43 out of 234 days: Notes from Rome

Sitting at a hotel breakfast with a lovely view of St. Peter’s dome, forcing myself to eat some protein to get to lunch. Monday and Tuesday were mostly logistics but this post is to help me remember stuff I saw yesterday.

My hotel is up the via Flaminia. At the Ankara/Tiziano tram 2 stop there are large monumental travertine blocks in the boulevard park. No label anywhere I could see. Curious if we know what structure they are likely to have been from.

Took the subway to the Baths of Diocletian and exited in Piazza Republica and admired in the station there that the flooring for the utility corridors under the baths is exposed with large basalt pavers. Helped me visualize the true scale of the original complex.

I broke down and bought the new catalogue of the epigraphic collection from the museum. A doorstop of a book, but worth it. Things that stick in my mind that I want to read about in the catalogue:

list in no particular order

acorn shaped scale weights, similar to the acorn on coin designs.

A set of well formed well preserved basalt weights similar to those on display in Praeneste

The Mummius inscription from Fregellae

The T shaped pre historic dagger handles in the proto-Latium section: not a perfect parallel to the handle of the t-shaped daggers on the coins of Ariminum and the Eid Mar coin but got me thinking in that direction.

The major warrior burial from Lanuvium (I think that’s where) with a full set of armor and also athletic stuff. The discus thrower depicted on the discus was amazing. The sword was very Falcata like in shape. Maybe I”m wrong to read that symbol as Spanish.

The chapterhouse courtyard with all the displays of Arval Bretheran inscriptions was new to me. I got some nice teaching images with the dates on the calendars. The choice of gods honored with each different emperor was fascinating, as was the ritual emphasis on iron tools and how they were explicitly used not only to tidy up the sacred grove but also to carve the record. I particularly liked that under Elagabalus his grandmother is honored.

In that same courtyard were finds from the villa excavated along the via Anagnina. I was impressed that we know the imperial portrait (very nice pair of Verus and Marcus Aurelius) were from the impluvium/atrium area of the house. The fountain from the same area of the house seems to refer to the days of the week through deities. BUT this raised the question of when the 7 day week entered the Roman mind.

Still the same courtyard, the busts of Geta and Caracalla from the House of the Vestals in the Forum left an impression as well.

Up on what they call the 1st floor (I might have called it the 3rd), where there is all the religious stuff, there is a new to me display on magic. The prevalence of nails and the wider variety of effigies than I’ve seen before was notable. Also a lead ‘book’ with seven pages and obscure iconography was fun. There was also a summary of finds from the Anna Perenna spring. The coin deposits seem to have only started with Augustus. If this is true, perhaps this is also one of his ‘revivals’.

There were also other examples of roof tile graffiti which would provide context to the one with two sets of footprints I use in my courses so much.

I was also intrigued by the letter forms in the script writing esp. the two parallel lines to represent the letter E. Where does that come from.

In the case with the earliest writing there was one clay vessel with three names but that attributed to the potter derived from the name Ulysses.

A few lamps has a green glaze. When did this technology show up in Rome?

I’m sure there is more from there but I’ll add it as it pops back into my mind.

After leaving that museum, I walked down to the Markets of Trajan. I wasn’t planning to go in and my camera battery was completely dead. I was just trying to get enough exercise to help kick jetlag. But the markets had a late closing and how could I resist.

The colossal busts from the forum of Trajan my kids would have loved. My favorites were the lower half of Trajanus Pater (I’d recognize that chin from the coins anywhere!) and also the mystery of the woman with the hair style similar to Agrippina the younger tentatively identified as Trajan’s mother Marcia. These were in shield roundels originally alternating with the Dacian prisoners.

The displays helped make clear how this alternating motif was inspired by a similar visual alternation of shields with heads of gods and caryatids in the Forum of Augustus. Other details from the Forum of Augustus that stuck with me was the gilt foot of a giant Victory and the elaborately carved Corinthian capitals that instead of just leaves have Pegasus leaping forth.

Some how I forgot if I ever knew about the hall of the Colossus with the statue of the ‘Genius’ of Augustus of the back of the left hand portico of the forum of Augustus. The meager fragments are impossibly huge, but the display did a great job especially helping one visualize the wall painting.

The display on the removal of the Velian hill in the 1930s was very moving. The excavation artists were so talented. The video footage was arresting. The little fresco wall panels evocative. The museum book shop was selling large books with photos of the excavations of this period of the forums. V tempting.

From the forum of Caesar, I was reminded that the cupids stealing the arms of Mars so common on sarcophagi also had political resonance. Also what’s up with all the cupids killing bulls?!

Ok that’s what I remember. Maybe this evening I’ll upload some photos to go with this post.

Now off to the Villa Julia.

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