Whenever our own trip gets set up again, we shall be certain to keep you updated.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Breaking Down Hadrian’s Wall: An Extensive Look

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

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.

In any event, today we’re taking a journey to a familiar place in Roman Britannia as we break down Hadrian’s Wall!

Location of Hadrian’s Wall

An unknown biographer of Emperor Publius 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.

Near Morpeth, by William Bell Scott, showing a centurion supervising the building of the wall.
Near Morpeth, by William Bell Scott, showing a Centurion supervising the building of the wall.

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.

Bowness (MAIS) is followed by Drumburgh-by-Sands (COGGABATA), until now known only as CONGAVATA from the late Roman document, the Notitia Dignitatum. Next comes Stanwix (VXELODVNVM), then Castlesteads (CAMBOGLANNA).

The village of Aballava has been occupied continuously since Roman times.

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.

Wall Curtain

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.

Military Way

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.

Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail

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:

Hadrian’s Wall (#21)

Vercovicium – The Village on the Slope

Corsopitum: Discovering History Daily at the Corbridge Roman Site

Concangis: The Chester-le-Street Roman Fort

Condercum: A Roman Fort That Would Become Newcastle Upon Tyne

Gateshead: A Modern City With Ancient Beginnings

Segedunum: The End of the Line

We hope your enjoyed today’s adventure. Hadrian’s Wall is waiting for you, seize the opportunity.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Burton, Anthony. Hadrian’s Wall Path. Aurum Press Ltd, 2004 . ISBN 1-85410-893-X.

Davies, Hunter. A Walk along the Wall. Wiedenfield and Nicolson, 1974. ISBN 0 297 76710 0.

de la Bédoyère, Guy. Hadrian’s Wall: A History and Guide. Stroud: Tempus, 1998. ISBN 0-7524-1407-0.

England’s Roman Frontier: Discovering Carlisle and Hadrian’s Wall Country. Hadrian’s Wall Heritage Ltd and Carlisle Tourism Partnership, 2010.

Forde-Johnston, James L. Hadrian’s Wall. Michael Joseph, 1978. ISBN 0-7181-1652-6.

Hadrian’s Wall Path (map). Harvey, 12–22 Main Street, Doune, Perthshire FK16 6BJ.

Moffat, Alistair. The Wall. Birlinn Limited Press, 2008. ISBN 1-84158-675-7.

Tomlin, R.S.O. “Inscriptions” in Britannia, vol. xxxv. 2004.

Wilson, Roger J.A. A Guide to the Roman Remains in Britain. Constable & Company, 1980; ISBN 0-09-463260-X.

Amphitheatre Nîmes (#12)

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 #13 – Roman Arena in Arles.

Today we’re headed to the western portion of the Roman Empire as we head to France to bring to you #12 – Amphitheatre Nîmes!

Nimes Arena with matador statue in the front.

Nîmes is a commune, dating back to Ancient Rome. It is the prefecture of the Gard department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.

Nîmes was an important Roman town and was supplied with water by the Pont du Gard.

The Nîmes amphitheatre is the best-preserved in France. An amphitheatre is a flat area, surrounded by an area that ascends gradually.

In the ascending area, people can be seated. Today, such structures are used for presentations, but also spectator sports.

In Ancient Rome, these structures were used to entertain the population. Gladiator combats, athletics, and executions were staged there.

Sketch from the 4th Century AD.

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.

Showing the architecture of the arena.

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.

Middle Ages painting

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure. Apologies for the briefness, but sometimes short is sweet.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Bomgardner, David Lee. The Story of the Roman AmphitheatreRoutledge, October 2000. ISBN 0-415-16593-8.

Roman Emperors Route: A Great Tourism Idea by Serbia

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Since the start of the new year we’ve been trying to provide you the best information and entertainment for your view buck. It’s been a stretch due to my starting a teaching credentialing program (shock, I want to be a History teacher) so we’ve revisited some previous articles.

Recently we came across one of the most ingenious ideas for tourism we have have seen so far, and we knew we had to share. The bigger surprise is that it came out of Serbia.

Today we journey along a path created by Romans and brought to you by tourism as we travel the Roman Emperors Route!

Map of the Roman Emperors Route in the Lower Danube Region.

The Roman Emperors Route (LatinItinerarium Romanum Serbiae) is a route spanning roughly 373 miles with several Ancient Roman sites, among which are notable cities, estates and birthplaces. The project’s name is derived from the fact that 17  were born within the current borders of Serbia (the Roman provincia of Ilyricum), 2nd only to Italy itself.

Regarded as one of the national brands of Serbia, the sites include the important Roman coloniae of  SirmiumFelix Romuliana (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Naissus. The project is regarded as one of the largest archeological and tourism projects in Serbia, and the project board is guided and financed by the Serbian Ministry of Economy and Regional Development and Ministry of Culture.

Statue of Caesar Augustus (c. 30 BC–20 BC) from the Louvre.

The Roman Emperors were the leaders and guardians of a complex political structure which was built on the rule of law and limited autonomy in self-governing colonies and municipalities.  The rule of law, after the Emperor Caracalla’s decree of AD 212, included universal citizenship throughout the Imperium Rōmānum.

Local government was stabilized in the various provinces of the Empire by the Emperors’ individual grants semi-autonomous governing powers to local communities with the award of colonial or municipal status (coloniae and municipia).  These communities received their governing privileges from the Emperors active in the Danube region who also wanted to encourage the integration of indigenous peoples into Roman citizenship and the governing system.

Far from Rome, along the unpredictable Danube, the Roman Empire established its eastern border, the Limes. A series of military fortifications was set up along the road marched by the Roman Legions in their campaigns against the barbarian tribes across the river.

The troops were followed by traders and craftsmen, and soon towns sprang up along all the major roads. Upper Moesia and Lower Pannonia roughly match Serbia’s territory today. Beginning in the 3rd Century, over a period of some 200 years, these went from being marginal border provinces to occupying a place at the center of events in the Roman Empire.

Wine of the Emperors

This cultural route of the Roman Emperors reveals ancient Roman towns, roads, ruins, and artifacts on what was the eastern border of the Roman Empire. Adding to the tourism draw, wine tasting was added along the route.

The appreciation of wine and its consumption is promoted in the wine part of the route, and continues a tradition that stems from the introduction of the beverage by the Romans. Perhaps it is that the spirit of the Latin word convivium (eating/enjoying together) is continued in modern European culture where wine is highly prized and considered a necessary accompaniment to good living.

Now let’s hit the road!


Ruins of Imperial Palace at Sirmium.

Sirmium, one of the most important towns of the late Roman Empire, was located by the river Sava, on the site of modern-day Sremska Mitrovica. Originally was founded by Celts in the 3rd Century BC, Sirmium was conquered by the Roman Empire in the 1st Century BC.

Sirmium was the economic capital of Roman Pannonia and reached its zenith in AD 294 when it was pronounced 1 of the 4 capitals of the Roman Empire. In 1990, Sirmium was added to the Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance list, protected by the Republic of Serbia.


Remains (wall on the sides and tower in the middle) of old roman castrum of Singidunum.

Singidunum is the name for the ancient city which became Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. The Roman Empire conquered the area in 75 BC and later garrisoned the Roman Legio IV Flavia Felix in 86 AD.

The Belgrade Fortress was built as a defensive structure on a ridge overlooking the confluence of the Sava and the Danube rivers during the period from the 2nd to the 18th Century. Today the fortress is a unique museum of the history of Belgrade.

It was the birthplace to the Roman Emperor Jovian. Belgrade has arisen from its own ashes 38 times!


Ruins of mausoleum at Viminacium.

Viminacium (VIMINACIVM) was a the provincial capital of Moesia, a Roman military camp, and the capital of Moesia Superior. Today known as Kostolac the town is located near Požarevac, where the Mlava flows into the Danube.

It was one of the most important Roman towns and military encampments from the period from the 1st to the 6th Century. The civilian settlement next to the encampment during the rule of Hadrian (117-138) gained the status of a municipium (a town with a high degree of autonomy).

The city lies along the Via Militaris and contains archaeological remains of temples, streets, fora, amphitheatres, palaces, hippodromes and Roman baths. The entire archeological site occupies a total of 1,112 acres.

Diana Fortress

Panorama of Diana fortress

The Roman castrum of Diana was raised on a high cliff above the Danube called the Karataš archaeological site, close to the town of Kladovo. Construction of the earliest earthen and wooden fortification is connected with the arrival of the initial military formations to the Danube in AD 100–101.

The main buildings were built on a strategic location overlooking the Danube frontier with stone in 100 AD during the reign of Roman Emperor Trajan, who had a military camp located at the vicinity. Further modifications were made at the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th Century when additional towers were added towards the river for extra defense towards the Danube shores.

At the mid-4th Century the fort was damaged by the invading Huns and in 530 AD rebuilt by Roman Emperor Justinian.

Pons Traiani

Artistic reconstruction of Trajan’s Bridge across the Danube (1907).

Trajan’s Bridge or the Bridge of Apollodorus over the Danube was a Roman segmental arch bridge, the earliest built over the lower Danube. For more than a thousand years, it was the longest arch bridge in the world in terms of both total and span length.

The bridge was constructed by the Greek architect Apollodorus of Damascus for the deployment of Roman troops in the Trajan’s Dacian Wars, in 105 AD.

Tabula Traiana

Photo of Tabula Traiana near Kladovo, Serbia.

A Roman memorial plaque (Tabula Traiana), 13 feet in width and around 6 feet in height, commemorating the completion of Trajan’s military road is located on the Serbian side facing Romania near Ogradina. It reads:

SVBLAT(i)S VIA(m) F(ecit)

Felix Romuliana

Photo of Tabula Traiana near Kladovo, Serbia.

Felix Romuliana (FELIX ROMVLIANA) was an imperial palace built on the orders of Galerius Maximianus on the spacious plateau of Gamzigrad, near the city of Zaječar. Galerius, who was born in this area, raised the palace in the 3rd and 4th Centuries in honor of himself and his mother Romula, after whom he named it.

It belongs to a special category of Roman court architecture associated only with the period of the Tetrarchy and is the best-preserved example of this style. Gamzigrad  is an archaeological site spanning 10 acres, and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site of Serbia.

Naissus et Mediana

Remains of the luxurious residence palace of Mediana, erected by Constantine I near his birth town of Naissus.

Not far from Niš is Mediana, the most famous and prestigious suburb of the classical city of Naissus. It was built near the river and the thermal springs, over an area of more than 99 acres.

Mediana was built in the early 4th Century AD, during the time of Constantine the Great. It served as a residence for use by Roman Emperors when visiting Naissus, and is now an important archeological site from the late Roman period for its highly organized economy.

Excavatations have revealed a villa with a peristyle, thermae, granary and water tower. Although Roman artifacts can be found scattered all over the area of present-day Niš, Mediana represents the best-preserved part of Roman Naissus.

In 1979, Mediana was added to the Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance list, protected by Republic of Serbia.

Iustiniana Prima

Remnants of Justiniana Prima

Iustiniana Prima (Empress’s Town), is one of the most important Byzantine towns in the interior of the Balkan Peninsula. It is situated 18 miles west of Leskovac and 4 miles from Lebane, close to the village of Prekopčelica.

In AD 535, Emperor Justinian I, originally from southern Serbia, decided to raise a city in his area of birth to basically honor himself. The city of Justiniana Prima lies on the gentle slopes which descend from the mountain of Radan towards the Leskovac basin, where key traffic routes pass.

Justiniana Prima served as the seat of an Archbishopric that had jurisdiction of the Central Balkans. In 1979, Justiniana Prima was added to the Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance list, protected by Republic of Serbia.


The northern Balkans, including Dacia Ripensis, in the 6th Century.

Šarkamen is a Roman archaeological site in Negotin, eastern Serbia. The fortification dates to the rule of Maximinus Daia, after 305 AD. It was part of the Dacia Ripensis.

We hope you enjoyed this trip as much as we did. We found the combination of Roman archaeology, architecture and, of course, wine to be more than something would could pass up.

If this has inspired you to travel the Roman Emperors Route, or even to see some historical site elsewhere, please let us know. We’d love to share your experience with other like-minded people.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



The cultural route of the Roman Emperors. National Tourism Organization of Serbia.

Tourist Organization of Serbia. “Itinerarium Romanum Serbiae” (PDF). Belgrade: Tourist Organization of Serbia.

Roman Emperors and Danube Wine Route. Danube.Travel.

Serbia to boast heritage as birthplace of 18 Roman Emperors

Itinerarium Romanum Serbiae.

Museum of Zaječar

Roman Arena in Arles (#13)

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 #14 – Library of Celsus.

Today we’re headed to the western portion of the Roman Empire as we head to France to bring to you #13 – Roman Arena in Arles!

The Arles Amphitheatre is a Roman Amphitheatre in the southern French town of Arles. This 2-tiered Roman Amphitheatre is probably the most prominent tourist attraction in the city of Arles, which thrived in Roman times.

Built in AD 90, the amphitheatre was capable of seating over 20,000 spectators. It was built to provide entertainment in the form of chariot races and bloody hand-to-hand battles.

Interior of arena

The building measures 446 ft in length and 358 ft wide, and features 120 arches. It has an oval arena surrounded by terraces, arcades on 2 levels (60 in all), bleachers, a system of galleries, drainage system in many corridors of access and staircases for a quick exit from the crowd.


It was obviously inspired by the Colosseum in Rome, being built slightly later. The amphitheatre was not expected to receive 25,000 spectators, the architect was therefore forced to reduce the size and replace the dual system of galleries outside the Colosseum by a single annular gallery.

This difference is explained by the conformation of the land. This temple of the games housed gladiators and hunting scenes for more than 4 centuries.

With the fall of the Empire in the 5th Century, the amphitheatre became a shelter for the population. It was transformed into a fortress with 4 towers (the southern tower is not restored).

Exterior arcades with a tower added in the 6th Century.

The structure encircled more than 200 houses, becoming a real town, with its public square built in the center of the arena and 2 chapels, 1 in the center of the building, and 1 at the base of the west tower. The pronounced towers jutting out from the top are add-ons from the Middle Ages.

This new residential role continued until the late 18th Century. In 1825, through the initiative of the writer Prosper Mérimée, the change to a national historical monument for the Arles Amphitheatre began.

Bullfight from 1963

In 1826, expropriation began of the houses built within the building, which ended by 1830. In that same year the 1st event since Roman times was organized in the arena, a race of the bulls to celebrate the taking of Algiers.

Today, it draws large crowds for bullfighting during the Feria d’Arles as well as plays and concerts in summer. The Romans certainly would have approved of all 3 of these modern events taking place in their arena.

Les Arènes by Vincent van Gogh

Arles Amphitheatre is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Together, with other Roman buildings of the city, it makes up part of the Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments group.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure. We look forward to you continuing the countdown to #1 with us.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Have your own Aeneid: Follow in the Footsteps of Aeneas

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

As I continue my teaching certification courses, we will continue to occasionally bring you revisited articles. This time we hope to add something that may have been forgotten, or experience something new with you.

Having said that, it’s time to make your own adventure. Today it’s time to have your own Aeneid!

Aeneid Map
The journey of Aeneas as he travels from Troy to Lavinium.

Of the many authors of Latin poetry, Publius Vergilius Maro (aka Vergil or Virgil) is the greatest of them all. Maybe you disagree.

A 3rd-century Tunisian mosaic of Virgil seated between Clio and Melpomene (from Hadrumetum [Sousse]).
Is it because he was the court poet for Augustus? Is it because Virgil has become the benchmark for Augustan Literature? Or is it simply because Virgil was born on October 15th just like me somebody else I know?

A strong case can be made for all of these. However, I think he is tops for his writing of The Aeneid.

Virgil has been said to write in the same style as Classic Greek poet, Homer. In fact The Aeneid is said to be the Roman combination of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, but that’s neither here nor there.

The Aeneid is about our hero, Aeneas, and his journey from the burning and sacked city of Troy to establish a new home for his people in Latium, Italy. The twist? Italy was the home of those people that initially founded Troy.

What remains today of the Walls of Troy.

Our journey begins in Ancient Troy, in what has become modern day Turkey. The now legendary Trojan Horse was brought inside the city walls allowing Achilles, Ulysses, and other Greeks bring the mighty city to the ground.

Since his present home is being destroyed, and his goddess mother Venus has instructed him to gather the remaining Trojans, Aeneas and his people trek across country to find safety in Antandros, which is still in Turkey. Due to its location on the coast, near the Gulf of Adramyttium, this is where Aeneas chooses to build his fleet before setting off for Italy.

Since this is an epic poem, and nothing is ever direct in ancient adventures, Aeneas and his fleet leave Antandros and sail North into the Aegean Sea where they make landfall in Thrace. The location is not exactly known but it’s believed to be the no-longer-existing Aenos which would be located still in Turkey, near the Greek border.

Here in Thrace the remains of fellow Trojan, Polydorus, are found. All Aeneas wants to do at this point is build a wall and establish a city. Not too much to ask for, right?

While clearing the land in Thrace to create the wall, the plants that are uprooted spout blood and begin speaking to Aeneas. It’s Polydorus not crazy at all to have a dead person speak as a plant explaining what happened to him and to venture on.

VLUU L100 / Samsung L100
General view of Delos

More expelled Trojans are found as the group finally leaves Turkey and lands in Delos, Greece. Known as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, Delos was home to a sacred oracle.

Aeneas believes this is the place they have been searching for only to have Apollo say it’s not quite right for them. The sails are then set again.

Now it’s out into the Mediterranean Sea and the Island of Crete. It’s basically the same story for Aeneas et al on this Greek island.

Archaeological site of Phaistos in Crete.

They think the location is the one for them. Construction gets underway, but then one of the gods tells them to get moving so they do.

As they hug the Greek coast, Aeneas and the fleet are driven to Strophados. This tiny set of twin islands again seems a perfect fit.

Aeneas then encountered the Harpies and found Strophados to be their dwelling place. The Harpies kept stealing all of the Trojan’s food and made life even more difficult for these ex-patriots.

I don’t think Aeneas to be wrong for leaving these female monsters that had the bodies of a bird with the head and face of a human.

After fleeing from the Harpies, Actium is the next place for landfall and to see if this is the right spot. This again is not the right place so the group sets sail. As they head North

Roman Theater in Butrint, Albania (aka Buthrotum).

the fleet halts at Buthrotum in ancient Northwestern Greece, but the location is now modern Albania.

Aeneas was happy to find Buthrotum the home of Helenus, another son of King Priam of Troy. Unlike his brother Polydorus who was killed after escaping Troy, Helenus was a survivor.

This could be due to the fact that Helenus was a seer. It was Helenus who told Aeneas this was not the place for him and to carry on. Helenus had a vision that Aeneas would go on to found Rome, so they kept moving.

Castrum Minervae
Castro, Apulia (aka Castrum Minervae)

Crossing the Ionian Sea, Aeneas and company make their first landing on Italy at Castrum Minervae. Knowing this is not the place they carry on.

Upon rounding Italy’s boot, the fleet arrives the ancient town of Aetna on Trinacria, or modern day Sicily. This is also the Land of Cyclops.

So the group shoves off hugging the island’s coastline. It is during this time that Anchises, the father of Aeneas, passes away.

They end up at on the western coast at Drepanon. Just like at every other stop before, Aeneas and clan find that as they prepare to end their journey it is not the right spot. So they pack on up and head back out to see once again.

Ruins of Carthage

The vengeful Juno takes advantage of this and blows the Aeneas’s fleet off course, yet again. They now land in Carthage and are greeted by Queen Dido.

It is here with Dido that Aeneas, just as Ulysses did on his travels, gets halted. The Carthaginians welcome in their Trojan guests and want Aeneas to be their king (a familiar scene so far in the story).

During a mystical evening alone, Dido and Aeneas are thought to have relations, thus causing Dido to believe Aeneas is now her king too. This is when the messenger god Mercury, sent via Jupiter, reminds Aeneas he is not to stay in Carthage with his new-found love, Dido, but to sail on to Italy and found Rome.

Again landing on the western coast of Sicily, Aenea’s throws funeral games honoring the anniversary of his father’s death. While only the men are partaking in the games some women, under the spell of Juno, burn some of the boats so the men can no longer travel.

The plan is to have Aeneas never reach Italy. This plan does not work and those that can sail on head out.

Entrance to the Cave of the Sibyl on Cumae.

The fleet lands next at Cumae, where Aeneas is told he must venture into the underworld for guidance.

In the underworld, Aeneas meets his father once again. They discuss the prophetic future that is Rome and how Aeneas is to achieve it.

Upon returning to the land of the living, Aeneas knows what he must do. His people follow him once again to sea.

They then stop briefly at Caeita. It is here that Aeneas buries his wet-nurse prior to pressing on for his final destination.

Aeneas and his Trojans land in Latium. It is here that Aeneas falls in love with and courts Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus and Queen Amata.

Juno once again meddles with the happiness of Aeneas and his people by tricking the Latium Queen into starting trouble for the Trojans. The hatred for Aeneas get Turnus of the Rutuli people to battle The Trojans.

Since the story is meant to be a positive outcome for the survivors of Troy (Spoiler Alert) they are victorious in this outcome. Aeneas goes on to found Lavinium. The prophecy is now complete.

Gate into the interior of the settlement of the frazione of Pratica di Mare, a medieval walled village at the site of the center of ancient Lavinium.

Although he did not found Rome himself, it Aeneas’s Lavinium was the center of the Latin League. It was from here that the people of Rome sprang, thus linking the the royal house of Troy to the newer Roman Republic.

Travel by land, sea or air and you too can now have your own Aeneid. Tutus Itinerarium (safe travels) and Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Cairns, Francis. Virgil’s Augustan Epic. Cambridge, 1989.

Fratantuono, Lee. Madness Unchained: A Reading of Virgil’s Aeneid. Lexington Books, 2007.

Gransden, Karl. Virgil: The Aeneid (Landmarks of World Literature (Revival)). ISBN 0-521-83213-6.

Gransden, Karl. Virgil’s Iliad. Cambridge, 1984.

Hardie, Philip R. Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’: Cosmos and Imperium. ISBN 0-19-814036-3.

Heinze, Richard. Virgil’s Epic Technique. University of California Press, 1993. ISBN 0-520-06444-5.

Jenkyns, Richard. Virgil’s Experience. Oxford, 1998.

Johnson, W.R. Darkness Visible: A Study of Vergil’s Aeneid. University of California Press, 1979. ISBN 0-520-03848-7.

Maronis, P. Vergili. Opera. Oxford University Press, 1969. ISBN 978-0-19-814653-7.

Otis, BrooksVirgil: A Study in Civilized Poetry. Oxford, 1964.

Quinn, Kenneth. Virgil’s Aeneid: A Critical Description. London, 1968.

Virgil; Ahl, Frederick (trans.). The Aeneid. Oxford University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-19-283206-1.