Pantheon (#3)

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 #4 – Pompeii.

Today we’re headed to the heart of where it all began, Rome, as we explore #3 – The Pantheon!

Perfection

One of the best preserved Ancient Roman buildings, the Pantheon was built as a temple for every god. Built in 126 AD, the temple’s name was the Latin version of the Greek Pantheion.

It was so well preserved in large part because it has been in continuous use throughout its history. After the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, the temple has served as a Roman Catholic Church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs since the 7th Century.

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa

Commissioned by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa on the site of an earlier temple during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD), the present building was completed by the Emperor Hadrian. Hadrian retained Agrippa’s original inscription, which has confused its date of construction as the original Pantheon burnt down so it is not certain when the present one was built.

The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns (8 in the 1st rank and 2 groups of 4 behind) under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky.

The coffering of the dome showcasing Roman The coffering of the dome showcasing Roman architectural prowess.

Almost 2,000 years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 142 feet.

The Pantheon’s large circular domed cella, with a conventional temple portico front, is “unique” in Roman architecture. Nevertheless, it became a standard exemplar when classical styles were revived, and has been copied many times by modern architects

The building was originally approached by a flight of steps, although later construction raised the level of the ground leading to the portico, eliminating the steps. The pediment was decorated with relief sculpture, probably of gilded bronze.

Holes marking the location of clamps that held the sculpture suggest that its design was likely an eagle within a wreath. Ribbons extended from the wreath into the corners of the pediment.

Portico of the Pantheon

Mark Wilson Jones has attempted to explain the design adjustments carried out in relating the porch to the dome, arguing that the Pantheon’s porch was originally designed for monolithic granite columns with shafts 50 Roman feet tall (weighing about 100 tons) and capitals 10 Roman feet tall in the Corinthian style. The taller porch would have hidden the 2nd pediment visible on the intermediate block.

Instead, after the intended columns failed to arrive, the builders made many awkward adjustments in order to use shafts 40 Roman feet tall and capitals 8 Roman feet tall. This substitution was probably a result of logistical difficulties at some stage in the construction.

View of Mons Claudianus from the northeast.

The grey granite columns that were actually used in the Pantheon’s pronaos were quarried in Egypt at Mons Claudianus in the eastern mountains. Each was 39 feet tall, 5 feet in diameter, and 60 tons in weight.

These were dragged more than 62 miles from the quarry to the river on wooden sledges. They were floated by barge down the Nile River when the water level was high during the spring floods, and then transferred to vessels to cross the Mediterranean Sea to the Roman port of Ostia.

There, they were transferred back onto barges and pulled up the Tiber River to Rome. After being unloaded near the Mausoleum of Augustus, the site of the Pantheon was still about 2,297 feet away, so it was still necessary to either drag them or to move them on rollers to the construction site.

Pantheon, vestibule, and transitional block at the junction with the portico.

In the walls at the back of the Pantheon’s portico are niches, perhaps intended for statues of Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar, and Agrippa, or for the Capitoline Triad, or another set of gods.

The large bronze doors to the cella, once plated with gold, are ancient but not the original ones of the Pantheon. The current doors, manufactured too small for the door frames, have been there since about the 15th Century.

The 4,999 short tons weight of the Roman concrete dome is concentrated on a ring of voussoirs 30 feet in diameter that form the oculus, while the downward thrust of the dome is carried by 8 barrel vaults in the 21 feet thick drum wall into 8 piers. The thickness of the dome varies from 21 feet at the base of the dome to 3.9 feet around the oculus.

Letting the light shine in, the Oculus of the Pantheon.

The materials used in the concrete of the dome also varies. At its thickest point, the aggregate is travertine, then terracotta tiles, then at the very top were the porous light stones tufa and pumice.

Typically, at the very top, the dome would be at its weakest and vulnerable to collapse. This is not the case, however, with the Pantheon for the oculus actually lightens the load.

No tensile test results are available on the concrete used in the Pantheon, but natural stresses in the dome were found to be substantially reduced by successively using less dense aggregate stones in higher layers of the dome. If normal weight concrete had been used throughout, the stresses in the arch would have been some 80% greater.

Crosssection drawing of the Pantheon

The top of the rotunda wall features a series of brick relieving arches, visible on the outside and built into the mass of the brickwork. The Pantheon is full of such devices, an example is the many relieving arches over the recesses inside that were hidden by marble facing on the interior and possibly by stone revetment or stucco on the exterior.

The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 142 feet, so the whole interior would fit exactly within a cube. Also, the interior could house a sphere 142 feet in diameter.

These dimensions make more sense when expressed in ancient Roman units of measurement: the dome spans 150 Roman feet; the oculus is 30 Roman feet in diameter; the doorway is 40 Roman feet high. The Pantheon still holds the record for the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, while also being substantially larger than earlier domes.

Rear view of the Pantheon

Though often drawn as a free-standing building, there was a building at its rear into which it abutted. While this building helped buttress the rotunda, there was no interior passage from one to the other.

The interior of the dome was possibly intended to symbolize the arched vault of the heavens. The oculus at the dome’s apex and the entry door are the only natural sources of light in the interior.

Throughout the day, light from the oculus moves around this space in a reverse sundial effect. The oculus also serves as a cooling and ventilation method and, during storms, a drainage system below the floor handles the rain that falls through the oculus.

The dome features sunken panels (coffers) in 5 rings of 28. This evenly spaced layout was difficult to achieve and, it is presumed, had symbolic meaning, either numerical, geometric, or lunar.

Interior of the Pantheon

Circles and squares form the unifying theme of the interior design. The checkerboard floor pattern contrasts with the concentric circles of square coffers in the dome.

Each zone of the interior, from floor to ceiling, is subdivided according to a different scheme. Thus, the interior decorative zones do not line up.

The overall effect is immediate viewer orientation per the major axis of the building, even though the cylindrical space topped by a hemispherical dome is inherently ambiguous. This discordance has not always been appreciated, and the attic level was redone affording a Neoclassical taste in the 18th Century.

Campus Martius & the Seven Hills of Rome

In the aftermath of the Battle of Actium (31 BC), Marcus Agrippa started an impressive building program. The Pantheon was a part of the complex created by him on his own property in the Campus Martius in 29–19 BC, which included 3 buildings aligned from south to north (Baths of Agrippa, Basilica of Neptune, and Pantheon).

It seems likely that the Pantheon and the Basilica of Neptune were Agrippa’s sacra privata (private sacred [matters]), not aedes publicae (public temples). This less solemn designation would help explain how the building could have so easily lost its original name and purpose.

Pantheon Portico with inscriptions on Pediment.

It had long been thought that the current building was built by Agrippa, with later alterations undertaken, and this was in part because of the inscription on the front of the temple which reads:

M·AGRIPPA·L·F·COS·TERTIVM·FECIT

Or in full, “M[arcus] Agrippa L[ucii] f[ilius] co[n]s[ul] tertium fecit,” meaning “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, made [this building] when consul for the third time.” However, archaeological excavations have shown that the Pantheon of Agrippa had been completely destroyed except for the façade.

The form of Agrippa’s Pantheon is debated. As a result of excavations in the late 19th Century, archaeologist Rodolfo Lanciani concluded that Agrippa’s Pantheon was oriented so that it faced South, in contrast with the current layout that faces North, and that it had a shortened T-shaped plan with the entrance at the base of the “T”.

This description was widely accepted until the late 20th Century. While more recent archaeological diggings have suggested that Agrippa’s building might have had a circular form with a triangular porch, and it might have also faced North, much like the later rebuildings.

Roman Pantheon by Granger (1878)

The only passages referring to the decoration of the Agrippan Pantheon written by an eyewitness are in Pliny‘s Natural History. From him we know that “the capitals, too, of the pillars, which were placed by M. Agrippa in the Pantheon, are made of Syracusan bronze”, that “the Pantheon of Agrippa has been decorated by Diogenes of Athens, and the Caryatides, by him, which form the columns of that temple, are looked upon as masterpieces of excellence: the same, too, with the statues that are placed upon the roof,” and that one of Cleopatra‘s pearls was cut in half so that each half “might serve as pendants for the ears of Venus, in the Pantheon at Rome”.

The Augustan Pantheon was destroyed along with other buildings in a huge fire in the year 80 AD. Domitian rebuilt the Pantheon, which was burnt again in 110 AD.

Views of the Pantheon from the 1897 Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The degree to which the decorative scheme should be credited to Hadrian’s architects is uncertain. Finished by Hadrian but not claimed as one of his works, it used the text of the original inscription on the new façade.

Apparently, this was a common practice in Hadrian’s rebuilding projects all over Rome. The only building on which Hadrian actually has his own name was on the Temple to the Deified Trajan.

The Historia Augusta says that Hadrian dedicated the Pantheon in the name of the original builder, but the current inscription could not be a copy of the original. It provides no information as to who Agrippa’s foundation was dedicated to, and it was highly unlikely that in 25 BC Agrippa would have presented himself as Consul Tertium (3rd Consulship).

Dio’s History of Rome

Cassius Dio, a Graeco-Roman Senator, Consul and author of a comprehensive History of Rome, writing approximately 75 years after the Pantheon’s reconstruction, mistakenly attributed the domed building to Agrippa rather than Hadrian. Dio appears to be the only near-contemporaneous writer to mention the Pantheon.

Even by the year 200, Dio writes that there was uncertainty about the origin of the building and its purpose:

Agrippa finished the construction of the building called the Pantheon. It has this name, perhaps because it received among the images which decorated it the statues of many gods, including Mars and Venus; but my own opinion of the name is that, because of its vaulted roof, it resembles the heavens.

In 202, the building was repaired by the joint emperors Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla, for which there is another, smaller inscription on the architrave of the façade, under the aforementioned larger text. This now-barely legible inscription reads:

IMP · CAES · L · SEPTIMIVS · SEVERVS · PIVS · PERTINAX · ARABICVS · ADIABENICVS · PARTHICVS · MAXIMVS · PONTIF · MAX · TRIB · POTEST · X · IMP · XI · COS · III · P · P · PROCOS · ET

IMP · CAES · M · AVRELIVS · ANTONINVS · PIVS · FELIX · AVG · TRIB · POTEST · V · COS ·PROCOS · PANTHEVM · VETVSTATE · CORRVPTVM · CVM · OMNI · CVLTV · RESTITVERVNT

In English, this means:

Emp[eror] Caes[ar] L[ucius] Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax, victorious in Arabia, victor of Adiabene, the great victor in ParthiaPontif[ex] Max[imus], 10 times tribune, 11 times emperor, 3 times Consul, P[ater] P[atriae], Proconsul, and

Emp[eror] Caes[ar] M[arcus] Aurelius Antoninus Pius Felix Aug[ustus], 5 times tribune, Consul, Proconsul, have carefully restored the Pantheon ruined by age.

The Holy Mother & Son (Mary & Jesus)

In 609, the Byzantine Emperor Phocas gave the building to Pope Boniface IV, who converted it into a Christian church and consecrated it to St. Mary and the Martyrs on 13 May 609. Twenty-eight cartloads of holy relics of martyrs were said to have been removed from the catacombs and placed in a porphyry basin beneath the high altar.

The building’s consecration as a church saved it from the abandonment, destruction, and the worst of the spoliation that befell the majority of ancient Rome’s buildings during the early medieval period. Paul the Deacon records the spoliation of the building by the Emperor Constans II, who visited Rome in July 663:

Remaining at Rome twelve days he pulled down everything that in ancient times had been made of metal for the ornament of the city, to such an extent that he even stripped off the roof of the church [of the blessed Mary], which at one time was called the Pantheon, and had been founded in honour of all the gods and was now by the consent of the former rulers the place of all the martyrs; and he took away from there the bronze tiles and sent them with all the other ornaments to Constantinople.

Once a tribute to pagan gods, now a tribute to 1st Christian Emperor Constantine I and the one true God.

Much fine external marble has been removed over the centuries – for example, capitals from some of the pilasters are in the British Museum. Two columns were swallowed up in the medieval buildings that abutted the Pantheon on the east and were lost.

In the early 17th Century, Urban VIII Barberini tore away the bronze ceiling of the portico and replaced the medieval campanile with the famous twin towers called “the ass’s ears” which were not removed until the late 19th Century. The only other loss has been the external sculptures, which adorned the pediment above Agrippa’s inscription, while the marble interior has largely survived with extensive restoration.

Tomb of Vittorio Emanuele II

Since the Renaissance, the Pantheon was the site of some important burials. Among those buried there are: painters Raphael and Annibale Carracci; the composer Arcangelo Corelli; architect Baldassare Peruzzi; and Kings of Italy Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, as well as Umberto’s Queen, Margherita. In the 15th Century, the Pantheon was adorned with paintings: the best-known is the Annunciation by Melozzo da Forlì.

Pope Urban VIII ordered the bronze ceiling of the Pantheon’s portico melted down. Most of the bronze was used to make bombards for the fortification of Castel Sant’Angelo, with the remaining amount used by the Apostolic Camera for various other works.

It is also said that the bronze was used by Bernini in creating his famous baldachin above the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. According to at least one expert, however, the Pope’s accounts state that about 90% of the bronze was used for the cannon, and that the bronze for the baldachin came from Venice.

An 1836 view of the Pantheon by Jakob Alt.

In 1747, the broad frieze below the dome with its false windows was restored, but the restoration bore little resemblance to the original. In the early decades of the 20th Century, a piece of the original, as could be reconstructed from Renaissance drawings and paintings, was recreated in one of the panels.

As the best-preserved example of an Ancient Roman monumental building, the Pantheon has been enormously influential in Western architecture from at least the Renaissance on. Other versions or variations inspired by the Pantheon include: Brunelleschi‘s 138 foot dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence (1436); the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Ariccia by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1664); Belle Isle House (1774) in England, Thomas Jefferson‘s library at the University of VirginiaThe Rotunda (1817–26); and the 19th Century Rotunda of Mosta in Malta.

Holy altar within the Pantheon.

The style of the Pantheon can be detected in many buildings of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Numerous government and public buildings, city halls, universities, and public libraries across Europe and the Americas echo its portico-and-dome structure.

The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda. The Pantheon is a state property, ruled by Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism through the Polo Museale del Lazio.

Today, the Pantheon is in use as a Catholic church. Masses are celebrated there on Sundays and holy days of obligation, and weddings are also held there from time to time. In 2013, the Pantheon it was visited by over 6 million people.

On my Honeymoon with my amazing wife Jennifer.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey, and hope you are inspired to visit the Pantheon on your own someday soon. Be sure to Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Claridge, Amanda. Rome: Oxford Archaeological Guides. Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-288003-9.

Cowan, Henry. The Master Builders: A History of Structural and Environmental Design From Ancient Egypt to the Nineteenth Century. John Wiley and Sons, 1977. ISBN 0-471-02740-5.

Favro, Diane. “Making Rome a World City”. The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus. Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-521-00393-3.

Hetland, L. M. “Dating the Pantheon”. Journal of Roman Archaeology: Volume 20, 2007. ISSN 1047-7594.

King, Ross. Brunelleschi’s Dome. London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0-7011-6903-6.

Kleiner, Fred S. A History of Roman Art. Wadsworth Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0-534-63846-5.

Lancaster, Lynne C. Concrete Vaulted Construction in Imperial Rome: Innovations in Context. Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-521-84202-6.

MacDonald, William L. The Pantheon: Design, Meaning, and Progeny. Harvard University Press, 1976. ISBN 0-674-01019-1.

Marder, Tod A. “Alexander VII, Bernini, and the Urban Setting of the Pantheon in the Seventeenth Century”. The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians: Volume 50, 1991. doi:10.2307/990615. JSTOR 990615.

Roth, Leland M. Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, And Meaning. Westview Press, 1992. ISBN 0-06-438493-4.

Thomas, Edmund. The Architectural History of the Pantheon from Agrippa to Septimius Severus via Hadrian. Hephaistos, 1997.

Wilson-Jones, Mark. Principles of Roman Architecture. Yale University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-300-10202-X.

Official webpage from Vicariate of Rome website

Pantheon Live Webcam, Live streaming Video of the Pantheon

 

Decimatio: The Most Severe Punishment of the Roman Army

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

MattRod
Our stylish Chief of Technology

Awhile back I received a message from Matthew Rodriguez, Chief of Technology at RAE. Thus far he had been a bit shy to contribute articles, but apparently he just could not resist this one.

Just like myself, MattRod is a tad obsessed with proper grammar usage. The budding-teacher in me felt it was best we share it, and this is what we got.

Today we shall venture deeper into this previous discussion as we explore the punishment of Decimatio!

Etching of a Decimatio by William Hogarth in Beaver’s Roman Military Punishments (1725).

Decimatio comes from the Latin Decem (Ten). This form of military discipline was used by Senior Commanders in the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) to punish units or large groups guilty of capital offences, such as mutiny or desertion.

The word decimation is Latin meaning Removal of a Tenth. The procedure was a matter-of-fact attempt to balance the need to punish serious offences with the realities of managing a large group of offenders.

Contrary to historical usage, the word decimation is often used to refer to an extreme reduction in the number of a population or force, much greater than the a tenth. It is frequently used as a synonym for the annihilation or for devastation (get a definition for either here).

Roman Legion in action

For those that are unfamiliar with the setup of the Roman Army, let us quickly explain. The Roman Army was divided into Legiōnēs (Legions) consisting of 10 Cohortes (Cohorts) (about 5,000 men), each of 4 Manipulī (Maniples) of 120 Legiōnāriī (Legionaries).

Casting lots

Decimatio was inflicted upon a selected Cohort (between 480-500 soldiers) that was then divided into groups of 10. Each group drew lots (Sortition), and the soldier on whom the lot fell was executed by his 9 comrades, often by stoning or clubbing.

The remaining soldiers were often given rations of barley instead of wheat (the latter being the standard soldier’s diet) for a few days, and required to camp outside the fortified security of the camp. Since the punishment fell by lot, all soldiers in a group sentenced to Decimatio were potentially liable for execution, regardless of individual degrees of fault, rank, or distinction.

Decimatio depicted on Trajan’s Column

The earliest documented Decimatio occurred in 471 BC during the Roman Republic‘s early wars against the Volsci, and was recorded by Livy. In an incident where his forces had been scattered, Consul Appius Claudius Sabinus Regillensis had the perpetrators punished for desertion.

Roman soldier with a flagellum or scourge.

Centuriōnēs (Centurions), Signiferī (Standard-Bearers) and Soldiers who had cast away their weapons were individually scourged and beheaded. The remainder were chosen by lot (1 in 10) and executed.

Polybius gives one of the earliest descriptions of the practice in the early 3rd Century BC:

If ever these same things happen to occur among a large group of men… the officers reject the idea of bludgeoning or slaughtering all the men involved [as is the case with a small group or an individual]. Instead they find a solution for the situation which chooses by a lottery system sometimes five, sometimes eight, sometimes twenty of these men, always calculating the number in this group with reference to the whole unit of offenders so that this group forms one-tenth of all those guilty of cowardice. And these men who are chosen by lot are bludgeoned mercilessly in the manner described above.

Decimatio during the Third Servile War against Spartacus.

The practice was revived by Marcus Licinius Crassus in 71 BC during the Third Servile War against Spartacus, and some historical sources attribute part of Crassus’ success to it. The number of men killed through Decimatio is not known, but it varies anywhere between 48-50 killed (from a Cohort of around 480-500 men) up to 1,000 killed (used on 10,000 men).

Banner of the Legio IX Hispana

Julius Caesar threatened Decimatio on the Legio IX Hispana (Spanish 9th Legion) during the Great Roman Civil War against Pompey, but never did. Maybe Caesar should have acted upon his threat for the Legion disappears from surviving Roman records after AD 120, and there is no extant account of what happened to it.

Plutarch describes the process in his work Life of Antony. After a defeat in Media:

Antony was furious and employed the punishment known as ‘decimation’ on those who had lost their nerve. What he did was divide the whole lot of them into groups of ten, and then he killed one from each group, who was chosen by lot; the rest, on his orders were given barley rations instead of wheat.

Decimatio was still being practiced during the time of the Roman Empire, although it was very uncommon. Suetonius records that it was used by Emperor Augustus in 17 BC and later by Galba, while Tacitus records that Lucius Apronius used Decimatio to punish a full Cohort of the Legio III Augusta (3rd Augustan Legion) after their defeat by Tacfarinas in AD 20.

The Martyrdom of St Maurice and the Theban Legion.

According to legend, led by Saint Maurice, the Theban Legion was decimated in the 3rd Century AD, thus becoming known to history as the Martyrs of Agaunum. The Legion had refused, to a man, to comply to an order of the Emperor, and the process was repeated until none were left.

In his Strategikon, the Byzantine Emperor Maurice forbade Decimatio and other brutal punishments. According to him, punishments where the rank and file see their comrades dying by the hands of their own brothers-in-arms could lead to a collapse of morale. Moreover, it could seriously deplete the manpower of the fighting unit.

Decimatio was not just a practice from Ancient Rome. Apparently, those from many centuries after looked to the past for inspiration and found this form of discipline appealing.

Medival illustration of Decimation

During the Battle of Breitenfeld (1642), near Leipzig, one of the many battles of the Thirty Years’ War, Colonel Madlon’s cavalry regiment was the first to flee the battleground without striking a blow. This was followed by the massive flight of other cavalry units, which was the final turning point in the battle.

The battle was a decisive victory for the Swedish army under the command of Field Marshal Lennart Torstenson over an Imperial Army of the Holy Roman Empire under the command of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria and his deputy, Prince-General Ottavio Piccolomini, Duke of Amalfi. Archduke Leopold Wilhelm assembled a court-martial in Prague which sentenced the Madlon regiment to exemplary punishment.

Battle of Breitenfeld

Six regiments, which had actually fought bravely in the battle, drew up arms and surrounded Madlon’s regiment. Having been severely rebuked for its cowardice and misconduct, Madlon’s regiment were ordered to lay down its arms as their ensigns were torn in pieces.

The general, having mentioned the causes of their degradation, erased the regiment from the register of the imperial troops. The agreed upon sentence from the council of war was thus: Colonel Madlon, his captains and lieutenants were to be beheaded; ensigns (junior officers) were to be hanged; the soldiers to be decimated; and the survivors to be driven in disgrace out of the army.

Ninety men (chosen by rolling dice) were executed at Rokycany, in western Bohemia, now in the Czech Republic, on 14 December 1642 by Jan Mydlář (junior), the son of Jan Mydlář, the famous executioner from Prague. Their mass grave is said to be on the Black Mound in Rokycany, which commemorates the decimation to this day.

On 3 September 1866, during the Battle of Curuzu of the Paraguayan War, the Paraguayan 10th Battalion fled without firing a shot. President Lopez ordered the decimation of the battalion, which was accordingly formed into line and every 10th man shot.

Tunisian Lieutenant and tirailleur from the 4th RTA during the First World War.

In 1914, in France, there was a case in which a company of Tunisian tirailleurs (colonial soldiers) refused an order to attack and was ordered decimated by the divisional commander. This involved the execution of 10 men.

Italian General Luigi Cadorna allegedly applied decimation to underperforming units during World War I. However, the military historian John Keegan records that his “judicial savagery” during the Battle of Caporetto took the form of the summary executions of individual stragglers rather than the formalized winnowing of entire detachments.

One specific instance of actual decimation did occur in the Italian Army during the war, on 26 May 1916. The 120 men strong company of the 141st Catanzaro Infantry Brigade, which had mutinied, saw the execution of 1 in 10 soldiers including its officers and carabinieri.

Execution of 2 Varkaus Reds.

Decimatio can be also used to punish the enemy. In 1918 during the Finnish Civil War, after conquering the Red city of Varkaus, the White troops summarily executed around 80 captured Reds in what became known as the Lottery of Huruslahti.

According to some accounts, the Whites ordered all the captured Reds to assemble in a single row on the ice of Lake Huruslahti, selected every 10th prisoner, and executed him on the spot. The selection was not entirely random though, as some prisoners (primarily Red leaders) were specifically selected for execution and some good workers were intentionally spared.

We realize that this was a bit intense in its content, but that’s history. The story was already written and we simply chose to share it.

Hopefully you learned something new today. Maybe you were even inspired to be a better person or leader because of it.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Fogarty, Richard. Race and War in France. Johns Hopkins Press, 2008.

Goldsworthy, Adrian. Caesar: Life of a Colossus. Yale University Press, 2006.

Keegan, John. The First World War. Vintage, 2000. ISBN 0 09 1801788.

Titus Livius. Ab Urbe Condita, Book 2, Chapter 59.

Polybius Histories, Book 6, Chapter 38.

Richardson, S.; etc. The Modern Part of a Universal History: From the Earliest Account of Time (VOL. XXX) Compiled from Original Writers. London, 1761.

Strachan, Hew. The First World War. Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2003.

Thompson, George. The War in Paraguay. Longmans Green and Co, 1869.

Watson, G. R. The Roman Soldier. Cornell University Press, 1969.

Plutarch’s Parallel Lives: “Antony”. Internet Classics Archive.

“Decimate”. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition, 2000.

Music of Ancient Rome

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Since our inception, we have shared written articles, quotations, images and videos. Never, though, have we brought you an acoustic presentation.

That all ends now as today we bring you the music of Ancient Rome!

The music of Ancient Rome was a part of Roman culture from earliest times. Song (carmen) was an integral part of almost every social occasion.

Etruscan music had an influence on that of the Roman Kingdom (Rēgnum Rōmānum) and Roman Republic (Res Publica Romana). During the Roman Empire (Imperium Rōmānum), Romans carried their music to the provinces (provinciae), while traditions of Asia Minor, North Africa and Gaul (Gallia) became a part of Roman culture.

Clicking the play button below will give you over an hour’s worth of music that will take you back in time.

Music accompanied spectacles and events in the arena, and was part of the performing arts form called pantomimus, an early form of story ballet that combined expressive dancing, instrumental music and a sung libretto. Music was also customary at funerals, and the tibia (Greek aulos), a woodwind instrument, was played at sacrifices to ward off ill influences.

The Secular Ode of Horace, for instance, was commissioned by Emperor Augustus and performed by a mixed children’s choir at the Secular Games in 17 BC. Under the influence of ancient Greek theory, music was thought to reflect the orderliness of the cosmos, and was associated particularly with mathematics and knowledge.

We hope this struck a chord with you. Hopefully we shall be able to bring you more music, along with more information about the music of Ancient Rome.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Rome’s Pyramid: Hidden in Plain Sight

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

As we are in the mix of many things happening around us, we found it necessary to take a break and revisit some previous posts. And when you think about it, who doesn’t need a break ever now an then?

With that in mind, we’re headed to Rome to uncover something that’s right in front of us all (if we just knew where to look). Let’s now explore the remaining pyramid of Rome!

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

pyramid_of_gaius_cestius_piramide_di_caio_cestio
The Pyramid of Gaius Cestius

The original pyramid in Rome was that of Romulus. Said to be larger than that of Cestius, The Pyramid of Romulus was located between the Vatican and the Mausoleum of Hadrian.

St Peter’s Basilica

Romulus’s pyramid was dismantled in the 16th Century by Pope Alexander VI. The reason was so the marble could be used for the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Pyramid of Cestius was built about 18-12 BC as a tomb for Gaius Cestius, a Magistrate and member of 1 of the 4 great religious corporations in Rome, the Septemviri Epulonum. It is of brick-faced concrete covered with slabs of white marble standing on a travertine foundation.

Pyramid_Caius_Cestius_room_inside
Inside room of the Cestius Pyramid

The pyramid measures 100 Roman feet (97 ft) square at the base and stands 125 Roman feet (121 ft) high. In the interior is the burial chamber, a simple barrel-vaulted rectangular cavity measuring 20 ft long, 13 ft wide and 16 ft high.

The Pyramid of Cestius has a sharply pointed shape and is strongly reminiscent of the pyramids of Nubia, which had been attacked by Rome in 23 BC. The similarity suggests that Cestius had possibly served in that campaign and perhaps intended the pyramid to serve as a commemoration.

In any case, the pyramid was built during a period when Rome was going through a fad for all things Egyptian. The Circus Maximus was adorned by Augustus with an Egyptian obelisk, and pyramids were built elsewhere in the Imperium Rōmānum (Roman Empire) around this time.

During the construction of the Aurelian Walls between 271 and 275 AD, the pyramid was incorporated into the walls to form a triangular stronghold. It was one of many structures in the city to be reused to form part of the new walls.

1383051298_Italy--Pyramid-of-Cestius
Pyramid of Cestius amongst the Aurelian Walls by the Porta San Paolo.

This helped to reduce the wall’s cost while enabling the structure to be built quicker. The Pyramid of Cestius still forms part of a well-preserved stretch of the walls, a short distance from the Porta San Paolo.

During the Middle Ages, the origins of the pyramid were forgotten. Rome’s inhabitants came to believe that the pyramid was the tomb of Remus and that its counterpart near the Vatican was the tomb of Romulus.

Portrait of Pope Alexander VII by Giovanni Battista Gaulli.

Pope Alexander VII‘s excavations in the 1660s, which cleared the vegetation that had overgrown the pyramid, uncovered the inscriptions on its faces, tunneled into the tomb’s burial chamber and found the bases of two bronze statues that had stood alongside the pyramid. There was no trace left of any other contents in the tomb, which had been plundered in antiquity.

The tomb had been sealed when it was built, with no exterior entrance. It is not possible for visitors to access the interior, except by special permission typically only granted to scholars.

A dedicatory inscription is carved into the east and west flanks of the pyramid, so as to be visible from both sides. It reads:

C · CESTIVS · L · F · POB · EPULO · PR · TR · PL

VII · VIR · EPOLONVM

Gaius Cestius, son of Lucius, of the gens Pobilia, member of the College of Epulones, praetor, tribune of the plebs, septemvir of the Epulones

Below the inscription on the east-facing side is a second inscription recording the circumstances of the tomb’s construction. This reads:

OPVS · APSOLVTVM · EX · TESTAMENTO · DIEBVS · CCCXXX

ARBITRATV

PONTI · P · F · CLA · MELAE · HEREDIS · ET · POTHI · L

The work was completed, in accordance with the will, in 330 days, by the decision of the heir [Lucius] Pontus Mela, son of Publius of the Claudia, and Pothus, freedman

Another inscription on the east face is of modern origins, having been carved on the orders of Pope Alexander VII in 1663. Reading INSTAVRATVM · AN · DOMINI · MDCLXIII, it commemorates the excavation and restoration work of the tomb between 1660-1662 AD.

Roman-Lettering-Pyramid-Cestius-521373
Latin inscription on the pyramid’s face.

The Pyramid of Cestius would have stood in open countryside when it was initially built since tombs were forbidden within the city walls. Rome grew enormously during the Imperial Period, so by the 3rd Century AD, the pyramid would have been surrounded by buildings.

It originally stood in a low-walled enclosure, flanked by statues, columns and other tombs. Two marble bases were found next to the pyramid during excavations in the 1660s, complete with fragments of the bronze statues that originally had stood on their tops.

The bases carried an inscription recorded by Bartoli in an engraving of 1697:

M · VALERIVS · MESSALLA · CORVINVS ·

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

L · PONTIVS · MELA · D · MARIVS ·

NIGER · HEREDES · C · CESTI · ET ·

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

EVM · FRATRIS · HEREDITAS ·

M · AGRIPPAE · MVNERE · PER ·

VENIT · EX · EA · PECVNIA · QVAM ·

PRO · SVIS · PARTIEVS · RECEPER ·

EX · VENDITIONE · ATTALICOR ·

QVAE · EIS · PER · EDICTVM ·

AEDILIS · IN · SEPVLCRVM ·

C · CESTI · EX · TESTAMENTO ·

EIVS · INFERRE · NON · LICVIT ·

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

Cestius had stated in his will that the cloths were to be deposited in the tomb, but this practice had been forbidden by a recent edict passed by the Aedīlēs.

IMG_7953-20130925
Restoration of the Pyramid of Cestius

In 2001, the pyramid’s entrance and interior underwent restoration. In 2011, further work was announced to clean and restore the badly damaged marble cladding, through which water seepage has endangered the frescoes within.

The restoration was sponsored by Japanese businessman Yuzo Yagi, who donated €1 million to the Department of Cultural Heritage of Rome. Restoration works started in March 2013.

The pyramid is the namesake of the Piramide station of the Rome Metro.

Hopefully you enjoyed today’s adventure. In the future, you may even be able to check out this pyramid in person.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Aldrete, Gregory S. Daily Life In The Roman City: Rome, Pompeii, And Ostia, Greenwood Press, 2004. ISBN 0-313-33174-X.

Claridge, Amanda. Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide. Oxford  University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-288003-9.

Curl, James Stevens. The Egyptian Revival: Ancient Egypt as the Inspiration for Design Motifs in the West. Routledge, 2005. ISBN 0-415-36118-4.

Gardiner, Eileen; Nichols, Francis Morgan. The Marvels of Rome. Italica Press Incorporated, 1986. ISBN 0-934977-02-X.

Hare, Augustus J.C. Walks in Rome. Adamant Media Corporation, 2001. ISBN 1-4021-7139-0.

Humbert, Jean-Marcel; Price, Clifford A. Imhotep Today: Egyptianizing Architecture. Routledge Cavendish, 2003. ISBN 1-84472-006-3.

Keppie, Lawrence J. F. Understanding Roman Inscriptions. Routledge, 1991. ISBN 0-415-15143-0.

Radford, Andrew. “Fallen Angels: Hardy’s Shelleyan Critique in the Final Wessex Novels”. Romantic echoes in the Victorian era. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7546-5788-0.

 

Top 10 Horrifying Facts Horrifying Facts about the Roman Legions

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If you have made it this far, then it seems you love interesting facts or are simply curious about how “horrifying” things were.

As you are probably aware, the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) was divided into smaller units called Legiōnēs (Legions). The many Legiōnēs could then be dispersed to handle conflicts as needed.

Miniatures representing a 1st Century Roman Legion

Let’s replace “horrifying” with “cool” and check out the (in)famous Legions of Rome!

We hope you enjoyed today’s video. If you care to know more about the Legio Romanus click here.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Last week we were in Belgium as we visited the Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta (Brussels).

Today we’re headed to Graecia as we check out the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae!

Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae

This famous temple to to Apollo Epikourios (Apollo the Helper), the god of healing and the sun, was built towards the middle of the 5th Century BC in the lonely heights of the Arcadian mountains. The temple, which has the oldest Corinthian capital yet found, combines the Archaic style and the serenity of the Doric style with some daring architectural features.

The temple is aligned north-south, in contrast to the majority of Greek temples which are aligned east-west. This temple’s principal entrance is from the north.

This was necessitated by the limited space available on the steep slopes of the mountain. To overcome this restriction a door was placed in the side of the temple, perhaps to let light in to illuminate the cult statue.

Floor plan of the Temple of Apollo (1 = Opisthodomos, 2 = Adyton, 3 = Naos, 4 = Pronaos).

It was relatively sparsely decorated on the exterior. Inside, however, there was a continuous Ionic frieze showing Athenians in battle with Amazons and the Lapiths engaged in battle with Centaurs.

The temple had been noticed first in November 1765 by the French architect J. Bocher, who was building villas at Zante and came upon it quite by accident. The site was explored in 1812 with the permission of Veli Pasha, the Turkish commander of the Peloponnese, by a group of British antiquaries who removed 23 slabs from the Ionic cella frieze and transported them to Zante along with other sculptures.

The temple’s remoteness has worked to its advantage for its preservation. Due to its distance from major metropolitan areas it also has less of a problem with acid rain which quickly dissolves limestone and damages marble carvings.

How This Relates to Rome:

The Greek peninsula first came under Roman rule in 146 BC after the Battle of Corinth when Macedonia became a Roman province, while southern Greece came under the surveillance of Macedonia’s Praefect.

Life in Greece continued under the Roman Empire much the same as it had previously. Roman culture was highly influenced by the Greeks.

Many temples and public buildings were built in Greece by Emperors and wealthy Roman nobility. Greece remained part of the relatively unified eastern half of the empire, which eventually became the center of the remaining Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire.

Thanks for stopping by and we hope you join us again soon. Be sure to check us out again since you never know where we’ll wind up.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

The Grand Tour: No Longer Just for Rich Men

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If you are anything like us, then you love to travel. As part of our travels, we love to learn about where we are going.

What should we see? Why should we go this tour instead of that? Where should we eat? How do we get around?

Today we embark on the most lavish journey (maybe ever) as we set out on The Grand Tour!

Map of 18th Century Grand Tour (typical route shown in blue).

Before we begin, without knowing a thing about this tour you should probably be able to guess that it is something special since “Grand” is in the name. The Grand Tour was the traditional trip of Europe undertaken by mainly upper class, young European men of means, or those of more humble origin who could find a sponsor.

Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland (1640–1702), painted in classical dress in Rome by Carlo Maratti.

The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transport in the 1840s, and was associated with a standard travel itinerary. Seen as an educational rite of passage, this trip was primarily associated with the British nobility and wealthy landed gentry.

Similar trips were made by wealthy young men of Protestant Northern European nations, and from the latter half of the 18th Century, by some South and North Americans. The tradition declined with the lapse of neoclassical enthusiasm and after rail and steamship travel made the journeys much easier.

The primary value of The Grand Tour lay in the exposure both to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, and to the aristocratic and fashionably polite society of the European continent. In addition, it provided the only opportunity to view specific works of art, and possibly the only chance to hear certain music.

Cicerone on The Grand Tour

A Grand Tour could last from several months to several years, mostly depending on how much money you had. It was commonly undertaken in the company of a Cicerone (knowledgeable guide or tutor).

The Grand Tour had more than superficial cultural importance. E. P. Thompson stated, “ruling-class control in the 18th Century was located primarily in a cultural hegemony, and only secondarily in an expression of economic or physical (military) power.”

The most common itinerary of The Grand Tour shifted across generations in the cities it embraced, but the British tourist usually began in DoverEngland and crossed the English Channel to Ostend, in the Netherlands / Belgium, or to Calais or Le Havre in France. From there the tourist, usually accompanied by a bear-leader (tutor) and, if wealthy enough, a troop of servants could rent or acquire a coach (which could be resold in any city or disassembled and packed across the Alps, as in Giacomo Casanova‘s travels, who resold it on completion), or opt to make the trip by boat as far as the Alps, either travelling up the Seine to Paris, or up the Rhine to Basel.

The Louvre in Paris was a definite stop for anyone on The Grand Tour.

Upon hiring a French-speaking guide, as French was the dominant language of the elite in Europe during the 17th and 18th Centuries, the tourist and his entourage would travel to Paris. There the traveler might undertake lessons in Frenchdancingfencing, and riding.

The appeal of Paris lay in the sophisticated language and manners of French high society, including courtly behavior and fashion. This served the purpose of preparing the young man for a leadership position at home, often in government or diplomacy.

From Paris he would typically go to urban Switzerland for a while, often to Geneva (the cradle of the Protestant Reformation) or Lausanne. From there the traveler would endure a difficult crossing over the Alps into northern Italy (such as at the Great St Bernard Pass).

This would include dismantling the carriage and luggage. If one was wealthy enough, one might be carried over the hard terrain by servants.

Venice and the Grand Canal

Once in Italy, the tourist would visit Turin (and, less often, Milan), then might spend a few months in Florence, where there was a considerable Anglo-Italian society accessible to travelling Englishmen “of quality” and where the Tribuna of the Uffizi gallery brought together in one space the monuments of High Renaissance paintings and Roman sculptures that would inspire picture galleries adorned with antiquities at home. Side trips would be taken to Pisa, then move on to PaduaBologna, and Venice since the British viewed it as the “locus of decadent Italianate allure” making Venice an epitome and cultural setpiece of the Grand Tour.

The interior of the Pantheon in the 18th Century, painted by Giovanni Paolo Panini.

From Venice the traveler went to Rome to study the ruins of Ancient Rome, and the masterpieces of painting, sculpture, and architecture of Rome’s Early Christian, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Some travelers also visited Naples to study music, and (after the mid-18th Century) to appreciate the recently discovered archaeological sites of Herculaneum and Pompeii, and perhaps (for the adventurous) an ascent of Mount Vesuvius.

Later in the period the more adventurous, especially if provided with a yacht, might attempt Sicily (the site of Greek ruins), Malta or even Greece itself (though still under Turkish rule). But Naples, or later the further south Paestum, was the usual last stop.

Portrait of 18th Century Vienna

From here the traveler again traversed the Alps heading north through to the German-speaking parts of Europe. The traveler might stop first in Innsbruck before visiting ViennaDresdenBerlin, and Potsdam, with perhaps some study time at the universities in Munich or Heidelberg.

From Germany, travelers then visited Holland and Flanders with more gallery-going and art appreciation. Once they got their fill, the travelers would return back across the Channel to England.

Portrait of Douglas, 8th Duke of Hamilton, on his Grand Tour with his physician Dr John Moore and the latter’s son John (view of Geneva is in the distance), by Jean Preudhomme in 1774.

The Grand Tour was neither a scholar’s pilgrimage nor a religious one, though a pleasurable stay in Venice and a cautious residence in Rome were essential. Catholic Grand Tourists followed the same routes as Protestant Whigs.

Since the 17th Century, a tour to such places was also considered essential for budding young artists to understand proper painting and sculpture techniques. The trappings of The Grand Tour (valets, coachmen, a bear-leader, and perhaps a cook) were usually beyond their reach though.

The advent of popular guides did much to popularize such trips, and following the artists themselves, the elite considered travel to such centers as necessary rites of passage. For gentlemen, some works of art were essential to demonstrate the breadth and polish they had received from their tour.

In Rome, antiquarians like Thomas Jenkins provided access to private collections of antiquities, enough antiquities proved to be for sale that the English market raised the price of such things. Purchasing coins and medals, which formed more portable souvenirs, proved to be a respected gentleman’s guide to ancient history.

Pompeo Batoni made a career of painting English milordi posed with graceful ease among Roman antiquities. Rome for many centuries had been the goal of pilgrims, especially during Jubilee when they visited the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome.

The title page of Coryat’s Crudities, printed in 1611.

In Britain, an early influence on The Grand Tour was Thomas Coryat‘s travel book Coryat’s Crudities (1611), which was published during the Twelve Years’ Truce. However, it was the far more extensive tour through Italy as far as Naples undertaken by the ‘Collector’ Earl of Arundel with his wife and children in 1613–14 that established the most significant precedent.

This is partly because he asked Inigo Jones, not yet established as an architect but already known as a ‘great traveler’ and masque designer, to act as his Cicerone. Larger numbers of tourists began their tours after the Peace of Münster in 1648.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded use of the term ‘The Grand Tour’ (perhaps its introduction to English) was by Richard Lassels, an expatriate Roman Catholic priest, in his book The Voyage of Italy, which was published posthumously in 1670. Lassels’s introduction listed 4 areas in which travel furnished “an accomplished, consummate Traveler”: the intellectual, the social, the ethical, and the political.

Contrast between Roman ruins and modern peasants of the Roman Campagna, by Nicolaes Pietersz Berchem (1661, Mauritshuis).

The idea of travelling for the sake of curiosity and learning was a developing idea in the 17th Century. With John Locke‘s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), it was argued, and widely accepted, that knowledge comes entirely from the external senses, that what one knows comes from the physical stimuli to which one has been exposed.

Thus, one could use the environment, taking from it all that is offered, requiring a change of place. Travel, therefore, was necessary for one to develop the mind and expand knowledge of the world.

As a young man at the outset of his account of a repeating The Grand Tour, historian Edward Gibbon remarked, “According to the law of custom, and perhaps of reason, foreign travel completes the education of an English gentleman.” Consciously adapted for intellectual self-improvement, Gibbon was “revisiting the Continent on a larger and more liberal plan”.

William Beckford’s Grand Tour through Europe (shown in red).

Most Grand Tourists did not pause more than briefly in libraries. On the eve of the Romantic era in which he played a significant part in introducing, William Beckford wrote a vivid account of his Grand Tour that made Gibbon’s unadventurous Italian tour look distinctly conventional.

The typical 18th Century sentiment was that of the studious observer travelling through foreign lands reporting his findings on human nature for those unfortunate enough to have stayed home. Recounting one’s observations to society at large to increase its welfare was considered an obligation.

British Army Officer William Gordon in front of the Roman Colosseum, by Pompeo Batoni (1765-66).

The Grand Tour flourished in this mindset for it offered a liberal education, and the opportunity to acquire things otherwise unavailable at home, thus lending an air of accomplishment and prestige to the traveler. Grand Tourists would return with crates full of books, works of art, scientific instruments, and cultural artifacts to be displayed in libraries, cabinets, gardens, drawing rooms, and galleries built for that purpose.

The trappings of The Grand Tour, especially portraits of the traveler painted in iconic continental settings, became the obligatory emblems of worldliness, gravitas and influence. Artists who especially thrived on Grand Tourists included Carlo Maratti, who was first patronized by John Evelyn as early as 1645, Pompeo Batoni, and the vedutisti such as CanalettoPannini and Guardi.

Pannini’s gallery of Roman antiques

The less well-off could return with an album of Piranesi etchings. Not everyone was made of money, and most of these trips happened before postcards and souvenirs were created.

After the arrival of steam-powered transportation (around 1825) The Grand Tour custom continued, but it was of a qualitative difference (cheaper to undertake, safer, easier, open to anyone). During much of the 19th Century, most educated young men of privilege undertook The Grand Tour which now included Germany and Switzerland in a more broadly defined circuit.

A Room with a View book cover

Later, it became fashionable for young women as well. A trip to Italy, with a spinster aunt as chaperon, was part of the upper-class woman’s education, as in E. M. Forster‘s novel A Room with a View.

It is important to see the contribution of anthropology to the study of The Grand Tour. An anthropologist argues that The Grand Tour emerged in England and was rapidly adopted by other Northern countries because its cultural roots came from Norse Mythology.

Among Indo-Arian mythologies, Norse culture is the only one where its major god, Odin, travels long distances to learn the customs and habits of humans. The ruler of Asgaard was accustomed to undertake his adventures in the form of animals.

Odin has been described as an ongoing wanderer whose hunger of adventure and risk has no limits. Operating under many disguises and using false identities, Odin is said to symbolize how pain is a necessary step to access unlimited knowledge, and this is the main value that The Grand Tour emulates.

The Grand Tour – Volume 1 by Thomas Nugent (1 January 1749).

Published personal accounts of The Grand Tour provide illuminating detail and a first-hand perspective of the experience. Examining some accounts offered by authors in their own lifetimes, they should be approached as travel literature rather than unvarnished accounts.

Examples of such literature come from Joseph Addison, William Beckford (whose Dreams, Waking Thoughts, and Incidents was a published account of his letters back home in 1780, embellished with stream-of-consciousness associations), William Coxe, Elizabeth CravenJohn Moore (tutor to successive dukes of Hamilton), Samuel Jackson PrattTobias SmollettPhilip Thicknesse, and Arthur YoungLord Byron‘s letters to his mother with the accounts of his travels have also been published.

Ida Saxton on The Grand Tour (before she became First Lady to US President McKinley).

Inventor Sir Francis Ronalds’ journals and sketches of his 1818–20 tour to Europe and the Near East have been published on the web. The letters written by sisters Mary and Ida Saxton of Canton, Ohio in 1869 while on a 6-month tour offer insight into The Grand Tour tradition from an American perspective.

In 1998, the BBC produced an art history series Sister Wendy’s Grand Tour presented by Carmelite nun Sister Wendy. Presumably an art history series, the journey takes her from Madrid to Saint Petersburg with stop-offs to see the great masterpieces.

In 2005, British art historian Brian Sewell followed in the footsteps of the Grand Tourists for a 10-part television series Brian Sewell’s Grand Tour. Produced by UK’s Channel Five, Sewell travelled by car and confined his attention solely to Italy stopping in Rome, Florence, Naples, Pompeii, Turin, Milan, Cremona, Siena, Bologna, Vicenza, Paestum, Urbino, Tivoli and concluding at a Venetian masked ball.

Brian Sewell’s Grand Tour poster

In 2008, The New York Times described The Grand Tour in this way:

Three hundred years ago, wealthy young Englishmen began taking a post-Oxbridge trek through France and Italy in search of art, culture and the roots of Western civilization. With nearly unlimited funds, aristocratic connections and months (or years) to roam, they commissioned paintings, perfected their language skills and mingled with the upper crust of the Continent.

Cover of serial Vol. 4 of Dickens’ Little Dorrit (March 1856).

In 2009, The Grand Tour featured prominently in a BBC/PBS miniseries based on Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. Set mainly in Venice, it portrayed The Grand Tour as a rite of passage.

Kevin McCloud presented Kevin McCloud’s Grand Tour on Channel 4 in 2009, with McCloud retracing the tours of British architects. The 2016 Amazon motoring program The Grand Tour is named after the traditional Grand Tour, and refers to the show being set in a different location worldwide each week.

The legacy of The Grand Tour lives on to the modern day and is still evident in works of travel and literature. From its aristocratic origins and the permutations of sentimental and romantic travel to the age of tourism and globalization, The Grand Tour still influences the destinations tourists choose and shapes the ideas of culture and sophistication that surround the act of travel.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure, maybe even inspiring you on a Grand Tour of your own. Be sure to stop by again soon for we never know where we’ll end up.

17th Century painting of the Arch of Constantine with the Colosseum in the background (Rome, Italy).

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Bignamini, Ilaria; Hornsby, Clare. Digging and Dealing in Eighteenth Century Rome. Yale University Press, 2010.

Bohls, Elizabeth; Duncan, Ian. Travel Writing 1700–1830 : An Anthology. Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-19-284051-7

Buzard, James. “The Grand Tour and after (1660–1840)”. The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing, 2002. ISBN 0-521-78140-X.

Chaney, Edward. The Evolution of the Grand Tour: Anglo-Italian Cultural Relations since the Renaissance. Routledge, 2000. ISBN 0-7146-4474-9.

Chaney, Edward. The Evolution of English Collecting. Yale University Press, 2003.

Chaney, Edward; Wilks, Timothy. The Jacobean Grand Tour: Early Stuart Travellers in Europe. I.B. Tauris, 2014. ISBN 978 1 78076 783 3.

Colletta, Lisa. The Legacy of the Grand Tour: New Essays on Travel, Literature, and Culture. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2015. ISBN 978 1 61147 797 9.

Fussell, Paul. “The Eighteenth Century and the Grand Tour”. The Norton Book of Travel, 1987. ISBN 0-393-02481-4.

Gross, Matt. “Lessons From the Frugal Grand Tour.” New York Times, 5 September 2008.

Hornsby, Clare. “The Impact of Italy: The Grand Tour and Beyond”. British School at Rome, 2000.

Stephens, Richard. A Catalogue Raisonné of Francis Towne (1739–1816). Paul Mellon Centre, 2016. doi:10.17658/towne.

Trease, Geoffrey. The Grand Tour. Yale University Press, 1991.

Witon, Andrew; Bignamini, Ilaria. Grand Tour: The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth-Century. Tate Gallery Exhibition Catalogue, 1997.

Pompeii (#4)

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 #5 – Pont du Gard.

Today we’re headed to the Campania region of Italy as we explore #4 – Pompeii!

Forum of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius (Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection).

The ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii are located near the modern suburban town of Pompei (nowadays written with a single ‘i’). It stands on a spur formed by a lava flow to the north of the mouth of the Sarno River (known in ancient times as the Sarnus).

It was a major city in the region of Campania, covering a total of 170 acres, and was home to approximately 11,000 to 11,500 people on the basis of household counts. Today it is some distance inland, but in ancient times was nearer to the coast.

An eruption of Vesuvius seen from Portici, by Joseph Wright (ca. 1774-6).

Pompeii is about 5 miles away from Mount Vesuvius, which led to its demise. Along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, Pompeii was mostly destroyed and buried under 13 to 20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Researchers believe that the town was founded in the 7th or 6th Ccentury BC by the Osci. It came under the domination of the Res Publica Romana (Roman Republic) in the 4th Century BC, and was conquered and became a Colonia (Roman Colony) in 80 BC after it joined an unsuccessful rebellion against Rome.

Annotated map of Pompeii

By the time of its destruction, 160 years later, Pompeii had a complex water system, an amphitheatre, gymnasium, and a port. This destruction was a major blow to Rome both physically and psychologically.

The archaeological digs at the site extend to the street level of the AD 79. Deeper digs in older parts of Pompeii and core samples of nearby drillings have exposed layers of jumbled sediment that suggest that the city had suffered from other seismic events before the eruption.

Three sheets of sediment have been found on top of the lava that lies below the city and, mixed in with the sediment, archaeologists have found bits of animal bone, pottery shards and plants. Carbon dating has placed the oldest of these layers from the 8th-6th Centuries BC (around the time the city was founded).

Layers in the earth around Pompeii.

The other 2 strata are separated either by well-developed soil layers or Roman pavement, and were laid in the 4th and 2nd Century BC. It is theorized that the layers of the jumbled sediment were created by large landslides, perhaps triggered by extended rainfall.

The town was founded by the Osci people of central Italy on what was an important crossroad between CumaeNola and Stabiae. It had already been used as a safe port by Greek and Phoenician sailors.

Porta Nocera Necropolis Pompeii

According to Strabo, Pompeii was also captured by the Etruscans, and in fact recent excavations have shown the presence of Etruscan inscriptions and a 6th Century BC necropolis.

The excavated city offers a snapshot of Roman life in the 1st Century, frozen at the moment it was buried on 24 August AD 79. The forum, the baths, many houses, and some out-of-town villas like the Villa of the Mysteries remain well preserved.

Details of everyday life are even well preserved. For example, on the floor of one of the houses (Sirico’s), a famous inscription Salve, Lucru (Welcome, Profit) indicates a trading company owned by a pair of partners, Sirico and Nummianus.

Mural painting from fullonica at Pompeii (National museum of Naples).

Other houses provide details concerning professions and categories, such as for the laundry workers (Fullones). Wine jars have been found bearing what is apparently the world’s earliest known marketing pun Vesuvinum (combining Vesuvius and the Latin for wine, vinum).

The numerous graffiti carved on the walls and inside rooms provides a wealth of information regarding Vulgar Latin, the form of Latin spoken colloquially rather than the literary language of the classical writers.

By the 1st Century AD, the area had a substantial population which had grown prosperous from the region’s renowned agricultural fertility. The eruption occurred on 24 August AD 79, just one day after Vulcanalia, the festival of the Roman god of fire, including that from volcanoes.

The black cloud represents the general distribution of ash, pumice and cinders from the 79 AD eruption (modern coast lines are shown).

A multidisciplinary study of the eruption products and victims, merged with numerical simulations and experiments, indicates that heat was the main cause of death of people at Vesuvius and surrounding towns, previously believed to have been ash suffocation. The results of the study, published in 2010, show that exposure to at least 482 °F hot surges (known as pyroclastic flows) at a distance of 6 miles from the vent was sufficient to cause instant death, even if people were sheltered within buildings.

Pliny the Younger

The people and buildings of Pompeii were covered in up to 12 different layers of tephra, in total 82 feet deep, which rained down for about 6 hours. Pliny the Younger provided a first-hand account of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius from his position across the Bay of Naples at Misenum, in a version he wrote 25 years after the event.

His uncle, Pliny the Elder, died while attempting to rescue stranded victims. As Admiral of the Fleet, Pliny the Elder had ordered the ships of the Imperial Navy stationed at Misenum to cross the bay to assist evacuation attempts.

Pliny the Elder

The eruption was documented by contemporary historians and is generally accepted as having started on 24 August 79, relying on a version of the text of Pliny’s letter. However the archeological excavations of Pompeii suggest that the city was buried about 3 months later, and is supported by another version of the letter, which gives the date of the eruption as 23 November.

People buried in the ash appear to have been wearing heavier clothing than the light summer clothes typical of August. The fresh fruit and vegetables in the shops are typical of October while the summer fruit typical of August was already being sold in dried form.

Wine fermenting jars had been sealed, which would have happened around the end of October. Coins found in the purse of a woman buried in the ash include one with a 15th Imperatorial acclamation among the Emperor‘s titles.

These coins could not have been minted before the 2nd week of September. There is no definitive theory as to why there should be such an apparent discrepancy.

After thick layers of ash covered the surrounding towns, they were abandoned and eventually their names and locations were forgotten.

Archaeologists uncovering a bread-oven among the ruins of Pompeii (1880s Stretched Canvas Print).

The site was lost for about 1,500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599, when the digging of an underground channel to divert the Sarno River ran into ancient walls covered with paintings and inscriptions. Architect Domenico Fontana was called in and he unearthed a few more frescoes.

Fontana then covered them over again, and nothing more came of the discovery. A wall inscription had mentioned a decurio Pompeii (the town councilor of Pompeii) but its reference to the long-forgotten Roman city was missed.

Satyr and nymph mosaic from Pompeii, 2nd Century BC (National Archaeological Museum, Naples).

Fontana’s covering over the paintings has been seen both as censorship, in view of the frequent sexual content of such paintings and as a broad-minded act of preservation for later times. He would have known that paintings of the hedonistic kind later found in some Pompeian villas were not considered in good taste in the climate of the counter-reformation.

Herculaneum was properly rediscovered in 1738 by workmen digging for the foundations of a summer palace for the King of NaplesCharles of Bourbon. Charles of Bourbon took great interest in the findings even after becoming king of Spain because the display of antiquities reinforced the political and cultural power of Naples.

Almost 150 years later, a broader rediscovery of Pompeii occurred as the result of intentional excavations by Spanish military engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre in 1748. The objects that lay beneath the city have been preserved for centuries because of the lack of air and moisture.

Plaster casts of the victims from the Garden of the Fugitives.

These artefacts provide an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city during the Pax Romana. During the excavation, plaster was used to fill in the voids in the ash layers that once held human bodies which allowed archaeologists to see the exact position the person was in when he or she died.

Swiss architect and engineer Karl Weber directed the opening actual excavations, and was followed in 1764 by military engineer Franscisco la Vega. Franscisco la Vega was succeeded by his brother, Pietro, in 1804, then during the French occupation Pietro worked with Christophe Saliceti.

Pompeii has been a popular tourist destination for over 250 years, aside from the unique story of the city it still has many intact buildings and wall paintings people find intriguing. It became so popular that the site was put on the Grand Tour.

A paved street of Pompeii

By 2008 Pompeii was attracting almost 2.6 million visitors per year, making it one of the most popular tourist sites In Italy. It is part of a larger Vesuvius National Park and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Excavations in the site have generally ceased due to the suspension imposed by the superintendent of the site, Professor Pietro Giovanni Guzzo. Additionally, the site is generally less accessible to tourists, with less than a third of all buildings open in the 1960s being available for public viewing today.

To combat problems associated with tourism the governing body for Pompeii, the Soprintendenza Archaeological di Pompei, has begun issuing new tickets that allow for tourists to also visit the other lost cities. By encouraging visitors to see sites like HerculaneumStabiae, or the Villa Poppaea will hopefully help reduce pressure on the remains of Pompeii.

Roman fresco Villa dei Misteri

Pompeii is also a driving force behind the economy of the nearby town of Pompei. Many residents are employed in the tourism and hospitality business, serving as taxi or bus drivers, waiters or hotel operators.

The ruins can be easily reached on foot from the Circumvesuviana train stop called Pompei Scavi, directly at the ancient site. There are also car parks nearby.

Pompeii Guided Tour

Nevertheless, the sections of the ancient city open to the public are extensive, and tourists can spend several days exploring the whole site. Maybe you will want to make the journey to Pompeii and Vesuvius National Park yourself.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and thank you for stopping by. Be sure to Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Beard, Mary. Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town. Profile Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1-86197-596-6.

Butterworth, Alex; Laurence, Ray. Pompeii: The Living City. St. Martin’s Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-312-35585-2.

Kraus, Theodor. Pompeii and Herculaneum: The Living Cities of the Dead. H. N. Abrams. ISBN 978-0-81090-418-7.

Parslow, Christopher. Rediscovering antiquity: Karl Weber and the excavation of Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabiae. Cambridge University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-521-47150-8.

Shelley Hales; Joanna Paul. Pompeii in the Public Imagination from Its Rediscovery to Today. Oxford University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-19956-936-6.

Wallace, Alia. “Presenting Pompeii: Steps towards Reconciling Conservation and Tourism at an Ancient Site”. Papers from the Institute of ArchaeologyUbiquity Press, 2012. doi:10.5334/pia.406.

Ancient History Encyclopedia – Pompeii

Official website

Tubilustrium: Celebrating the Campaigning Season

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Some days you just need to cut loose and have a festival, no matter what it’s for. Martius (March), although not as many celebratory days as Februarius (February), is still not without its festivities.

So if you’re in the mood, or just need a reason to revel in something, join us as today we experience Tubilustrium!

Relief showing the war trumpets played for Tubilustrium.

In Ancient Rome, the month of Martius was the traditional start of the campaigning season. The Tubilustrium was a ceremony to make the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) fit for war.

The festival was held on 23 March, the last day of the Quinquatria festival held in tribute to the Roman God Mars and Nerine, a Sabine goddess. The event took place again on 23 May.

Salii parading in the streets.

The ceremony was held in Rome in a building called the Hall of the Shoemakers (Atrium Sutorium) and involved the sacrifice of a ewe lamb. Romans who did not attend the ceremony would be reminded of the occasion by seeing the Salii dancing through the streets of the city.

The ceremony was said to have involved sacred trumpets called tubae. Tubae were originally war trumpets, but later they were used for ceremonial occasions.

However, Roman Catholic theologian and scholar of patristics, Johannes Quasten, argues that the common term (tubae) for war trumpets is not the same as the tubi form here. Quasten states that tubi was only used for trumpets used in sacrifices and goes on to show how this ceremony was a feast to cleanse and purify the trumpets used in sacrifices.

Image of Roman Soldiers preparing for the Campaign Season.

It is a good example, Quasten argues, of the special connection between music and cult in Rituale Romanum (Roman Ritual). It is not clear if the Army was involved in the celebrations, or if it was merely a ceremony to purify the trumpets used in summoning the assembly on the following day.

Ovid, a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus, mentions the Tubilustrium  in his poem Fasti III. He writes:

The last day of the five exhorts us to purify The tuneful trumpets, and sacrifice to the mighty god. Now you can turn your face to the Sun and say: `He touched the fleece of the Phrixian Ram yesterday’. The seeds having been parched, by a wicked stepmother’s Guile, the corn did not sprout in the usual way. They sent to the oracle, to find by sure prophecy, What cure the Delphic god would prescribe for sterility. But tarnished like the seed, the messenger brought news That the oracle sought the death of Helle and young Phrixus: And when citizens, season, and Ino herself compelled The reluctant king to obey that evil order, Phrixus and his sister, brows covered with sacred bands, Stood together before the altar, bemoaning their mutual fate. Their mother saw them, as she hovered by chance in the air, And, stunned, she beat her naked breasts with her hand: Then, with the clouds as her companions, she leapt down Into serpent-born Thebes, and snatched away her children: And so that they could flee a ram, shining and golden, Was brought, and it carried them over the wide ocean. They say the sister held too weakly to the left-hand horn, And so gave her own name to the waters below. Her brother almost died with her, trying to help her As she fell, stretching out his hands as far as he could. He wept at losing her, his friend in their twin danger, Not knowing she was now wedded to a sea-green god. Reaching the shore the Ram was raised as a constellation, While his golden fleece was carried to the halls of Colchis.

Phrixus and Helle

Ovid mentions the story of Phrixus, who was the prince who was saved on the point of sacrifice by a magical flying ram. Phrixus escaped together with his sister Helle on the animal’s back.

Helle became dizzy and fell into the sea (giving her name to the Hellespont). But Phrixus fetched up in Colchis on the mysterious periphery of the heroic world.

Here he sacrificed the ram to Zeus, and hung the ram’s golden fleece in the sacred grove of Ares (Greek god of war). This became the object of the famous quest by Jason and the Argonauts.

If marching off to war is not something you care to celebrate, then just think of it as now the official start to the traveling season. We hope you enjoyed the merriment of the day and look forward to having you back again soon.

Tubilustrium Mosaic from the Villa Dar Buc Ammera.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Herbert-Brown, Geraldine. Ovid and the Fasti: An Historical Study. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994.

Newlands, Carole E. Playing with Time: Ovid and the Fasti. Cornell University Press, 1995.

Quasten, J. Music & Worship in Pagan & Christian Antiquity. 1983.

Richardson, Jr, L. A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome. JHU Press, 1 October 1992. ISBN 978-0-8018-4300-6.

Rüpke, Jörg. The Roman Calendar from Numa to Constantine: Time, History, and the Fasti. John Wiley & Sons, 4 February 2011. ISBN 978-1-4443-9652-2.

Sears, Gareth; Keegan, Peter; Laurence, Ray. Written Space in the Latin West, 200 BC to AD 300. A&C Black, 18 July 2013. ISBN 978-1-4411-8876-2.

The Falling Sickness: Revisited

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Having courses to take for my teaching certification, working full-time, along with trying to be a good husband and father sometimes leaves me with little time for writing new articles for the site. While this is not a new article, it just may be new for you.

In light of events that have recently taken place at my workplace, I thought we should revisit The Falling Sickness.

Me and Caesar Augustus in Roma
Me and Caesar Augustus in Roma

Now this may not sound like it has anything to do with Ancient Rome, but please trust me when I say that it does. The easiest way to begin is to say I have epilepsy.

Unlike some people, I was not born with this condition. I was initially diagnosed when I was 18 years old.

The reason I mention this is because recently a co-worker of mine had a seizure at the end of the school day. It was a big thing since it was her first seizure and, from what I could tell, the first at the school.

It got me thinking about when my primary care doctor sent me to see a neurologist about my condition. At first I was a bit down about it, well a lot down actually.

I tried to hide it and not let anyone know I was “different”. People, no matter what I told them, treated me like I was fragile due to this new illness I had.

Just like my co-worker now, my life was turned upside down. When you grow up not having seizures, or any traumatic injuries, the first time it happens is a really big deal.

Your drivers license gets taken away. Depending upon the severity of the condition, you may miss quite a lot of work or school, and you have an almost endless succession of doctors appointments to attend.

Back when this started for me, my passion for all things Roman had not yet developed into what it is today. I had always loved history though, and recalled hearing that the great and powerful Gaius Julius Caesar had seizures.

Came-saw-conquered
He came. He saw. He conquered.

I thought to myself that if this man could conquer and rule such a large portion of the known world, while having seizures, why could I not do great things too? Why could I not live the life I wanted, without the diagnosis of epilepsy weighing me down?

It was then that I decided having epilepsy did not mean my life was done. Big things could still await me.

Veni, Vidi, Vici was to now be my motto. This led me to look deeper into Caesar’s life and find out how he lived with what the ancients called the “Falling Sickness”.

A picture depicting Jesus helping a man with seizures. The unconscious jerking motions were thought to be of a different world, so were often associated with the Church.

Epilepsy dates back to prehistoric times, roughly 2000 BC. It is also known as the “Sacred Disease” since it was believed seizures were “thought to be an illness sent by the gods”.

Because of this, animal sacrifices would be made before priest-doctors in or near temples. Just to let you know, I have never tried this to ease or cure my epilepsy.

Found in an ancient Mesopotamian text an “unknown author describes some symptoms of a patient mid-seizure: sporadic, jerky movements and muscle rigidity.” This is actually a very accurate description, and is basically how modern experts would describe it.

Sticking with the illness being brought on by the gods, the Mesopotamians believed the vengeful god of the moon caused this to happen.

The oldest known detailed record of the disease itself is in the Sakikku, a Babylonian cuneiform medical text from 1067–1046 BC. This text gives signs and symptoms, details treatment and likely outcomes, and describes many features of the different seizure types.

S28_1Selene
Greek goddess Selene, known to Romans as Luna.

When ancient Greece rose to power a larger number of accounts of epilepsy and seizures were recorded. The majority of the Greek population associated the condition with genius and the divine, and believed that seizures were brought about by gods, in particular the goddess Selene.

These people believed that if the afflicted spent the night in Selene’s temple the goddess would come to you in a dream, thus removing the illness. There was obviously something about the moon bringing on seizures in the eyes of ancient people.

In all honesty, most of my seizures have come on in the later part of the evening. If you had not already realized it, epilepsy is called “The Falling Sickness” since people typically fall down while having a seizure.

hippocrates
Greek physician Hippocrates

Hippocrates, a well-respected Greek physician, looked at the illness differently however.  He believed everything had a natural cause to it, hence why he is considered “The Father of Western Medicine”.

Hippocrates believed that diet, lifestyle and medicine (many of which were herbal) was how to treat the sick. Again, this sounds very similar to modern medicine.

Statue of Caesar where he was assassinated (Roman Forum). He probably would’ve preferred another seizure instead.

When the Romans rose to power those having seizures were shunned and looked down upon. This is probably a solid reason for Julius Caesar not wanting to make his illness known to the public.

In Ancient Rome people did not eat or drink with the same pottery as that used by someone who was affected. People of the time would spit on their chest believing that this would keep the problem from affected them.

According to Apuleius and other ancient physicians, in order detect epilepsy it was common to light a piece of gagates, whose smoke would trigger the seizure. Occasionally a spinning potter’s wheel was used, perhaps a reference to photosensitive epilepsy.

photo
Call him Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus, but just call him.

Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus, he is referred in history by both names, came to describe epilepsy accurately in his writings Medical Definitions. Galen was a Greek philosopher living in the Roman Empire.

He “was able to discern 3 forms of epilepsy: 1) Idiopathic, attributed to primary brain disorder (an analogue to grand mal epilepsies); 2) Secondary forms, attributed to disturbance of cardiac function transmitted through the flow of liquids secondarily to the brain (epilepsy by sympathy); and 3) a third type attributed to disturbance of another part of human body which is secondarily transmitted to the brain”.

Aretaeus of Cappadocia
Aretaeus of Cappadocia

During the reign of Nero or Vespasian, Aretaeus of Cappadocia was the earliest to describe premotionary symptoms of epilepsy (hallucinations which occasionally can precede the seizures).

He also noted the tendency of seizures to recur, once established, and the phenomenon of epileptic insanity. After the fall of the epileptic to the ground, Aretaeus, distinguished three main periods: manifestation, abatement, cessation.

rue---20-l
Ruta graveolens, commonly known as Rue.

Ruta graveolens, a strongly scented herb, was then used by the Romans upon its discovery within the Empire. Rue is native to Southern Europe and used for many ailments.

Thought to cure cancer, remove warts or repel insects, Rue was also used for treating epilepsy.

In a modern study done with Rue and its effects on the central nervous system (CNS) of mice, it was found that Rue “induces a depressant activity on the CNS” thus helping reduce seizures. This also supports the Romans use of the herb.

Medical evidence suggests that epileptic seizures are usually not a random event. Seizures are often brought on by factors such as stress, alcohol abuse, flickering light, or a lack of sleep, among others.

The Falling Sickness has been around for quite some time, and has afflicted many people across the planet. From then till now the cause has not truly ever been known but a variety of remedies has been used.

It really just depends on how the culture at the time which one lives helps to determine the treatment. Those that had epilepsy that came before me did not give up, and hopefully those that come after me will not even have to ever live with the illness.

10370798_724841790936117_4392472523069406599_n
Courtesy of Matthew Rodriguez

One thing is for certain, though, seizures should only serve as a hiccup in a person’s life, depending on their frequency that is. I wish others like me will use it as a challenge to live life to its fullest.

As for my co-worker, her life is about to change but it doesn’t have to be for the worse. The course she is now on is simply a new road, not totally new to anyone, just for her.

We are doing our best to help her during this adjustment. We here at RAE are also doing our best to keep people aware of various medical conditions that seem to have a stigma attached to them.

Thank you for allowing me to take the time and share a little about myself within the context of history. Remember to come on back to see what journey we’ll be onto next.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

References:

Chang BS, Lowenstein DH. “Epilepsy”. New England Journal of Medicine. 349 (13), 2003. doi:10.1056/NEJMra022308.

Eadie, Mervyn J.; Bladin, Peter F. A Disease Once Sacred: A History of the Medical Understanding of Epilepsy. John Libbey Eurotext, 2001. ISBN 978-0-86196-607-3.

Magiorkinis, E; Kalliopi, S; Diamantis, A. “Hallmarks in the history of epilepsy: epilepsy in antiquity”. Epilepsy & behavior : E&B. 17 (1), Jan 2010. doi:10.1016/j.yebeh.2009.

Michael, GE; O’Connor, RE. “The diagnosis and management of seizures and status epilepticus in the prehospital setting”. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 29 (1), Feb 2011. doi:10.1016/j.emc.2010.08.003

Pandolfo, M. “Genetics of epilepsy”. Semin Neurol. 31 (5), Nov 2011. doi:10.1055/s-0031-1299789.

Temkin, Owsei. The Falling Sickness: A History of Epilepsy from the Greeks to the Beginnings of Modern Neurology. JHU Press. ISBN 9781421400532.

“Epilepsy: An historical overview”. World Health Organization. Feb 2001.

Epilepsie Museum