Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. This one comes from Romania in an area commonly associated with vampires, chiefly due to the influence of Bram Stoker‘s famous novel Dracula as well as the many later film adaptations.

Today we head to Transylvania as we explore Villages with Fortified Churches!

With its more than 150 well preserved fortified churches of a great variety of architectural styles (out of an original 300 fortified churches), south-eastern Transylvania region in Romania currently has one of the highest numbers of existing fortified churches from the 13th to 16th Centuries.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania are 7 total villages (6 Saxon and 1 Székely) founded by the Transylvanian Saxons. They are dominated by fortified churches and characterized by a specific settlement pattern that has been preserved since the late Middle Ages.

These Transylvanian villages with their fortified churches provide a vivid picture of the cultural landscape of southern Transylvania. The 7 villages are characterized by a specific land-use system, settlement pattern and organization of the family farmstead that have been preserved since the late Middle Ages.

How This Relates To Ancient Rome:

Transylvania has been dominated by several different peoples and countries throughout its history. It was once the nucleus of the Kingdom of Dacia (82 BC–106 AD).

In AD 106 the Roman Empire conquered the territory, systematically exploiting its resources. After the Roman Legions withdrew in AD 271, it was overrun by a succession of various tribes, bringing it under the control of the Carpi, Visigoths, HunsGepids, Avars and Slavs.

We hope you weren’t to frightened by today’s adventure and look forward to having you back again real soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Sbeitla Forum Temples (#30)

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 #31 – the Porta Nigra.

Today we’re headed to the frontier of the Mediterranean Sea in the northernmost country of Africa to bring to you #30 – Sbeitla Forum Temples!Sbeitla Capitole

Sbeitla is a city in north-central Tunisia. Nearby are the Roman ruins of Sufetula, containing the best preserved Forum temples in Tunisia. The almost-square Forum was paved with stone slabs and surrounded by a wall, which would serve as the entry point of the Muslim conquest of North Africa and south of Europe in AD 646.

Legio III AugustaThe region was inhabited by nomadic tribes until the Legio III Augusta established a camp at Ammaedara. Through the surrender of the Berber leader Tacfarinas, the region was pacified and populated under the Roman Emperor Vespasian and his sons between AD 67-69.

The city became a bishopric in the Roman province of Byzacena. The archaeological site in Sbeitla was excavated and restored between 1906 and 1921.

Some inscriptions found in the city suggest that the settlement had success along the lines of others in North Africa during the 2nd Century, reaching great prosperity through the olive industry, whose cultivation benefited from excellent climatic conditions in the region. The olive presses found in the ruins of the city further bolster this conclusion.

The Forum has a gateway on 1 side and 3 Roman temples on the opposite side. Instead of constructing only a single temple dedicated to the 3 most important Roman gods (Jupiter, Juno and Minerva) the inhabitants of Sbeitla built a separate temple for each one. A similar arrangement is only found at Baelo Claudia, in Spain.Back View

The Triumphal Arch of the Tetrarchy (or the Arch of Diocletian) at the entrance to the city commemorates the 4 Emperors that governed the Roman Empire in the year 300, just before the rule of Constantine I.Arch of Diocletian

There were also Public Baths, a theater and public fountains, all standard items for any Roman city of prominence. If you were part of a provincial city or town, you made sure your home resembled Rome as much as possible.Bath 1

The Gate of Antoninus stands at the entrance to the Forum and can be dated between AD 138-161. The inscriptions make reference to Antonius Pius and his 2 adopted sons, Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius.Arch of Antonius Pius

The majority of the Byzantine buildings take advantage of the foundations of earlier Roman ones. They include: The Church of Bellator, The Church of Vitalis, The Chapel of Jucundus, The Church of Servus, and The Church of St GervaseProtase, and Tryphon.

The archaeological museum of Sbeitla houses several sculptures and mosaics. It consists of three exhibition rooms: the first one is about the Capsian culture, the second about the rest of Dionysus‘ empire, and the third contains two mosaics.Sbeitla Bath with Fish Mosaic

The city began to decline during the Late Empire, during which the city was surrounded and occupied by Vandals. This is confirmed by the appearance of temples dedicated to the gods of the Vandals.

The arrival of the Byzantines inaugurated a new period of splendor. In AD 647, the fields before the city were the site of a major battle between the Byzantines and Berbers of Gregory the Patrician and the Rashidun Caliphate‘s governor of Egypt, Abdullah ibn Saad.

The battle ended in a decisive Muslim victory, which shook Byzantine control over the region and signaled the beginning of the Muslim conquest of North Africa.

We hope you enjoyed today’s look at another of Rome’s splendid remains. Please join us again as we continue this countdown, along with other items of interest from Ancient Rome.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Ennabli, A. Sufetula (Sbeitla) Tunisia.

Archaeological site of Sbeitla. Tunisian National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage, 15 December 2010.

Sbeitla (Official website of Kasserine Governorate).

Damnatio Memoriae: Do Not Discredit the Roman State

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Often times there are people, events or moments in time we would just like erased. Well, we can make that happen.

Today we take a look at Damnatio Memoriae!

Damnatio Memoriae is the Latin phrase literally meaning “Condemnation of Memory”, meaning that a person must not be remembered. It was a form of dishonor that could be passed by the Roman Senate on traitors or others who brought discredit to the Roman State.

The intent was to erase the wrongdoer from history, a task somewhat easier in ancient times, when documentation was limited.

The sense of the expression Damnatio Memoriae and of the sanction is to cancel every trace of the person from the life of Rome, as if he or she had never existed, in order to preserve the honor of the city. In a city that stressed social appearance, respectability, and the pride of being a true Roman as a fundamental requirement of the citizen, it was perhaps the most severe punishment.

In ancient Rome, the practice of Damnatio Memoriae was the condemnation of Roman elites and Emperors after their deaths. If the Senate or a later Emperor did not like the acts of an individual, they could have his property seized, his name erased and his statues reworked. Because there is an economic incentive to seize property and rework statues, historians and archaeologists have had difficulty determining when official Damnatio Memoriae actually took place, although it seems to have been quite rare.

Historians sometimes use the phrase de facto Damnatio Memoriae when the condemnation is not official. Examples of this may include the destruction of the statues and other images of two close members of Caligula‘s family, his wife Milonia Caesonia and his daughter Julia Drusilla, which occurred after the emperor was assassinated.

Among those few who suffered legal Damnatio Memoriae were Sejanus, who had conspired against Emperor Tiberius in AD 31, and later Livilla, who was revealed to be his accomplice.

Only 3 Emperors are known to have officially received a Damnatio Memoriae. These were Domitian whose violent death in AD 96 ended the Flavian Dynasty, the co-Emperor Publius Septimius Geta, whose memory was publicly expunged by his co-Emperor brother Caracalla after he murdered him in AD 211, and in AD 311 Maximian, who was captured by Constantine the Great and then encouraged to commit suicide.

It is unknown whether any Damnatio Memoriae was totally successful as it would not be noticeable to later historians, since, by definition, it would entail the complete and total erasure of the individual in question from the historical record. It was difficult, however, to implement the practice completely.

For instance, the Senate wanted to condemn the memory of Caligula, but Claudius prevented this. Nero was declared an enemy of the State by the Senate, but then given an enormous funeral honoring him after his death by Vitellius.

While statues of some Emperors were destroyed or reworked after their death, others were erected. Also, many coins with the images of the discredited person continued to circulate. A particularly large number exist with Geta’s image.

Many contemporary novels and films mention a form of Damnatio Memoriae. Two early examples are the “vaporization” of “unpersons” in George Orwell‘s 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (“He did not exist; he never existed”); and the reference to the Egyptian practice in the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments, in which the Pharaoh Seti orders the name of Moses be struck from every building and never mentioned by anyone.

More recent authors who have used Damnatio Memoriae as a plot device include Milan Kundera in his 1979 novel The Book of Laughter and ForgettingR.A. Salvatore in the 1990 novel HomelandLois Lowry in her 1993 novel The Giver (a version in which the damned name is never given to any new baby ever again), and Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson in their 1999 Prelude to Dune trilogy.

We hope you never have to face a situation in which your history is erased from public record. Thanks for stopping by and come back again soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Titulus Crucis: Relic of the True Cross

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If you’ve joined us before you know that our main focus is things related to all things dealing with Ancient Rome. Our span is anything from people and places, to events, to languages and religion, or even simply traveling throughout Europe.

Basically, in our scope, if it happens in or around Europe there will be some connection to the Romans. However we also love a good adventure, mystery or mythology that takes place within our scope.

That is why we are going on a quest for a religious piece that originated in the time of the Romans, and has been a fascination for pilgrims and treasure hunters alike. Today we are searching for the Titulus Crucis!1

Latin for “Title of the Cross” this piece of wood is claimed to be a relic of the True Cross. It is supposedly kept in the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome.

Christian tradition claims that the relic is half of the cross’s titulus (inscription) and a portion of the True Cross. It is generally either ignored by scholars or considered to be a medieval forgery.Cross-Jesus-Crucified

The board is made of walnut wood. It measures 9.8 × 5.5 x 1 in and has a weight of 1.5 lbs.

The Title is inscribed on a single side with 3 lines, of which the opening line is mostly destroyed. The next line is written in Greek letters and reversed script, the final is in Latin letters, also with reversed script.


After her pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Saint Helena had the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme built around AD 325. It was during this pilgrimage that Empress Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, was said to have located the True Cross and many other relics.

Helena reportedly located the True Cross and many other relics on said trip, which she gave to the new church. Amongst the relics which Helena gave to the Church of Santa Croce is alleged to have been the Titulus Crucis.

At the time of Egeria’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem in AD 383 a titulus was shown as one of the relics at Jerusalem: “A silver-gilt casket is brought in which is the holy wood of the Cross. The casket is opened and (the wood) is taken out, and both the wood of the Cross and the title are placed upon the table.”

The 6th Century pilgrim Antoninus of Piacenza describes a titulus in Jerusalem and its inscription: it said Hic est rex Iudaeorum (Here is the king of the Jews), while the titulus kept in Rome on nutwood shows Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum (Jesus the Nazarene king of the Jews).2

Sometime before 1145 the relic was placed in a box which has the seal of Cardinal Gherardo Caccianemici dal Orso, raised to the cardinalate in 1124 as cardinal priest of the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. Cardinal Gherardo became Pope Lucius II in 1144, thus dating the seal. Pope Lucius II

It was apparently completely forgotten about until 1 February 1492. It was then discovered by workmen restoring a mosaic, hidden behind a brick with the inscription Titulus Crucis.

In 1997, the German author and historian Michael Hesemann performed an investigation of the relic. Hesemann presented the inscription of the title to 7 experts on Hebrew, Greek and Latin palaeographyGabriel Barkay of the Israel Antiquities AuthorityHanan EshelEster Eshel and Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University of JerusalemIsrael Rolland Benjamin Isaac of the University of Tel Aviv and Carsten Peter Thiede of Paderborn/Germany and the University of Beer Sheva, Israel.

According to Hesemann, none of the consulted experts found any indication of a mediaeval or late antique forgery. They all dated it in the timeframe between the 1st and the 3rd–4th Century AD, with a majority of experts preferring and none of them excluding the 1st Century.

Hesemann concluded that it is very well possible that the Titulus Crucis of Santa Croce is indeed the authentic relic.

Carsten Peter Thiede suggested that the Titulus Crucis is likely to be a genuine part of the Cross, written by a Jewish scribe because of the order of the languages match what is historically plausible rather than the order shown in the canonical New Testament. If the relic had been a counterfeit, the forger would most likely have remained faithful to the biblical text instead of the order of the languages.

In 2002, the Roma Tre University conducted radiocarbon dating tests on the artifact, and it was shown to have been made between AD 980 and 1146. The uncalibrated radio-carbon date was 1020 ± 30 BP, calibrated as AD 996–1023 (1σ) and AD 980–1146 (2σ), using INTCAL98.

These results were published in the peer-reviewed journal Radiocarbon. The Titulus Crucis recovered from the residence of Helena is therefore most likely a medieval artifact, with some having proposed that it is a copy of the now-lost original.

Whether or not you believe in Christianity, the Titulus Crucis is still a historical item used to show the sociology of earlier cultures. What happened in the past, for better or worse, has shaped the present world we live in.

Ecce_homo_by_Antonio_Ciseri_(1)Aside from our interest in religion (we are Roman Catholic) this item comes from a story during Roman times, from a Roman provincia, about a man who was crucified by Roman soldiers under the command of Governor Pontius Pilate. The whole thing was made for our site, excluding it not have specifically taken place in Europe.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and look forward to having back for future quests. Stop back again soon to see what we have in store.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Byrne, Ryan; McNary-Zak, Bernadette. Resurrecting the Brother of Jesus: The James Ossuary Controversy and the Quest for Religious Relics. The University of North Carolina Press, 15 Aug 2009. ISBN 978-0-8078-3298-1.

Francesco Bella; Carlo Azzi. “14C Dating of the Titulus Crucis”Radiocarbon. University of Arizona, 2002. ISSN 0033-8222.

Hesemann, Michael. Titulus Crucis -The title of the cross of Jesus Christ?

Morris, Colin. The sepulchre of Christ and the medieval West: from the beginning to 1600. Oxford University Press, 17 Mar 2005. ISBN 978-0-19-826928-1.

Nickell, Joe. Relics of the Christ. The University Press of Kentucky, 1 Mar 2007. ISBN 978-0-8131-2425-4.

‘TITULUS CRUCIS’..Evidence that the Actual Sign Posted Above The Lord on The Cross Has Been Located?

The Škocjan Caves

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’re finishing up with what Slovenia has to offer according to UNESCO.

Today we head to the Kras Plateau of South-West Slovenia as we explore the Škocjan Caves!

The Škocjan Caves Regional Park is a protected area of over 1,020 acres which conserves an exceptional limestone cave system. The caves comprise one of the world’s largest known underground river canyons, that was cut into the limestone bedrock by the Reka River.

Along its course, the river suddenly disappears into the karst underground, before passing through a vast and picturesque channel of up to 164 yards in height and more than 131 yards in width, often in the form of dramatically roaring rapids and waterfalls. The canyon’s most spectacular physical expression is the enormous Martel Chamber, which exceeds 528,344,105 gallons in volume.

Beyond its almost supernatural visual appeal, its scale and scientific importance, the regional park is also home to noteworthy species and species assemblages, which thrive in the distinct world of the underground environment and in the so-called collapsed dolines, a form of karst sinkholes. The caves support many endemic and endangered species, including the Cave Salamander along with many invertebrates and crustaceans.

There is strong evidence that our ancestors appreciated the area as a place for settlements. Archaeological research has also disclosed that the area was historically used as a burial ground as well as for rituals.

How This Relates To Ancient Rome:

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 at Emona (Ljubljana), Poetovio (Ptuj), and Celeia (Celje); and 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. A crucial battle between Theodosius I and Eugenius took place in the Vipava Valleyin 394.

We hope you enjoyed today’s underground adventure and look forward to having you back soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Porta Nigra (#31)

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 #32 – the Arch of Constantine.

Today we’re headed to the frontier as we enter the barbarian territory of Germania to bring to you #31 – Porta Nigra!Old

Porta Nigra (Black Gate) is a large Roman city gate in TrierGermany. Named for the color of its darkened gray sandstone, the name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages since the original Roman name has not been preserved.

Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta. It now serves as an entrance to the town.

Model from Roman TimesPorta Nigra was built between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of a pair of 4-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side.

A narrow courtyard separated the 2 gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished.

The stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.North

In Roman times the Porta Nigra was part of a system of 4 gates of a castrum, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle.South

The gates stood at the ends of the 2 main streets of the Roman Trier, one leading north-south while the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function. The locals took the Porta’s stones and reused them for other buildings.

Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

Inner CourtAfter 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of Porta Nigra. After his death in 1035 and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him.

Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church. The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted.

The 2 middle-stories of the former gate were converted into church naves with the upper for the monks and the lower for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church.Nave

A small staircase led further up to the upper level. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today).Town Gate

The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate (the much smaller Simeon Gate) was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier’s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form.

From the newest Emperor’s mandate, only the apse was kept. However, the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height.Reconstruction

Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

The modern appearance of Porta Nigra goes back almost unchangedTower to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100+ yards of the street leading to the gate.

Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, the columns give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. It also has crowning cornice and parapet on its top.

The gate is today closed to cars, but stands right next to one of the main streets of Trier. Despite general pollution, exhaust fumes of the passing cars, and weather over many centuries, the Porta Nigra is still in remarkable condition.

CenturioThe Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors. In summer, guided tours are also offered by an actor dressed up as and portraying a Roman Centurio in full armor.

In 1986 Porta Nigra was designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is today the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps.Plaque

New Trier High School in Winnetka, IllinoisUSA, is named after the city of Trier, Germany, and the New Trier Logo depicts the Porta Nigra.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure as much as we did. We look forward to having you back soon to check out what we have in store.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Fiske Kimball, George Harold Edgell et al. History of Architecture. Research & Education Association, 2001. ISBN 0-87891-383-1.

Elsner, Jas. Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph: The Art of the Roman Empire AD 100-450. Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-284201-3.

Site of the Porta Nigra in Google Maps