Been There, Done That

commentary on many different thoughts

Month: January, 2014

More Rome

Deeper into the city.

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Above is more of the office building.

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That’s the top of the office building – wouldn’t you want to work in something like that?

Then we come to the good stuff.

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Entrance to Nero’s palace.  Currently in the middle of excavation, and the archeologists are still curious to see what they find.

Roman Holiday

Last port of call, Civitavecchia, and Rome.  Spent the day touring the Eternal City.

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The view from the bus.   The city is fascinating – Roman ruins directly opposite modern businesses, and shopping areas interrupted by archeological excavations.  Love it.

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This last one is the first view (from the bus) of Mussolini’s office building.  Wait and see what it looks like from the front.

Last Days of Pompeii

By the way, if you haven’t read Bullwer-Lytton’s The Last Days of Pompeii, it’s worth reading for the archeological and anthropological contexts.  Very, very Victorian, and very, very long-winded.  However, the descriptions of homes and businesses and buildings and temples is taken from life (he visited the sites) and is quite accurate.  The last couple of chapters, detailing the actual eruption and its aftermath, are taken word-for-word from the narrative of Pliny (the Elder or the Younger, don’t remember which, but it was a  Pliny), the only survivor who left a record.  Since Pliny the whichever was an historian among other talents, he left a detailed eye-witness account.

As the archeologists dug up the 25 metres of ash (which had, of course, since solidified) they came across shells that had once been human beings.  By filling the shells (kind of like molds) with plaster, they were able to re-construct actual individuals who died in the catastrophe. Apparently the ash solidified and made a framework around the body, and the body itself eventually decomposed, leaving the hollow mold.

The person below is believed to have been a slave belonging to a wealthy Roman.  The belt he is wearing is of the kind worn by upper servants.

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I am not going to take a position on pro-choice/pro-life in this particular post.  Anyone who knows me knows where I stand and why.

However, this morning’s paper gave me cause to pause and wonder.  An article covering the protests (for and against) on the anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade ran in this morning’s paper along with photographs.  It was interesting to note that all of the individuals interviewed on the pro-life side fell into one of three categories:  they were either (1) male; (2) female under the age of 20, and therefore born well after 1973;  or (3) women who were pre-pubescent in 1973.  There may have been some “mature” adult women in the crowd, but they were not featured in this article.  Odd, no?

More Roman Business Sense – see opening notice

If you are easily offended, skip this post.  The photos are rather graphic.



Something that really impressed me in Pompeii was the showing of Roman business sense.  I’d mentioned the illustrated billboards in fresco in the marketplace, but that was only one side of it.

In Roman times, prostitution was legal and was taxed and regulated.  Because Pompeii was an international marketplace, many of the employees at the lupercalia (aka brothels) did not speak the same languages as their patrons.  The Romans solved potential problems by using illustrations.

First, in order to get to the house of pleasure, which was necessarily not on the main roads, there were markers set in the paving stones of the main road leading you in the proper direction.  Just follow the yellow brick road.

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Then the house itself had an unmistakeable sign out front (like the tavern signs in Merrie Aulde England).

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And on the walls of the house, there was a menu of options provided.  You didn’t need to gesture.  Just point.


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Kinda like the pictures on the computers at fast-food restaurants nowadays.  Huh?



Roman Business Sense

The Romans certainly had business sense.  The walls of the marketplace were painted with frescos indicating what each stall sold.  Remember that Pompeii was an international harbor and that you could probably hear 10 or 15 languages in the marketplace.  So having a sheaf of wheat on the wall, or a pig, or an amphora of oil or wine, made it that much easier to do business.  Many of the frescos have survived.

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Sorry about the quality – we were not permitted to use flash and the frescos are not as bright as they used to be.

More Pompeii

As you delve further into the city, you come across some beautifully preserved mosaics.

This was the entrance to the villa of a Roman senator.

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This was in the courtyard of a rich-person’s house. The courtyard was open-air, and the impluvium was the focal point as you stepped into the gate.

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This mosaic is original – none of the stones are reproductions or replacements.  They showed us the dental picks that the archeologists work with to clear these sites – and they think that there is about 100 years’ worth more digging to be done!

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As mentioned previously, Mt. Vesuvius looms over the city of Naples.  Its last, really spectacular eruption was, as most of you know from history class, in AD 79, when approximately 200 metres of the top of the mountain vanished.

The city of Strabia (a Roman summer resort on its hills) was completely destroyed by lava flow.  Herculeneum, another summer resort city of ancient Rome, was also buried and burned.

Archeologists are fortunate in that Pompeii missed most of the actual lava, but was buried under 25 metres of hot ash.

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In the late 1700s, archeologists started digging at the site where Pompeii was rumored to have existed.  And they found treasure upon treasure, both in objective wealth (unfortunately a lot of the spoils vanished into the clutches of collectors of the time) and in subjective knowledge.  Above is the temple of Jupiter.  The restorers have made a concerted effort to show what actually existed, and not try and hide the newer materials.  The light pieces are original, the dark ones are reproductions.

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The forum, or rather its portico.

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City walls.  Paving stones at the sides of the road are original.  Road surface is volcanic.

Mia Bella Napoli

From Istanbul, we sailed to Naples (Napoli).  Lovely port city that, believe it or not, smells of pizza about the time you leave the harbor.  Tomato sauce (every house has a pot of something aromatic on the stove), basil and garlic.  Lots and lots of garlic.  Yum.

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From the window of the bus.  Looking toward the sea.

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From the window of the bus (hence the glare spots) with first view of Mt. Vesuvius.

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More Vesuvius.  Hadn’t realized just how close to the city the volcano (and it’s still active) actually was.  Our guide said that vulcanologists are calling for a serious eruption within the next 10 years.  Fortunately, although it smoked a bit while we were there, the 10-year call didn’t happen during our visit.  Check in tomorrow for what does happen.

Weather was a bit sketchy, but I have to add that this was the very first day of the trip that it wasn’t bright sunshine.  And this was more morning foggy than really nasty.

Still more Winter Tournament

Photo credit to Katherine Walcott.  Also appearing in this film are Courtney Huguley (trainer and rock of sanity) and Miss Maggie-the-Awesome.


Note that although the helment is not as attractive as the hats that I’ve been wearing, I’m trying to set a good example for the horde of tiny tots …  May have to get some bling onto the helmet.  Any suggestions? Or at least stick a rose in the airvent?