12/31/18 #1 Yesterday we went to Agrigento, the ancient Agrigentum. There is the so called Valley of the Temples, a cluster of surviving temples and a UNESCO World Heritage Site (again). Included in this area is the (erroneously named) Temple of Concord, the second best preserved temple in the ancient world. There are also the remains of the Temple of Zeus, a colossus built in the 5th century B.C. after a victory against the Carthaginians. The captured Carthaginians were used to build the temple, and they were humiliated in huge statues that held up the temple. Later, I saw the (completely unrelated) stone inscription from which the Temple of Concord was named.
12/29/18 Sorry that I didn’t post yesterday - we were driving late and I didn’t have time. I am now in Agrigento, having visited the Roman Villa and Morgantina, both amazing sites near Piazza Armerina. The Roman Villa, built in the early Fourth Century A.D. by an unknown owner, has the largest set of mosaics in situ. Morgantina was a town deserted in the First Century A.D. Similar to Pompeii and only slightly less well preserved, it is a great place to visit. And of course, it has a theater (and a forum, baths, houses, and a temple). I actually found it much more interesting than the Roman Villa due to the absence of others (in the villa, people were pushing everywhere, whereas in Morgantina, we could only see people in the distance), its status as a live archaeological site, and its authenticity (in the villa, everything was walled off and accessible only from hanging walkways, but in Morgantina, the ruins were just there). Tomorrow I will explore Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples.
12/27/18 #3 In the third part of today's post are more theaters. I saw both the Greek theater of Syracuse and the Roman Amphitheater today, both also in the Archaeological Park. Remarkable well preserved is the Greek theater, dug out of the limestone of the hill. As previously stated, it is the largest theater in Sicily.
12/27/18 #2 After leaving Catania we drove to Syracuse, the home of Archimedes and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, many of the structures from antiquity are preserved in the Archaeological Park of Neapolis. It was there that I saw a huge altar to Zeus and the "Ear of Dionysius." About one hundred meters long and able to hold up to 450 animals at a time, the altar to Zeus was constructed by Hiero II. The "Ear of Dionysius" was an earlier landmark, dating from the Peloponnesian War. Syracuse, a member of the Peloponnesian league, managed to trap an Athenian naval fleet inside of its bay. The captured prisoners were housed in the "Ear of Dionysius," a quarry. It is called the "Ear of Dionysius" due to a legend that Dionysius, the tyrant at the time, would listen to whispered Athenian conversations with aid of the acoustics. Even now, you can hear whispers from opposite ends of the cave.
12/27/18 #1 Today was a rush - starting in Catania, we left to go to Syracuse. At first in Catania, we first went to see the Roman theater (for some reason it's always theaters that survive). Despite being partly flooded by the underground river, the theater seating survives mostly intact. In addition to the theater proper, there as an odeon used for practises and competitions. Soon after leaving the theater, we accidentally stumbled upon a Roman Bath complex! Sicily is amazing.
12/26/18 #2 I am currently on the bus back from Taormina, a village north of Catania. There, I saw a Roman theater on the backdrop of the glittering Mediterranean, and the remains of the baths (the gate to the dig wasn’t locked, so it was fine for us to go in... I think). This is a photo from the theater. Tomorrow morning I will be leaving to go to Syracuse.
12/26/18 #1 This isn’t quite classics, but I thought it merited inclusion - I woke up this morning to learn that there was an earthquake last night in Catania, the city in which I’m staying. As a matter of fact, Mt. Etna erupted two days ago - minorly, however. Mt. Etna is in the background of this image, and it is still smoking. Luckily, no one was killed in either of these events, although some buildings collapsed and some people were hurt. I will be going to Taormina today, so will update again tonight.
12/25/18 It's been a little while, but now it's winter break and I’ve gone to Italy. I arrived last night in Milan and began to explore the city. Milan, or Mediolanum, was the capital of the Western Roman Empire for a period. Here, I’ve found the "Colonne di San Lorenzo," a group of corinthian (hint hint) columns which is now before the Basilica of San Lorenzo (hence the name). I will be going to Sicily tonight, from where I plan to write more!
9/25/18 Back to my Hadrian’s wall hike: here’s a photo from after it started to rain (NB: The wall to the right is not actually Hadrian’s wall, it is just a random wall that was built on the same path). Everything to the right of the wall was the wilderness for the Romans, and everything to the left was civilization. The border today is further north than this. The entire hike is a pretty magical experience that I recommend for all of you. The way I did it, from Chesters to Housesteads, we started out pretty flat, going through hours and hours of pastures. There was a shrine to Mithras about halfway through, and then we got into the hills. On the top of the hills, you could see far into the misty distance. It was really amazing.
9/18/18 Remember how I went to Chesters Roman Fort? Well, it has a cool history. It was actually originally a Roman Fort, and later turned into a town. There’s a museum with all of the pieces from the excavation as well. It’s pretty amazing. I highly recommend visiting it and all of the other sites if you end up visiting England. The tour guide there, Neil, was incredibly animated and friendly as well.
9/13/18 I didn’t only go to Roman Britain to visit Vindolanda, however. I also hiked a bit of Hadrian’s Wall (not much, but a day’s hike). We went from Chesters Roman Fort (more on this later) to Housesteads Roman Fort (if any of you are planning to visit England, ask about the overseas visitor pass). It was a long hike that took us on the line of where Hadrian’s Wall once was. There were actually some ruins that we saw as well. We could, however, see the ditch that was in front of the wall for almost the entire time. Unfortunately, it took us enough time to walk to Housesteads that it was closed by the time we got there. We were planning to get a taxi back, but luckily a family was arriving back to their cottage near us and they gave us a lift.
9/10/18 Yes, this is actually what I did over my "summer". I visited a multitude of sites in Roman Britain. Among them, I visited Vindolanda, the site of a Roman fort. Those of you who have completed CLC Unit 3 will know what it is, but for others who don't know, it is the site of 12 Roman forts, wooden and stone. It is an abundant source of wooden writing tablets and shoes, a rare look into the life of people on the frontier. Because I visited in the summer, I actually got to see archaeologists (volunteers) working at the dig. Any of you who are 16 can sign up, but it fills up pretty fast (like 20 mins) after sign ups begin. Learn more here: Vindolanda Trust.