Saving The Colosseum

??????????????????????????Living History : Saving the Colosseum by Darius Arya

“I’ve always dreamed of seeing the Colosseum, but I can’t enjoy it because of all this scaffolding …” a lament we hear more and more as the epic monument undergoes an even more epic clean up.

Who doesn’t dream about seeing the Colosseum? The nearly 2000-year-old monument was the site of the Roman empire’s amazing physical contests and setting for one of the most memorable movies from the 20th century: Ridley Scott’s Gladiator starring Russell Crowe. But like every cultural heritage monument around the world, the Colosseum had succumbed to time, nature and pollution; it was in dire need of help.

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Judaism in Rome and Ephesus


When St Paul visited Ephesus around 53 AD, there was a Jewish community at Ephesus for over three hundred years.

At 1st century AD, Jews had spread from their homeland to the Mediterranean and some other places. The oldest Jewish community in Europe is the one in Rome. They were practicing very different religion than their neighbors and as a result of this, Jews were mostly close-knit to protect their faiths and themselves. In Rome, Augustus and Julius Cesar supported Jews to help them to worship as they like and Julius Cesar allowed them to settle anywhere in the Roman Empire. Although they were generally treated with respect, trouble did occur and during the reign of Claudius, Jews had been exiled from Rome two times but than they were allowed to return and continue their independent existence. Each Jewish community worshipped at its own synagogue but the center of their worship is in Jerusalem.

It is known that there have been a substantial Jewish community in Asia Minor since at least the 5th century BC and when St Paul visited Ephesus around 53 AD there was a Jewish community at Ephesus for over three hundred years, but the exact date of the establishment of Jewish community in Ephesus is not known.

Unfortunately there is a little inscriptional evidence for the Jewish community in the ancient city but Ephesus is mentioned as having a synagogue in Acts 19:1 of New Testament. Synagogue hasn’t been found in and around Ephesus but there is a menorah carving on the step of Celsus library.

Source : Ephesus – History, information and pictures of Ephesus Ancient city

The Temple Of Saturn

The temple was pseudoperipteral with Ionic columns on high podium, situated southwest of the Rostra, on the slopes of the Capitole Hill. It was one of the oldest temples in Rome and was erected in 497 B.C. on the site, according to the sources (Festus, Servius) of an altar which had also been dedicated to Saturn and which was then maintained in an area of its own, as revealed by the Forma Urbis (monumental marble plan of the city from the time of Septimius Severus). Some authors say that the foundation of the temple was to be attributed to the last kings, even if the actual building did not take place till the beginning of the republican period with the dedication on the day of the celebration of the Saturnalia, December 17, the Roman end of the year. The building was completely rebuilt in 42 B.C. by the aedile L. Munazius Plancus. The large podium, still extant and entirely faced in travertine, 40 meters long, 22.50 meters wide and 9 meters high, dates to this phase.

As indicated by the inscription on the architrave, the temple was once more restored in 283 A.D. after a fire. The six columns in grey granite on the front, the two in red granite on the sides and the pediment, consisting mostly of reused blocks, belong to this period. A great deal of building material from the structure of 42 B.C. was in fact reemployed. Even the columns do not always pair up with the bases, which vary in style, and with the Ionic capitals. An avant-corps in front of the base consisted of two podia, separated by a flight of stairs which led to the temple. One of these must have contained the headquarters of the Roman State Treasury. The threshold is still to be seen on the side facing the Forum. On the same side a series of regularly arranged  holes reveals the presence of a rectangular panel on which the public documents regarding the treasury must have been posted. The cella of the temple contained the statue of the god which was carried in procession for triumphal rites.

When this temple was built, Rome was passing through a particularly critical period due to extensive famines, epidemics and a severe economic and commercial crisis which characterized the years subsequent to the fall of the monarchy. Evidence of the sense of distress which took hold of the Roman people is the erection in these years of a number of temples: to Saturn in 497 B.C., to Mercury, protector of commerce, in 495 B.C., to Ceres, goddess of the earth and fertility, in 493 B.C. The building of the temple of Saturn must also be seen in this light for the god, before being identified with the Greek Cronos, was venerated for a particular characteristic known as “Lua Saturni” (The verb luo means to loosen, to liberate, lustrum means purification), in other words the possibility of freeing the city from its afflictions.

Aristotle Quote

Aristotle, marble portrait bust, Roman copy (2nd century bc) of a Greek original (c. 325 bc); in the Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome.

“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor”


The Temple Of Castor And Pollux

Facing on the square of the Roman Forum to the west of the Arch of Augustus, the temple is separated from the Vicus Tuscus by the east side of the Basilica of Gaius and Lucius.

Tradition connects the founding of the temple to a popular legend in ancient Rome: during the battle of the lake of Regillus in 496 B.C. between Romans and Latins, two unknown young horsemen with a burst of energy led the Romans to victory and immediately thereafter the two were seen in the forum watering their horses at the fountain of Juturna and after announcing the route of the enemy they disappeared in thin air. They were identified as the Dioscuri and in thanks for their aid the dictator Aulus Postumius Albinus vowed to build them a temple. The building was dedicated by his son, duumvir in 484 B.C. and completely rebuilt in 117 B.C. by L. Cecilius Metellus Dalmaticus, after his victory over the dalmations, enlarging the podium.

The temple was once more restored by Verres (governor of Sicily, attacked by Cicero in the Verrine) in 73 B.C. The last definitive reconstruction was by Tiberias after the fire of 14 B.C. with a new dedication of A.D. 6.

What remains dates back to this time. The temple was peripteral with eight corinthian columns on its short sides and eleven on its long sides and with a cella on a concrete base (opus caementicium) (m. 50x30x7), originally faced with tufa blocks which were removed in modern times and reused. In the Forma Urbis (marble plan of Rome from the age of Septimius Severus) the building has a central staircase not found by the archaeologists who uncovered two lateral flights of stairs. It may have been eliminated in one of the restorations to make room for the tribune of the Rostra, which together with the one in front of the Temple of Divus Julius and the Rostras of the Comitia, comprised the “Rostra Tria” mentioned in the sources for the Forum.

The podium we now see dates to the restoration carried out by Metellius in 117 B.C. as do the stretches of black and white mosaic on the floor of the cella.

During the republican period senate meetings were held in the temple and after the middle of the 2nd century B.C. the podium also became a tribune for magistrates and orators in the legislative meetings that took place in this part of the forum square. It was from here that Caesar proposed his agrarian reforms. The building became the headquarters for the office of weights and measures as well and during the period of the Empire part of the treasury of the tax office was kept in rooms in the long sides. Some of these were also bankers offices.

The cult of the Dioscuri was originally Greek and it was imported into Rome via the cities in Magna Graecia. These twins, sons of Zeus and Leda, were skillful horsemen both in war and in competitions and therefore were the patrons of the Olympic Games, and in Rome, of the Circus games. This is why both in Magna Graecia and in Rome they were the tutelary gods of the equestrian aristocracy. In front of the temple in the Forum, the cavalry corps orrefed a sacrifice in their honor and passed in review before the censors.

Marcus Aurelius

Bust of Marcus Aurelius. British Museum, London.

Marcus Aurelius (c. A.D. 121 – 180) was a Roman Emperor (the last of the “Five Good Emperors”) and philosopher of the Roman period. He is considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers.

Although, perhaps not a first-rank or original philosopher, his “Meditations” remain revered as a literary monument and as a succinct statement of Stoic philosophy. Looked at as a series of practical philosophical exercises intended to digest and put into practice philosophical theory, his works have had a profound influence over the centuries.

Marcus Aurelius was born on 26 April A.D. 121 in Rome (originally named Marcus Annius Catilius Severus at birth). His father was Marcus Annius Verus (of Spanish origin, served as a praetor and died when Marcus was just three years old); his mother was Domitia Lucilla (from a wealthy family of consular rank). He had no brothers and just one sister, Annia Cornificia Faustina, who was about two years younger than he. After his father’s death, Marcus Aurelius was adopted and raised by his mother and paternal grandfather Marcus Annius Verus.

He had several family connections to various Roman emperors, mainly on his father’s side, and he had already attracted the attention of the ruling Emperor Hadrian as a young boy. He was made a member of the equestrian order when he was six. When Hadrian’s first adopted son died young, he adopted Anoninus Pius as his son and successor, on the precondition that Antoninus would in turn adopt both Marcus Aurelius (then called Marcus Aelius Aurelius Verus) and his own grandson Lucius Aurelius Verus, and arrange for them to be next in line. Thus, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Aurelius Verus were adopted by Anoninus Pius when he became Emperor in A.D. 138 and designated as his joint successors. Continue reading Marcus Aurelius

Plutarch of Chaeronea

Bust of Plutarch in the museum at the Temple of Delphi where he werved as a priest.

Plutarch of Chaeronea (46-c.122): influential Greek philosopher and author, well known for his biographies and his moral treatises.

It is not overstated to say that, together with Augustine of Hippo and Aristotle of Stagira, Plutarch of Chaeronea is the most influential ancient philosopher. He may lack the the profundity of Augustine, the most influential philosopher in the early Middle Ages, and the acumen of Aristotle, considered the master of all intellectuals of the late Middle Ages, but the Sage of Chaeronea is an excellent writer and from the Renaissance to the present day, his moral treatises have found a larger audience than any other ancient philosopher. In his own age, he was immensely popular because he was able to explain philosophical discussions to non-philosophical readers, Greek and Roman alike. The fact that he was priest in Delphi will no doubt have improved his popularity.


Plutarch was probably born in 46 in the Boeotian town Chaeronea. His parents were wealthy people, and after 67, their son was able to study philosophy, rhetorics, and mathematics at the platonic Academy of Athens. However, Plutarch never became a platonic puritan, but always remained open to influences from other philosophical schools, such as the Stoa and the school of Aristotle. It is likely that the young man was present when the emperor Nero, who visited Greece at this time, declared the Greek towns to be free and autonomous.

Because Plutarch was a rich man,  he became one of the leading citizens of Chaeronea and he is known to have represented his town on several occasions. For example, he visited the governor of Achaea, and traveled to Alexandria and Rome (several times). Again, this proves that he was a rich man.

Among his friends was Lucius Mestrius Florus, a consul during the reign of Vespasian, and Plutarch’s guide during his visit to Cremona, where two important battles had been fought in 69, the year of the four emperors Galba, Vitellius, Otho, and Vespasian. Mestrius also secured the Roman citizenship for Plutarch, whose official name now became Mestrius Plutarchus. At the end of his life, he was honored with the procuratorship of Achaea, an important office that he probably held only in name. His involvement in the Roman world, although from a carefully maintained distance, explains why he shows so much interest in the history of Rome. Nevertheless, he was slow to learn Latin (Demosthenes, 2.2).

In the 90’s, Plutarch, who had seen much of the world, settled in his home town. When asked to explain his return to the province, he said that Chaeronea was in decline and that it would be even smaller if he did not settle there. For some time, he was mayor.

In his treatise Should Old Men Take Part in Politics?, Plutarch tells us that he occupied an office in the holy city Delphi, and he is known to have become one of the two permanent priests, responsible for the interpretation of the inspired utterances of the Pythia, the prophetess of Delphi. In these years, a library was built near the sanctuary, and it is tempting to assume that Plutarch was behind this initiative.

In the two first decades of the second century, he studied and wrote many books. According to an incomplete third-century catalogue, there were between 200 and 300 titles. These books brought him international fame, and the home of the famous author became a private school for young philosophers. He was often visited by Greeks and Romans, although not necessarily to study philosophy. The emperor Trajan may have been one of the visitors (winter 113/114?), and it may have been on this occasion that Trajan honored Plutarch with the ornaments of a consul, an important award. From now on, Plutarch was allowed to wear a golden ring and a white toga with a border made of purple.

Plutarch died after his procuratorship, which was in 119, and before 125. The year 122 is just guesswork. The Delphians and Chaeroneans ordered statues to be erected for their famous citizen.

In the Consolation to his wife, Plutarch mentions four sons and we know that at least two survived childhood. It has often been remarked that in his many publications, Plutarch shows that he was devoted to his parents, grandfather, brothers, his wife Timoxena, and to their children, but this is of course an impression that every author wants to convey. Continue reading Plutarch of Chaeronea

Who was Cleopatra?

The struggle with her teenage brother over the throne of Egypt was not going as well as Cleopatra VII had hoped. In 49 B.C., Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII—also her husband and, by the terms of their father’s will, her co-ruler—had driven his sister from the palace at Alexandria after Cleopatra attempted to make herself the sole sovereign. The queen, then in her early twenties, fled to Syria and returned with a mercenary army, setting up camp just outside the capital.

Meanwhile, pursuing a military rival who had fled to Egypt, the Roman general Julius Caesar arrived at Alexandria in the summer of 48 B.C., and found himself drawn into the Egyptian family feud. For decades Egypt had been a subservient ally to Rome, and preserving the stability of the Nile Valley, with its great agricultural wealth, was in Rome’s economic interest. Caesar took up residence at Alexandria’s royal palace and summoned the warring siblings for a peace conference, which he planned to arbitrate. But Ptolemy XIII’s forces barred the return of the king’s sister to Alexandria. Aware that Caesar’s diplomatic intervention could help her regain the throne, Cleopatra hatched a scheme to sneak herself into the palace for an audience with Caesar. She persuaded her servant Apollodoros to wrap her in a carpet (or, according to some sources, a sack used for storing bedclothes), which he then presented to the 52-year old Roman.

The image of young Cleopatra tumbling out of an unfurled carpet has been dramatized in nearly every film about her, from the silent era to a 1999 TV miniseries, but it was also a key scene in the real Cleopatra’s staging of her own life. “She was clearly using all her talents from the moment she arrived on the world stage before Caesar,” says Egyptologist Joann Fletcher, author of a forthcoming biography, Cleopatra the Great. Continue reading Who was Cleopatra?

Hadrian’s Villa: A Virtual Tour


A virtual tour of Hadrian’s Villa using a 3D digital model of the villa created under the direction of Dr. Bernard Frischer.

The ruins of Hadrian’s Villa, in the town of Tivoli, near Rome, is spread over an area of approximately 250 acres. Many of the structures were designed by the Emperor Hadrian who ruled from 117 until his death in 138 C.E. This virual rendering is based on current archeological research and has been created in consultation with art historians, archaeologists, and museum curators with expertise in this area. Please note, a few features are necessarily assumptions based on the best available evidence.

Speakers: Dr. Bernard Frischer and Dr. Beth Harris

Portrait of Antinous as Dionysius

Portrait of Antinous as Dionysius

Second quarter of the 2nd century

Antinous was a handsome youth, a Greek from Bythinia. The favourite of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD), he was tragically drowned in the Nile during a trip to Egypt with the Emperor in 130. According to one version, he died saving the Emperor’s life. After the death of Antinous, Hadrian ordered that he be deified. His statues, as the gods Dionysius or Hermes, adorned Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli just outside Rome. The Hermitage portrait was found during excavations at Tivoli in 1769. Antinous is shown as Dionysius, god of wine and merrymaking, his luxuriant locks of hair crowned with a branch of Italian pine. The young man’s face is classically handsome and his idealised features recall a Greek statue of the Classical period. At the same time there are still traces of individual features, such as the thick brows over the small, close-set eyes. The expression of sadness is typical of many statues of Antinous, who died so young. In European art, the image of Antinous became synonymous with ideal male beauty.


Aeneas flees burning Troy

Aeneas flees burning Troy, Federico Barocci, 1598, Oil on canvas, 179 x 253 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome

This painting shows a poignant episode from the tales of the Trojan War. After Troy is taken, the Trojan hero Aeneas is able to flee the city with his elderly father, Anchises. Although he also manages to save his son, he loses his wife. The drama of the family’s flight is suggested not only by the falling buildings and the narrow stairwell, but also by the visual distance between the man and his wife, which foreshadows their coming separation.

Capriccio with the Colosseum by Bernardo Bellotto

Capriccio with the Colosseum, Bernardo Bellotto c. 1745, Oil on canvas, 134 x 118 cm, Galleria Nazionale, Parma

This early work forms part of a four-part cycle, painted during Bellotto´s sojourn in Rome, that depicts various views of the city. Bellotto has not shown the ancient amphitheater in its true context despite his precise depiction of it, but has instead added towering ruins from his imagination. In this way, he creates a fascinating montage that is enlivened by the figures populating it.