The History of the Romans: Every Year

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

From the Foundation of Rome through the Fall of the Byzantine Empire, there has been constant growth and change in what was the Roman Empire. With so much going on, how could you possibly know everything?

That issue gets decided today as we witness the History of the Romans: Every Year!

See the entire history and progression of Roman civilization from the city-state Kingdom all the way to the last Byzantine successor state.

This video was originally published on 31 December 2015, with musical credits of “Majestic Hills”, “Hero Down”, and “Teller of the Tales” all by Kevin MacLeod.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure, maybe you even learned something new or exciting. We look forward to having you join us again soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

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!

Peristyle
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!

 

References:

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.

http://en.chateauversailles.fr/discover-the-estate/le-grand-trianon/architectures-and-gardens/the-peristyle

http://neworleanscitypark.com/rentals-and-catering/venues/peristyle#sthash.9N8Q6Spc.dpuf

The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx (Hainaut)

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today we’re in the countryside of Belgium as we explore The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx (Hainaut)!

The 4 hydraulic boat-lifts on the short stretch of the historic Canal du Centre are industrial monuments of the highest quality. Together with the Canal itself and its associated structures, they constitute a remarkably well preserved and complete example of a highly technical industrial landscape at the end of the 19th century.

The construction of the Canal du Centre to ensure the liaison between the Meuse and the Escaut basins was part of the opening-up programme of Hainaut, a rich industrial region, notably coal, but with very few natural navigable waterways for coal export. Digging work began in 1884 and the opening to navigation took place in 1917.

At the very beginning of the project, the architects were confronted with a 2-fold problem: the large distance in height over a short distance and the small quantity of water available. The most adapted technique to overcome these constraints was that of boat lifts, developed by English engineers using only hydraulic power.

Over a distance of 4.35 mi, a series of 4 boat lifts, unique worldwide, were built, each one covering a change in level of 23 feet. The stretch is bordered by a series of art works including 2 fixed bridges and 2 lift or swing bridges.

The property also comprises the ancient lock No.1 of Thieu, today disaffected, as well as 3 buildings housing the necessary hydraulic machinery for the good functioning of the lifts. Also, there are several 2-story houses to accommodate the work staff.

In 1911, at the time of the construction of the canal, a tree-planting program on the banks was initiated. Various types of trees were planted: American elm and white ash, oak, poplar, maple and sycamore, with copses of elder, sometimes mixed with willow, silver birch and false acacia.

A variety of  species (black pine, false acacia, maple, hazel, elderberry and poplar) were planted around the lifts. Today, the most common species are lime, maple, chestnut and ash.

Of the 8 hydraulic boat-lifts constructed at that time and at the beginning of the 20th century, the 4 lifts of the Canal du Centre are the only ones worldwide remaining in their functioning original state and still in use.

The canal that can accommodate 300 ton boats is currently used for leisure navigation.

How This Relates To Ancient Rome:

The name Belgium is derived from Gallia Belgica, a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul that before Roman invasion in 100 BC, was inhabited by the Belgae (a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples).

A gradual immigration by Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th Century brought the area under the rule of the Merovingian kings.

A gradual shift of power during the 8th Century led the kingdom of the Franks to evolve into the Carolingian Empire and the Holy Roman Empire.

 

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure. We look forward to sharing more World Heritage Sites, along with many other explorations.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

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!

 

References:

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!

 

References:

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.

Commentarii de Bello Gallico: Commentaries on the Gallic War by Julius Caesar

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If this is your initial visit with us, let us begin with a heartfelt ‘Thank You’. We realize there are many other sites out there and that you chose to check us out really means quite a bit.

For those who follow us on a regular basis, thanks for sticking around. Hopefully everyone who’s ended up here can find something to fit his or her own needs.

Recently we re-explored HBO’s Rome, a TV series which we find to be amazing. You can check out the article here if you wish.

We happen to think very highly of Julius Caesar and admire his accomplishments. What we did not initially know about the show is that it was based partly off of Caesar’s own manuscripts.

With that in mind, today we uncover Gaius Julius Caesar’s firsthand account of the Gallic Wars as we explore the Commentarii de Bello Gallico!

Literally the Commentaries on the Gallic War, this is the Roman Proconsul‘s firsthand account written as a third-person narrative. Some may refer to the text simply as Bellum Gallicum (Gallic War).

In his narrative, Caesar describes the battles and intrigues that took place in the 9 years he spent in Gallia (Gaul). It was during this time that Caesar and his Legions were fighting the Germanic peoples and Celtic peoples  that opposed Roman conquest.

Map of Gaul

The Gaul that Caesar refers to is sometimes all of Gaul except for the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis (modern-day Provence), encompassing the rest of modern France, Belgium and some of Switzerland. On other occasions, he refers only to that territory inhabited by the Celtic peoples known to the Romans as Gauls, from the English Channel to Lugdunum (Lyon).

The work has been a mainstay in Latin instruction because of its simple, direct prose. It begins with the frequently quoted phrase “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres“, meaning “Gaul is a whole divided into three parts”.

The full work is split into sections, Book 1 to Book 8, varying in size from approximately 5,000 to 15,000 words. Book 8 was written by Aulus Hirtius, after Caesar’s death.

Julius Caesar by Coustou (Louvre).

The victories in Gaul won by Caesar had increased the alarm and hostility of his enemies at Rome, and his aristocratic enemies, the Boni (Good Men), were spreading rumors about his intentions once he returned from Gaul. The Boni intended to prosecute Caesar for abuse of his authority upon his return, when he would lay down his Imperium (Power to Command).

Such prosecution would not only see Caesar stripped of his wealth and citizenship, but also negate all of the laws he enacted during his term as Consul and his dispositions as Proconsul of Gaul. To defend himself against these threats, Caesar knew he needed the support of the Plebeians, particularly the Tribunus Plebis (Tribunes of the Plebs), on whom he chiefly relied for help in carrying out his agenda.

The Commentaries were an effort by Caesar to directly communicate with the Plebeians to propagandize his activities as efforts to increase the glory and influence of Rome. This action would thereby circumvent the usual channels of communication that passed through the Senatus Romanus (Roman Senate).

Wood engraving of the Landing of Caesar during the Gallic Wars (1918).

By winning the support of the people, Caesar sought to make himself unassailable from the Boni. The work is an archetype of proper reporting and stylistic clarity.

Though often lauded for its polished, clear Latin, Caesar’s book is traditionally the paramount authentic text assigned to students of Latin, just as Xenophon‘s Anabasis is for students of Ancient Greek. Both works are autobiographical tales of military adventure told in the third person which contain many details, they also both employ many stylistic devices to promote political interests.

The books are valuable for the many geographical and historical claims that can be retrieved from the work. Notable chapters describe Gaulish custom (VI, 13), their religion (VI, 17), and a comparison between Gauls and Germanic peoples (VI, 24).

Astérix (left) and Obélix (right)

Since Caesar is one of the characters in the Astérix and Obélix albums, René Goscinny included gags for French schoolchildren who had the Commentarii as a textbook. One example is having Caesar talk about himself in the third person as in the book.

Some English editions state that Astérix’s village of indomitable Gauls is the so-called 4th part of Gaul. It is this part of Gallia which Caesar has not yet conquered.

Ray Stevenson as Titus Pullo (Left) and Kevin McKidd as Lucius Vorenus (Right).

In Book 5, Chapter 44 the Commentarii de Bello Gallico notably mentions Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, a pair of Roman Centurions of the Legio XI Claudia (Claudius’ 11th Legion). The 2005 TV series Rome gives a fictionalized account of Caesar’s rise and fall, featuring Kevin McKidd as the character of Lucius Vorenus and Ray Stevenson as the character of Titus Pullo of the Legio XIII Gemina (13th Twin Legion).

During World War I the French composer Vincent d’Indy wrote his Third Symphony, which bears the title De Bello Gallico. D’Indy was adapting Caesar’s title to the situation of the current struggle in France against the German army, in which he had a son and nephew fighting, and which the music illustrates to some extent.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure. Who knows, maybe you were even inspired to go get a copy of the Commentarii de Bello Gallico for yourself.

In any event till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Caesar. In Hans Herzfeld[de] (1960): Geschichte in Gestalten (History in figures), vol. 1: A-E. Das Fischer Lexikon[de] 37, Frankfurt 1963.

As translated by H.J. Edwards in the Loeb Classical Library edition.

Albrecht, Michael. Geschichte der römischen Literatur Band 1 (History of Roman Literature, Volume 1). Munich, 1994.

Peck, Harry Thurston, ed. “Caesar, Gaius Ilulius”. Harper’s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities. Cooper Square Publishers, Inc. 1963 (1898).

Rines, George Edwin, ed. “Cæsar’s Commentaries“. Encyclopedia Americana, 1920.

At Perseus ProjectCaesar’s Gallic War—De Bello Gallico, English translation by W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn (1869); Latin text edition.

“Dickinson College Commentaries” Selections in Latin with notes, audio, and resources for the study of Caesar.

Tips for Traveling Europe as an American

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Since we have not been able to travel almost at all due to the birth of our son just over a year ago, we’ve been yearning to go somewhere. Before learning my wife was pregnant, we had planned a Christmas trip to Paris.

Due to this desire to travel to Europe again, we thought it best to at least share some tips for other Americans looking to journey abroad. With that, today we bring to you 3 different videos for traveling to Europe from 3 unique perspectives.

The 1st video is from a younger American presently living in Europe (Germany). Kristen from TIPSY YAK will now bring you How to Travel Europe as an American.

After watching Kristen, if you didn’t want to grab a drink and pack a bag then you may just want to stop here.

Next up is our personal favorite guide to Europe, both major tourist spots and cool sites/places to eat off the beaten path. This wealth of information is Rick Steves of the PBS Rick Steves’ Europe.

He has spent many years traveling and sharing his various experiences in travel books, on TV and online. Today he will share European Travel Skills: Packing Light.

Finally, we have Jess (another American living overseas – this time LondonEngland) who seems to split the age difference. As for advice, we think her 8 Mistakes Not to Make When Planning a Europe Trip really are worthwhile.

You can see more of Jess at Love and London. We think her mindset is very helpful.

We hope these videos have sparked something inside you. Whether you do end up traveling to Europe, or somewhere else entirely, we wish you the best of travels.

If you do happen to visit Europe, please let us know. We’d love to share your experience and let others know Do’s and Dont’s that you found to happen.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

HBO’s Rome: Still the Best Series on Televsion

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Back when we were just getting started around here we briefly shared with you a TV series we thought to be extraordinary. Looking back on that article now, we don’t think we did the show justice at all.

Now that we’ve matured (maybe) on this site we thought we should take another look at the show. Upon reviewing other articles we’ve put out on movies and TV shows, we let everyone down for this masterpiece.

So today let’s take a journey back over 2,000 years as we experience the world of HBO’s Rome!

title_Rome_Blu-ray

Rome is a BritishAmericanItalian historical drama television series created by John Milius, William J. MacDonald, and Bruno Heller. The show’s 2 seasons were broadcast on HBO, BBC Two, and RaiDue between 2005 and 2007.

Set in the 1st Century BC, Rome showcases Ancient Rome‘s transition from Republic to Empire. The series features an extensive cast of characters, with real historical characters such as Gaius Julius Caesar, Gaius Octavius, Brutus, Mark Anthony,  and Cleopatra.

Ray Stevenson as Titus Pullo (Left) and Kevin McKidd as Lucius Vorenus (Right), seen in the episode “Pharsalus”.

The lead protagonists are ultimately a pair of soldiers named Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, who find their lives intertwined with key historical events. Not surprisingly, Rome was a ratings success for HBO and the BBC.

The series received much media attention from the start, and was honored with numerous awards and nominations in its 2-series run. The series was filmed in various locations, but most notably in the Cinecittà studios in Italy.

Not having the luxury of a pre-written novel, the creators of Rome had to pull moments of history and find a way to make a visual story. The show’s creators ended up having to make dialogue from ideas not something already made.

The series primarily chronicles the lives and deeds of the rich, powerful, and historically significant. This just makes sense since more has been recorded throughout history about these people.

First page of De Bello Gallico, from a 1469 manuscript.

However the series also focuses on the lives, fortunes, families, and acquaintances of 2 common men: Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo. Vorenus and Pullo are fictionalized versions of a pair of Roman soldiers mentioned in Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico.

Lucius Vorenus would be characterized as a staunch, traditional Roman Army  Centurio who struggles to balance his personal beliefs, his duty to his superiors, and the needs of his family and friends. The basis for this character is the historical Roman soldier of the same name, who is briefly mentioned in Caesar’s De Bello Gallico (5.44).

Titus Pullo is a friendly, upbeat, devil-may-care soldier under the command of Vorenus with the morals of a pirate, the appetites of a hedonist, and a total lack of personal responsibility. Over the course of the series Pullo discovers hidden ideals and integrity within himself.

Ciarán Hinds as Julius Caesar (Left) and Kevin McKidd as Lucius Vorenus (Right) in the Roman Senate on the Ides of March.

The fictional Vorenus and Pullo manage to witness and often influence many of the historical events presented in the series. Although some license is taken, the end product is a situation we have read about in our history books.

Here is a list of the main actors and the characters they played in the series:

Kevin McKidd as Lucius Vorenus (Season 1 and 2); Ray Stevenson as Titus Pullo (Season 1 and 2); Ciarán Hinds as Julius Caesar (Season 1); Kenneth Cranham as Pompey Magnus (Season 1); Polly Walker as Atia of the Julii (Season 1 and 2); James Purefoy as Mark Antony (Season 1 and 2); Tobias Menzies as Marcus Junius Brutus (Season 1 and 2); Lindsay Duncan as Servilia of the Junii (Season 1 and 2); Lyndsey Marshal as Cleopatra (Season 1 and 2); Indira Varma as Niobe (Season 1); Max Pirkis (Season 1 and early 2) and Simon Woods (Season 2) as Gaius Octavian; Nicholas Woodeson as Posca (Season 1 and 2); Kerry Condon as Octavia of the Julii (Season 1 and 2); Rick Warden as Quintus Pompey (Season 1 and 2); Karl Johnson as Porcius Cato (Season 1); David Bamber as Marcus Tullius Cicero (Season 1 and 2); and Lee Boardman as Timon (Season 1 and 2).

Triumph of Julius Caesar as portrayed by Ciaran Hinds.

Season 1 primarily depicts Julius Caesar’s Civil War of 49 BC against the traditionalist conservative faction in the Roman Senate (the Optimates), his rise to dictatorship over Rome, and his fall. The time spans from the end of his Gallic Wars (52 BC or 701 ab urbe condita) until his assassination on 15 March 44 BC (the infamous Ides of March).

Against the backdrop of these cataclysmic events, we also see the early years of the young Octavian. It is this young man we see transition from boy to manhood as he becomes Augustus, the original Emperor of Rome.

James Purefoy as Mark Antony with Lyndsey Marshal as Cleopatra.

Season 2 chronicles the power struggle between Octavian and Mark Antony following Caesar’s assassination. The time here spans the period from Caesar’s death in 44 BC to the suicide of Antony and Cleopatra in 30 BC after their defeat at the Battle of Actium.

William J. MacDonald and John Milius pitched the idea to HBO as a mini series, but the network made it a full-fledged series. In 2002, HBO and the BBC agreed to co-produce the series, committing a budget of $100–110 million (US) to the production of twelve 1-hour episodes, with HBO contributing $85 million, and the BBC contributing $15 million.

Rome is the largest co-produced series with the American film market in the BBC’s history. The series also marked the primary series on which HBO and the BBC worked together as co-producers, although the 2 companies had worked together in other roles in earlier series, including Band of Brothers and The Gathering Storm.

rome_art_posters_02[1]

Filmed between March 2004 and May 2005, Rome was in co-production with Rai Fiction in the Italian countryside on Cinecittà studios’ 6 sound stages in Rome. A collection of massive sets in Cinecittà studios’ back lots comprised an elaborate “period reconstruction” of sections of Ancient Rome.

It was a huge undertaking, with an international crew of 350, and more than 50 local Italian interns. The production is regarded as one of the most expensive in the history of television.

Set of Rome in Cinecittà Studios (Rome).

Funding was generously employed to recreate an impressively detailed set featuring a number of Roman Villas, the Forum Romanum, and a vast slum area of the ancient city of Rome. A significant part of this set was later destroyed by a fire that burned down a portion of the Cinecittà Studios in 2007.

According to HBO, the fire started after they had finished filming Season 2. A portion of the set was also used in late 2007 by the crew of the long-running BBC sci-fi drama series Doctor Who, for the Season 4 episode “The Fires of Pompeii“.

Extras at the Forum set of HBO’s Rome.

Audio commentary on the Season 1 DVD indicates that many of the background performers used in the series were also their true professional counterparts. One example is that the actor shown in the series working as a butcher on the streets of Rome was in fact a real-life butcher.

Capping a successful Season 1, Rome won 4 Emmy Awards out of 8 nominations in 2006, for the episodes Caesarion, Triumph, Kalends of February and Stealing from Saturn. The series also won an Art Directors Guild (ADG) in the category “Excellence in Production Design – Single-Camera Television Series” for the pilot episode The Stolen Eagle.

Michael Apted won the Directors Guild of America (DGA) in the category “Outstanding Directing – Drama Series, Night” for The Stolen Eagle as well. The series itself was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in the category “Best Television Series – Drama“, and Polly Walker who portrayed Atia of the Julii was nominated in the category “Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series – Drama“.

Set of HBO’s Rome

The series was also nominated for 3 Satellite Awards, 2 for Season 1 and the last for Season 2. The pilot episode The Stolen Eagle won a Visual Effects Society (VES) award in the category “Outstanding Visual Effects – Broadcast Series”.

Writers Guild of America (WGA) nominated the series for the category “Best Writing – New Television Series” in 2005. The series was also nominated for 4 British Academy Television Awards (BAFTA), 3 in Season 1 (2006) and 1 in Season 2 (2008).

In 2005, the series was nominated for a Cinema Audio Society Award (CAS) in the category “Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Television Series” for the episode The Spoils. The British award ceremony nominated the series for the Royal Television Society (RTS) award in the category “Best Visual Effects – Digital Effects”.

For Season 2 (2007) Alik Sakharov, A.S.C. won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series, for the episode Passover.

Simon Woods as Octavian (Left) and Allen Leech as Marcus Agrippa (Right).

Even with so much success & acclaim in July 2006 HBO Chairman Chris Albrecht announced that Season 2 of Rome would be its last, citing the fact that the series (called “notoriously expensive” by Broadcasting & Cable) had been developed under a 2-year contract with the BBC that would have been difficult for the BBC to extend due to the series’ cost. Of the storyline, co-creator Heller said:

I discovered halfway through writing the second season the show was going to end. The second was going to end with the death of Brutus. Third and fourth season would be set in Egypt. Fifth was going to be the rise of the Messiah in Israel. But because we got the heads-up that the second season would be it, I telescoped the third and fourth season into the second one, which accounts for the blazing speed we go through history near the end. There’s certainly more than enough history to go around.

In a February 2008 interview with Movieweb.com, actor Ray Stevenson stated that a Rome film was in development, with Heller working on a script. Heller confirmed in December that there was “talk of doing a movie version”, adding that “It’s moving along. It’s not there until it is there. I would love to round that show off”.

In an April 2009 interview with the Associated Press, Actor Kevin McKidd stated the Rome film was “in development”, and Lucius Vorenus will likely be a part of it.

One of the many battle scenes fought in HBO’s Rome.

In March 2010, Entertainment Weekly stated that Heller had completed the script for Morning Light Productions, the film’s financiers, and was now awaiting a director and a studio, since HBO Films would not be involved. However, in a more recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Heller indicated the project had stalled.

On 15 April 2014, ScreenRant received reports from Entertainment Weekly in which it was confirmed that a movie based on HBO’s Rome was indeed on the way.

As reported in 2009 Bruno Heller, who wrote and executive produced the series, is writing the movie script as well; the film will be produced by Morning Light Productions. The only question that remains is which epoch of Rome will the movie focus on and which cast members will be featured on the big screen?

Kevin McKidd (Lucius Vorenus) himself spoke in September 2013 about it.

There is a script that is being shopped and it’s supposedly very good, I haven’t seen it, but I am definitely going to be a part of the movie… He is very much alive, so that should be a fun story to tell.

There are episodes located on youtube.com, but for the full experience I would suggest getting the Rome: The Complete Series on DVD or Blu-ray at the HBO Store. I did and I’ve never been happier when watching a TV show.

Rome is not only HBO’s greatest series it is quite possibly the best TV series produced. It only lasted 2 season but this period show set up other shows like Vikings and Game of Thrones to thrive.

Take a look for yourself now and see what you think.

If you are searching for 100% historical accuracy, then you will be disappointed. A documentary might be more your style which is great because we enjoy them too.

However, if you want to be visually entertained with a show that provides superb “authenticity” then Rome is the show for you. Please note that this series, even though it has kids in it, is not appropriate for those under the age of 18.

Hopefully you have been enticed enough to give Rome a look. If you do decide to watch, or have seen Rome before, please share with us your thoughts on any aspect of the show.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Becker, Anne. “HBO To Sack Rome After Season 2′”. Broadcasting Cable.com, 12 July 2006.

Bruni, Frank. “Rendering Unto Caesar’s Subjects; For a New HBO Series, a Colorful Ancient City Springs to Life in Rome”The New York Times, 5 April 2004.

Gaius Julius Caesar. Commentarii De Bello Gallico, liber V.

Carter, Bill. “HBO Takes the ABC Sunday Challenge”The New York Times, 17 November 2005.

Deans, Jason. “Rome’s bloody climax wins 3m”The Guardian, 5 January 2006.

Franklin, Garth. “Rome Second Season Underway”Dark Zone, 20 April 2006.

Gold, Matea. “HBO’s Rome wasn’t built in a day”Los Angeles Times, 24 August 2005.

Hibbard, James. “Rome might not be history, series creator says”. Reuters, 1 December 2008.

Lyman, Eric J. “Fire hits Rome studios”The Hollywood Reporter, 11 August 2007.

Parsons, Ryan. “HBO Wants More ROME”. Canmag.com. 13 September 2005.

Vivarelli, Nick. “Irritated Italos give HBO’s Rome the thumbs down”Variety, 16 March 2006.

Walsh, John. “New $100m TV epic set to rewrite history”The Independent, 25 July 2005.

“Epic Roman drama unveiled”. BBC. 27 October 2003.

“BBC backs its explicit Rome epic”. BBC. 17 October 2005.

“Fire torches film sets at Rome’s historic Cinecitta”. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 10 August 2007.

“HBO: Rome: About the Show”. HBO.com. 2006.

Associated Press (13 April 2009). Does the Road for Rome Lead to Film? (Flash Video). YouTube.

Rome: The Complete First Season. DVD, 2005.

Rome: The Complete First Season. “When In Rome featurette”. DVD, 2005.

Official website on BBC.co.uk

Official website on RAI.it

Rome at TV.com

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
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.

Plan_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.

augustus-mausoleum-orig
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.

entry-arch
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
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
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
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!

 

References:

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.

Wartburg Castle

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today we’re in the countryside of Germania as we explore Wartburg Castle!

Wartburg Castle blends superbly into its forest surroundings and is in many ways “the ideal castle”. Although it contains some sections of great antiquity, it acquired the current layout over the course of 19th Century reconstructions.

Today the castle continues to be a symbol of the nation’s past and present, standing as a splendid example of what this fortress might have been at the peak of its military and seigneurial power. What makes Wartburg Castle such a magnet for memory, tradition, and pilgrimage is that it stands as a monument to the cultural history of Germany, Europe, and beyond.

Wartburg Castle is perched at a height of some 1,312 feet above the delightful countryside, south of the city of Eisenach in Thuringia in central Germany. Its varied aspect and the sense of harmony it evokes are only 2 of its attractions for visitors.

Lutherans the world over know of the castle as the very place where Martin Luther made his translation of the Bible. The veneration of Saint Elizabeth, which extends far beyond the frontiers of Germany, includes Wartburg Castle where she lived and worked.

 

The patronage of Hermann I, Landgrave of Thuringia, occupies an extraordinary place in the creation of a national literary tradition. In poetry and in legends, Wartburg Castle, the medieval Court of the Muses, bears an undying reputation through the names of Walther von der Vogelweide and Wolfram von Eschenbach.

 

Wartburg Castle is also associated with the beginnings of a bourgeois and democratic nation, through the content and effects of the Wartburg festival of German students’ associations. From the very earliest days of its existence, this fortress of the Landgraves of Thuringia has repeatedly acted as a venue for and witness of historic events and activities worthy of renown as a monument to national and world history.

 

The artistic and architectural importance of the palace, built in the latter half of the 12th Century, is no less significant. In execution and ornamentation, it is unrivaled and represents one of the best-preserved secular constructions from the late Norman period to be found on German soil. Thanks to this broad range of religious content and historic data, and because of its significance in the history of the arts, Wartburg Castle attracts around half a million visitors every year, from all over the world.

How This Relates To Ancient Rome:

Germania was the Roman term for the geographical region in north-central Europe inhabited mainly by Germanic peoples.

It extended from the Danube in the south to the Baltic Sea, and from the Rhine in the west to the Vistula. The Roman portions formed two provinces of the EmpireGermania Inferior to the north (present-day Netherlands, Belgium, and western Germany), and Germania Superior to the south (Switzerland, southwestern Germany, and eastern France).

Germania was inhabited mostly by Germanic tribes, but also Celtsearly SlavsBalts and Scythians. The population mix changed over time by assimilation, and especially by migration. The ancient Greeks were the first to mention the tribes in the area.

Later, Julius Caesar wrote about warlike Germanic tribesmen and their threat to Roman Gaul, and there were military clashes between the Romans and the indigenous tribes. Tacitus wrote the most complete account of Germania that still survives.

The origin of the term Germania is uncertain, but was known by Caesar’s time, and may be Gallic in origin.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure. We look forward to sharing more World Heritage Sites, along with many other explorations.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!