The Roman Dodecahedra

What is a Roman Dodecahedra?

2This small, hollow object has twelve flat pentagonal faces. Each face has a circular hole in the middle of it, and each hole is of a different diameter. All the holes connect to each other in the hollowed-out center of the object. Most have been found to have a series of knobs on the pentagons’ corner points. Typically ranging in size from 4 to 11 cm, the Roman Dodecahedra was usually made of bronze, but ones made of stone have also been found.

Roman Dodecahedra date from the 2nd or 3rd centuries AD, and researchers are no closer to understanding the origin and function of this mysterious object since their original discovery. To date, more than one hundred of these artifacts have been found in Austria, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Wales.

How does it work?

Sadly, there have been neither pictures nor documentation of them in contemporary accounts. All we have today are hypotheses, theories and speculations. Over the centuries, speculations have included the following: dice and dice games, survey instruments, candlestick holders (wax was found inside two examples), a tool for accounting, a toy to throw and catch on a stick, gauges to calibrate water pipes or army standard bases, devices for determining the optimal sowing date for winter grain, surveying tool, tent pole joint, headpiece for a standard or staff, gaming device, finger ring-size gauges, weapon, or even a simple geometric sculpture.

The fact that the dodacahedrons were not standardized and come in many sizes, including the arrangements of their openings, can rule out their use as a common measuring instrument. Gallo-Roman sites have been the final resting place for some dodacahedrons suggesting it may have been religious artifact of some kind. No matter what the Roman Dodecahedra can be seen as valuable since several were found in coin caches and among other valuable items.

Speculations

3At the top of the list for most accepted theories is that the Roman Dodecahedra was used as a device for measuring range on the battlefield. The hypothesis is that dodecahedrons were used for calculating the trajectories of projectiles. John Ladd suggests that the dodecahedron was used as a quality control device on their military sites. The process would go something like this: a projectile would be lodged into the dodecahedron; fluid would then be poured into the dodecahedron tank to measure incremental displacement for all twelve angles, and based on the patterns of the holes, dictate the imaging resolution.

By inventing volume immersion techniques and the mathematics for interpreting the area and under the displacement curves of the ellipsoidal projectiles. It has been documented that wars were won or lost based upon the quality of sling ammo design. A similar theory involves the dodecahedra as a surveying and levelling device. However, neither of these theories has been supported by any proof4 and exactly how the dodecahedrons could be used for these purposes has not been fully explained.

According to G.M.C. Wagemans, “the dodecahedron was an astronomic measuring instrument with which the angle of the sunlight can be measured and thereby one specific date in springtime, and one date in the autumn can be determined with accuracy. The dates that can be measured were probably of importance for the agriculture”. Nevertheless, this is still only a speculation.

Another unproven theory claims that the Roman Dodecahedra was a religious relic, which seems to be synonymous with “we haven’t a clue” in the vocabulary of archaeologists. They are thought to once be used as sacred tools for the druids of Britannia and Caledonia. One was reportedly found in a woman’s burial ground leading more to this idea. Without a written account or archaeological evidence this view cannot be supported.

Plutarch, the famous Greek historian, reportedly identified the dodecahedron as a vital instrument for zodiac signs. The twelve sides represent the twelve animals in the circle of the zodiac, but even this theory comes under contest when the argument of the knobs as decoration is presented.

“My take is that it is yet another piece the use of which we shall never completely sort out even though we are 1fortunate to have Plutarch’s testimony,” said Andrea Galdy, who holds a PhD from the School of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Manchester and is currently teaching Art History in Florence, Italy.

Another discovery deepens the mystery about the function of these objects. Some time ago, Benno Artmann discovered a Roman Icosahedron, a polyhedron with twenty faces, misclassified as a dodecahedron from just a glance. It is also hollow, bronze, and about 8 cm in diameter.

This Roman Icosahedron ended up in a museum’s basement storage for over forty years before noticed it again. The discovery raises the question about whether there are many other geometric artifacts of different types such as, icosahedra, hexagons, and octagons yet to be found in the former Roman Empire.

Roman Systems EngineeringRSE

 

 

RSE is using what we believe to be the same technology that Romans used in ancient history, to essentially complete 3D scanning in today’s world. Using a computer and the ancient Roman Dodecahedra we can obtain the dimensions and shape of any object placed within the device. The Roman Dodecahedra has the perfect shape to allow multiple angles of measurement.

Unlike modern 3D scanners, this ancient technology could allow for mapping within the by utilizing modern low-viscosity cavity detection fluids that penetrate an opaque and porous medium. This is even more impressive when you find that most scanners on the market today are limited by line-of-sight.

Conclusion

The decorations of these items also vary from plain to having rings embossed concentrically around the holes, while others have small rings arranged in the corner spaces around the holes. Maybe these objects exist for the sole purpose of being difficult to make. Imagine a metalworker proving his capability in casting, finishing, soldering, etc. with a portable object like the Roman Dodecahedra.

InPLP-090402P064 - © - Clément Philippe archaeological sites throughout Northern Europe, at least one Roman Dodecahedra per site has been found. Sometimes they are broken or incomplete, but it’s a mystery why we have these devices spread across a wide region, with nobody knowing for sure what they do.

Maybe the answer is hiding in plain sight. The Romans were clever at keeping secrets from escaping their Empire in order for their foes to find and use. Right now everything about the Roman Dodecahedra is pure speculation. It appears this is another wonderful object the ancients have left us. Until we find an answer for what the Roman Dodecahedra was used for Don’t Stop Rome-ing

 

References

http://www.ancient-origins.net/artifacts-other-artifacts-news-unexplained-phenomena/enigma-roman-dodecahedra-002371

http://www.romansystemsengineering.com/

http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/06/10/dodecahedrons-purpose-remains-mystery/

http://www.georgehart.com/virtual-polyhedra/roman_dodecahedra.html

http://www.atomicshrimp.com/st/content/dodecahedron

A Soldier of Faith

As Easter draws near, we continue looking at the various people, artifacts, and locations associated with the Crucifixion of Jesus. Today Rome Across Europe takes a look at a legendary figure of Christian history. He was the Roman Centurion standing underneath Jesus while He was on the cross.

Longinus is the name of said Roman Centurion who pierced the side of Jesus while He was hanging on the Cross. Longinus was said to have stood transfixed at the foot of the Cross, watching and wondering, full of awe and amazement. Then all at once, something was born in him, a spark of faith causing a brand new beginning. Longinus’ life was changed forever.

Holy Lance of Longinus

It is said the name Longinus was given to this Centurion in medieval traditions because he pierced the side of Jesus with a lance. In the Latin Vulgate Bible, lancea is referred to as the “Holy Lance” or more recently as the “Spear of Destiny” in occult circles. The Roman figure is unnamed in the Gospels, but if a name was to be given to this character later then Longinus with his lancea is a solid choice.

Longinus belonged to the Roman Empire’s fighting elite. As a Centurion he was trained to value power and to believe in the suppression of any enemies of Rome. Longinus was unlikely to have either compassion for or interest in a wandering preacher who had stirred up the populace in an alarming way. He could watch without emotion as that preacher was put to death in the slow, incredibly painful way reserved for criminals who were not citizens of Rome.

Good Jesus of the Mount in Portugal

According to most sources, Longinus was the officer in command at the Lord’s crucifixion. It was his job to make sure that those on the crosses were definitely dead. Like in any other crucifixion Jesus was mocked, scourged, and ridiculed by the Roman soldiers.

That being said, it was claimed that Longinus was nearly blind. This blindness would then make sense as to why a Roman Centurion was stationed as commander of a crucifixion location all the way out in Jerusalem instead of leading troops into battle in Germania or Britannia.

Christian legend, specifically medieval folklore known as the Golden Legend, says when Longinus thrust his spear into Christ’s side causing a rush of blood and water to come from His wound. Some of Jesus’ blood fell upon Longinus’ eyes and he was healed. Upon this miracle Longinus exclaimed, “Indeed, this was the Son of God!” [Mark 15:39] [Matthew 27:54] and thus began his belief in Jesus.

Kneeling

Longinus is said to have ruined the plans of the same Jewish leaders that demanded Jesus’ crucifxion, however, by refusing to be bribed by them. He also insisted on telling the world the true story of how Christ’s body had risen into the glory of the Resurrection.

After learning that the Roman soldier wanted no part of their conspiracy or their money, the Jews decided to rely on their usual ploy: They would simply murder this truth-telling Centurion in cold blood.

Being a man of courage and integrity, as soon as Longinus heard about the plot against him, he took off his military garb, and underwent Baptism with several fellow-soldiers to become Christian. Taking instructions from the Apostles he then is said to have hurried off to Cappadocia and became a monk, where he spent many hours in prayerful devotion and rigorous fasting.

St Longinus the Centurion

Responding to the former Centurion’s compelling piety, many pagans in the region also converted to the Gospel and underwent Baptism as a result. Longinus lived and moved among them freely for a time, then eventually returned home to live on his father’s estate.

But the dishonest Jewish leaders were not finished with Longinus and they soon provoked Emperor Tiberius to issue a draconian order to his troops: Find this renegade and behead him immediately!

Once again the resourceful Longinus anticipated a plan against his life. Hurrying out to the roadway, he greeted his adversaries as friends. Without letting them know who he was, he invited them back to his own residence.

He fed them lavishly, and when they fell asleep, he prepared himself for his execution by praying throughout the night and then clothing himself in spotlessly white burial garb.

As dawn approached, he drew his loyal companions to his side and instructed them to bury him at the top of a nearby hill. Moving swiftly, the martyr approached the awakening soldiers and revealed his true identity; “I am Longinus, the man you seek!”

Saint

Amazed by their host’s honesty, the Roman soldiers were thrown for a loop. How could they behead a man of such noble character and who was one of their own?

But even as they protested against the execution, this greathearted soldier insisted that they should carry out their orders as issued. Even in the face of death Longinus was to show his strength as a former Roman soldier.

In the end, Longinus and the 2 fellow-soldiers who had stood with him at the foot of the cross were taken to Jerusalem and beheaded, and the Centurion’s destiny as a martyr for Jesus Christ was fulfilled.

Regretting already what they had done, the execution squad carried Longinus’ head to Governor Pontius Pilate, who immediately sent it on to the Jewish leaders he already detested because of his earlier confrontation with them about Jesus. They threw it on a dung heap outside Jerusalem.

Longinus was dead but the legends that would follow this valorous warrior had only just been born. The power of those legends can be seen in another story that has persisted down through the ages.

St Longinus

According to the narrative, a blind woman who was visiting Jerusalem in order to pray at its holy shrines experienced a mysterious dream in which Longinus appeared. He told her where to find his head and to bury it.

The blind woman obeyed instantly, and found a guide to locate Longinus’ head. The woman respectfully transported the head back to his native land of Cappadocia for burial.

The body of Longinus is said to have been lost twice, and that its 2nd recovery was at Mantua in 1304. His body was apparently buried together with the Holy Sponge stained with Christ’s blood. The Holy Sponge was used in cleansing Christ’s body when it was taken down from the cross by Longinus, thus extending Longinus’ role with Jesus.

Spear of DestinyThe spear Longinus used to pierce Jesus was revered at Jerusalem by the 6th Century figures in the legends of the Holy Grail. The relic of alleged blood taken from the Holy Lance enjoyed a revived cult again in late 13th Century Bologna under the combined impetus of the Grail romances.

Longinus is venerated, generally as a martyr, in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Armenian Apostolic Church. In the Roman Martyrology he is mentioned, without any indication of martyrdom, in the following terms: “At Jerusalem, commemoration of Saint Longinus, who is venerated as the soldier opening the side of the crucified Lord with a lance”. His Feast Day is 15 March for the Roman Catholic Church, while the Armenian Apostolic Church commemorates it on 22 October.

The Grail relics are said to have been divided and then distributed to Prague and elsewhere, with the body of Longinus taken to the Basilica of Sant’Agostino in Rome. However, official guides of the Basilica do not mention the presence of any tomb associated with Longinus.

The statue of Saint Longinus, 1 of 4 in the niches of the crossing in the St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, was sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The spear point fragment from the Holy Lance is conserved in the Basilica of St. Peter.

St Longinus in St Peter's Basilica

So much is to be said for this Roman soldier who is said to find himself again as he was cleansed with the blood of Jesus. Whether it is all true, or none of it is true, the fact still remains St. Longinus played a major role in the expansion of the growing Christianity. That is something that cannot be taken away.

We hope you enjoyed this tale and hope you will come back to Rome Across Europe again soon. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=11

http://dce.oca.org/assets/templates/bulletin.cfm?mode=html&id=47

http://almoutran.com/2011/10/4339

Calvary – Where the Crucifixion of Jesus Took Place

As we get closer to the end of the season of Lent, we here at Rome Across Europe are going to to do something new today. This article about Calvary 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 Pontius 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.

The Way to Calvary

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 four Gospels of the Aramaic word Gûlgaltâ which was the name of the place where Jesus was crucified.

Calvary

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 Emperor Constantine 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. Constantine then built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre around the whole site. In 333 AD, the Pilgrim of Bordeaux wrote in the Itinerarium Burdigalense, entering from the east described the result:

“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!

Calvary Hill

The Spear of Destiny

It has been called the Spear of Destiny, the Holy Lance, and the Lance of Longinus (Lancea Longini). Whatever name suits your fancy, according to the Gospel of John this is the lance that pierced the side of Jesus during his crucifixion.

Relax. Put your feet up. Enjoy the story about the Fatum Hastam.

We here at Rome Across Europe hope you gained some knowledge as we come closerer to Easter. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Top 15 Roman Commanders – #2: Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus

Commanders

Rome Across Europe started this off with a list of Rome’s best commanders. Last week is we went more in depth with Choice #1. If you have time please check them out. We know you will enjoy them. Today we bring you…

2: Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (236 – 183 BC)2b

Also called Scipio Africanus, or Scipio the African, he saved Rome in her darkest days by defeating Hannibal at Zama. This feat is how he earned the agnomen of Africanus. A statesman in the Roman Republic, he was known more for his leadership as a general and as one of the finest commanders in all Roman military history. Despite his achievements in the Second Punic War, Scipio was unable to profit from his military talent and was eventually forced into exile by allegations against him.

Born Publius Cornelius Scipio, he came into the world via Caesarian section. His family had been a major Patrician family, and as the eldest son he was to carry on the trend. Coming of age as Rome struggled against Carthage in the Second Punic War Scipio was witness to the Carthaginian master Hannibal.

Scipio learned how to become a master tactician from his enemy. Vowing to his father that he would fight against Carthage for as long as he lived, Scipio took his contemporary, lackluster Roman peers and created a dominant fighting force.

Scipio joined the Roman army at an early age, serving with distinction at the Battles of Ticinus, Trebia, and Cannae. It is claimed that Scipio’s loyalty to achieving Roman victory was so strong he threatened the politicians at sword point to never surrender.

Scipio presented himself to be a candidate for the Quaestorship in 213 BC, but was rejected by the since he wasn’t 25 years old. Because of his patriotism and braveness Scipio was unanimously elected anyhow.

In 211 BC Scipio’s father and uncle died in battle fighting against Hannibal’s brother. Scipio asked for, and was given, command of a new army in 210 BC and was sent to Hispania.

Due to the region being adamantly under Carthaginian control this position was looked upon as a death sentence. Scipio, with a surprise attack, captured Carthago Nova, which became his base of operations.

Scipio’s conduct towards prisoners and captives portrayed Rome as more emancipators and less as subjugators. Livy states on one occasion Scipio was offered a beautiful woman as a prize of war and he returned her to her fiancé, a chieftain of the Celtiberian tribe named Allucius. As a sign of his gratitude Allucius reinforced Scipio’s forces with warriors from his own tribe.

350px-Poussinscipio

With new allies Scipio then fought the Battle of Baecula the Carthaginian army was outflanked and surrounded Scipio’s cavalry. Scipio’s decision not to pursue Hasdrubal’s fleeing army was looked down upon by his contemporaries and modern military historians. In 205 BC Scipio was given the title of Consul and returned to Africa to resume his campaign against the Carthaginians.

Arriving at Zama, Scipio had 34,000 infantry and about 8,700 cavalry to face Hannibal’s estimated 64,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry, and 80 war elephants. On 19 October 202 BC, Hannibal ordered his elephants forward to destroy the Roman lines and the battle was on.

Zama

Many of the elephants seemed to make no impact for Scipio had arranged his men in vertical columns with pathways in between. The elephants either continued through the openings of the Roman columns or returned to the Carthaginian soldiers due to blaring noise from Roman trumpeters. The returning war pachyderms actually caused confusion and destruction to Hannibal’s left flank.

Scipio’s cavalry then successfully routed the elite Numidian cavalry deployed by Hannibal. Upon the infantries engaging, Scipio had his lines drawn out long to match the numerical superiority of the Carthaginians. The battle collision was heavy, hard and horrible. When the Roman cavalry returned to make a rear charge Hannibal’s army was finally overwhelmed.

The humble Scipio did not sack Carthage like the Senate wanted him to, instead temperate regulations and taxes were levied upon the Carthaginians. Scipio was welcomed back to Rome like a modern-day rock star. Triumphus were awarded to Scipio as he was also given the title Africanus (aka The African).

The wave of popularity carried Scipio Africanus to be honored by the people of Rome wanting him to be Consul for Life and Dictator, to which he both refused. Instead, in 199 BC, he was elected Censor and then lived quietly outside of politics. He later guided his brother in defeating Antiochus the Great and the Seleucids in the Battle of Magnesia.

Political enemies of Scipio later accused him of bribery, but no conviction was ever levied. Instead Scipio retired to his estate in the country at Liternum on the coast.

Upon his death in 183 BC, Scipio won his final battle for it is said that on his tomb was written “Ingrata patria, ne ossa quidem habebis” (Ungrateful fatherland, you will not even have my bones). Coincidentally, Hannibal died the same year while he too was in exile.

Like Alexander the Great, Scipio Africanus never lost a battle or failed in a military endeavor. Also like Alexander, Scipio introduced the clean shaven face to his contemporaries and many thereafter. Scipio Africanus was the first Roman general to expand Roman territories outside the Italian mainland and islands.

He conceived the strategy that defeated Carthage and brought victory in that war. Scipio Africanus inspired his soldiers with confidence, the people of Rome with a charismatic leader, and history with a legend.

That concludes this week’s commander. Come back next week to read more about the next leader on Rome Across Europe’s Top 15 Roman Commanders. Till then Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

The Backbone of Rome’s Power – Legio Romanus

When you think of Ancient Rome what do you think of? Land? Money? Power? Rome Across Europe would agree with any of those great responses. Our focus today, though, is how Rome achieved all of its land, money and power. Rome rose to such heights on the backs of its legions.

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Legio Romanus normally indicates the basic ancient Roman Army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. During the early Roman Kingdom the Legio meant the entire Roman Army. Rome grew through the Republic, and then into the Empire, so variation came to the legion. What stayed the same was that the Legio Romanus was always the elite heavy infantry of the known world.

The typical Republican Legion was composed of around 4,000 Legionarii plus 300 Ordo Equester, with the infantry then divided into 10 Cohortes of 4 Manipulus of 120 Legionarii. During the early Imperial era, it became 5,200 Legionarii plus 120 Auxillia split into 10 Cohortes (the 1st Cohors holding 800 men, then the remaining 9 Cohortes of 480 men each).

legionari-4

Cavalry in the early legion was small and only of citizens constituting the lower of the two aristocratic classes (Patricius then Ordo Equester). Slowly this too came to change and expand. By the 3rd Century AD, a legion became a much smaller unit, between 1,000 to 1,500 men, but there were more legions as a whole.

Legions still recruited exclusively from Roman citizens for most of the Imperial period. The remainder of the Army consisted of Auxillia. Auxillia is Latin for “It Helps” and they were not Roman citizens. They provided the vast majority of the Roman Army’s Cavalry, ranged troops and skirmishers to complement the legion’s heavy infantry.

The recruitment of non-citizens was rare but appears to have occurred in times of great need. The perfect example is Julius Caesar creating the Legio V Alaudae mostly from non-citizen Gauls.

Legio V Alaudae

Prior to the 2nd Century BC, Republican Legions were composed of property owning citizens that paid for their own equipment. Toward the end of the 2nd Century BC, Rome started to experience manpower shortages brought about by the property and financial qualifications to join the army. This lull in manpower caused the Roman Army to change into a volunteer, professional, standing force with equipment and rewards for fulfilling years of service provided by the state.

Non-citizens could sign on as Auxiliaries and were rewarded Roman citizenship upon completion of service with all the rights and privileges that entails. In the time of Augustus there were nearly 50 standing legions, but this was reduced to about 30 permanent standing legions or less after his reign and for the rest of the Empire’s history.

Auxilia under Augustus

Roman legions are sometimes regarded the most impressive military organizations of the ancient world. Until 107 BC, legions were not standing units. They typically were formed, used, and then disbanded again. Only about 50 of the several hundred of legions created have been identified.

Twelve of the legions founded before Christ were still active until at least the 5th Century AD. Most notable of them all was Legio V Macedonica, founded by Augustus in 43 BC and was in Egypt in the 7th Century AD during the Islamic conquest of Egypt.

Legio V Macedonia

Come back soon to find out lots more information about the Roman Legions. Rome Across Europe is super excited to share more with our audience. Till then Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Villa of the Quintilii

Today Rome Across Europe explores another historical site. Initially created by a pair of wealthy brothers this site then was taken over by the Emperor. We shall explore the Villa of the Quintilii in both print and video.

Villa-dei-Quintilii-veduta

The Villa of the Quintilii is an ancient Roman villa beyond just outside the ancient gates of Rome, which had served as the city’s traditional boundaries. It was built by the rich and cultured brothers Sextus Quintilius Maximus and Sextus Quintilius Condianus, Consules in 151 AD, in the course of the 2nd Century.

The nucleus of the villa was constructed in the time of Emperor Hadrian. The villa included extensive thermae fed by its own aqueduct and the two large thermal chambers of the caldarium and the frigidarium. Even more unusual, the villa had a hippodrome dating back to the 4th Century when the villa was Imperial property.

45_villa_quintilii

Emperor Commodus coveted the villa so strongly that in 182 AD he had the villa’s owners put to death so he could confiscate it for himself. Commodus loved to reside in the villa because of the thermal baths housed around a big square the spacious windows and polychrome varieties of marble.

Flooring and Column

Between Via Appia Antica and Via Appia Nuova (New Appian Way) the Villa of the Quintili is ideal for a relaxing open-air stroll among the remains of a sumptuous private residence. Perfectly located in a Roman countryside, which has provided inspiration for countless artists for some time, the villa offers a tranquil country setting with luxurious baths.

The ruins of this villa suburbana are of such extent that when they were first excavated, the site was called Roma Vecchia (Old Rome) by the locals, as they occupied too great a ground to have been anything less than a town. In 1776 Gavin Hamilton, a vendor of Roman antiquities, excavated some parts of the Villa of the Quintilii and the sculptures he uncovered exposed the imperial nature of the site. Five marble sculptures were found including “An Adonis asleep”, “A Bacchante with the tyger” and the “Braschi Venus”.

Aphrodite_Braschi

A grand terrace overlooking the Via Appia Nuova, dating back to 1784, commands a view like no other of the Castelli Romani district. Property of the State only since 1986, the Villa of the Quintilii was the largest and grandest residence of the Roman villa suburbana.

Today the site houses a museum with marble friezes and sculptures that once adorned the villa. The nympheum, the hall of the tepidarium and the baths may also be visited. The Villa of the Quintili is also among the sites accessible using the “Archeologia Card”.

We hope you enjoyed this tour of the Villa of the Quintilii and come back next time for a new adventure. Until then, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Rome’s Pyramid

When one thinks of Rome typically the first thought is not of pyramids. However, Rome was once housed two pyramids: The Pyramid of Romulus and The Pyramid of Cestius.

pyramid_of_gaius_cestius_piramide_di_caio_cestio

The first pyramid in Rome was that of Romulus. It was said to be larger than that of Cestius. The Pyramid of Romulus was located between the Vatican and the Mausoleum of Hadrian, but was st-peters-basilicadismantled in the 16th century by Pope Alexander VI so the marble could be used for the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Pyramid of Cestius was built about 18-12 BC as a tomb for Gaius Cestius, a magistrate and member of one of the four 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 (29.6 m) square at the base and stands 125 Roman feet (37 m) high. In the interior is the burial chamber, a simple barrel-vaultedPyramid_Caius_Cestius_room_inside rectangular cavity measuring 5.95 m long, 4.10 m wide and 4.80 m 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 Roman Empire around this time.

1383051298_Italy--Pyramid-of-CestiusDuring 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, thus reducing the wall’s cost and 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:

OPVS · APSOLVTVM · EX · TESTAMENTO · DIEBVS · CCCXXX

ARBITRATV

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.

Roman-Lettering-Pyramid-Cestius-521373

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:

M · VALERIVS · MESSALLA · CORVINVS ·

P · RVTILIVS · LVPVS · L · IVNIVS · SILANVS ·

L · PONTIVS · MELA · D · MARIVS ·

NIGER · HEREDES · C · CESTI · ET ·

L · CESTIVS · QVAE · EX · PARTE · AD ·

EVM · FRATRIS · HEREDITAS ·

M · AGRIPPAE · MVNERE · PER ·

VENIT · EX · EA · PECVNIA · QVAM ·

PRO · SVIS · PARTIEVS · RECEPER ·

EX · VENDITIONE · ATTALICOR ·

QVAE · EIS · PER · EDICTVM ·

AEDILIS · IN · SEPVLCRVM ·

C · CESTI · EX · TESTAMENTO ·

EIVS · INFERRE · NON · LICVIT ·

This identifies Cestius’ heirs as Marcus Valerius Messala Corvinus, aimagesCAFXDVJY famous general; Publius Rutilius Lupus, an orator whose father of the same name had been consul in 90 BCE; and Lucius Junius Silanus, a member of the distinguished gens Junia. The heirs had set up the statues and bases using money raised from the sale of valuable cloths. 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 aediles.

IMG_7953-20130925In 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. The restoration was sponsored by Japanese businessman Yuzo Yagi, who donated €1 millionto the Department of Cultural Heritage of Rome. Restoration works started in March 2013.

The pyramid is the namesake of the Piramide station of the Rome Metro. Hopefully you may be able to check it in person. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_of_Cestius

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/_Texts/PLATOP*/Sepulcrum_C.Cestii.html

http://www.ilmessaggero.it/roma/cultura/restauro_piramide_cestia/notizie/258089.shtml

http://blog.artviva.com/2011/08/11/visiting-the-pyramids%E2%80%A6-of-rome/

Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps

The series of pile dwelling sites has provided an extraordinary and detailed insight into the settlement and domestic arrangements of pre-historic, early agrarian lake shore communities in the Alpine and sub-Alpine regions of Europe over almost 5,000 years.

The waterlogged conditions have preserved organic matter that contributes in an outstanding way to our understanding of significant changes in the Neolithic and Bronze Age history of Europe in general, and of the interactions between the regions around the Alps in particular.

Present-day Slovenia has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and there is evidence of human habitation from around 250,000 years ago. In the 1920s and 1930s, artifacts belonging to the Cro-Magnon such as pierced bones, bone points, and needle were found.

When the Ancient Romans conquered the area, they established the provinces of Pannonia and Noricum and present-day western Slovenia was included directly under Roman Italia as part of the X region Venetia et Histria. The Romans established posts, constructed trade and military roads that ran across Slovene territory from Italy to Pannonia.

In the 5th and 6th Centuries, the area was subject to invasions by the Huns and Germanic tribes during their incursions into Italy. A part of the inner state was protected with a defensive line of towers and walls called Claustra Alpium Iuliarum.