Museo Della Civilta Romana

Today we went to the Museo della Civilta Romana. Here we got to see many plaster casts and replicas of sites and statues we had heard about and seen throughout the trip. The most interesting thing in this museum was a cast of Trajan’s Column. The column is broken up into pieces and placed in order around a room in the museum. This allows people to walk around and actually see what the story on the column is. A majority of the column is about Trajan’s victories against the Dacians. It also shows the fruitfulness, fertility and richness of Rome at the time. 

Deana Furman and Anthony Arico

Because there were 126 separate casts, I will spare the reader a play-by-play
of the Dacian wars and instead provide this shoddy recreation of the column:

(A scale model showing the main forum in Pompeii.)

(The Temple of Ceres in the middle of the Piazzale delle Corporazioni at Ostia.)

(Adjacent to the room with the column casts was this plethora of models.)

(The grandest model of all was this replica of the entirety of ancient Rome.)

(A detailed Baths of Caracalla reconstruction to make up for the earlier post.)

(This is what the Mausoleum of Augustus would have looked like.)

(Outside the museum was an obelisk from the 1960 Olympics dedicated to Guglielmo Marconi and an installation by Seward Johnson titled, “Awakening.”)

William Skinner

Villa Poppaea

The Villa Poppaea was a home of Emperor Nero. It was buried in the 79AD eruption of Vesuvius.

Nero was known for his decadence and flair and didn’t cut any corners when building this retreat. It had a large kitchen, personal baths, an Olympic sized pool, beautiful gardens, and much more.

The most impressive thing about the Villa Poppaea is its frescoes. These beautiful paintings have remained colorful and bright. The frescoes are painted in the 2nd and 3rd styles; the 3rd style probably painted after the damage from the earthquake of 62AD.



Herculaneum was a city that, along with Pompeii, was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD.

The city was covered by 20 meters of lava. (The difference in ground level can be seen in the figure above). Originally, it was thought that the people of Herculaneum evacuated the town and escaped death, but in the 1990’s 300+ bodies were found in/or near the boat houses. It is presumed that the population swarmed to the boats but were unable to leave because of the rough sea.

One amazing thing that sets Herculaneum’s ruins apart from Pompeii’s is the petrification of wood. This is because the ash that buried Pompeii was extremely hot, thus burning the wood; while the muddy lava that covered Herculaneum was cooler. Pompeii was buried from top to bottom; the weight of the ash collapsing the roofs of it’s buildings. Herculaneum was covered from the ground up; the lava filled the houses, preserving the wooden structures.

The mosaics in Herculaneum are breathtaking. Made up of thousands of tiny pieces they are extremely complex and intricate, often depicting aquatic scenes. (The mosaic above is of Neptune and Amphitrite).


The Baths of Caracalla, the Circus Maximus, and the Coliseum

Today the class visited the Baths of Caracalla. Will Skinner presented on the baths. We were there for a while and got to walk around the ruins, although some portions had been blocked off. Will explained in detail the way in which a Roman bathhouse would have worked. Women had hours in the morning and men had hours in the afternoon to take their daily bath. They would first go into the caldarium (hot bath) and end with the frigidarium (cold bath). Not only were the Romans able to heat the bathhouse; they could also heat the stone floor so that people could walk comfortably from one room to another. At one point in time, mosaics would have decorated the floors of the baths, and a large statue of Hercules (now in the museum at Naples) would have stood in the center of the baths. Will also told the class about the waterfalls that would have been around the baths. These waterfalls would have brought water from the hot baths to the cold and vice versa.

Next we went to the Circus Maximus where Aundra Miller presented. She explained the Circus Maximus was more like a bloody version of NASCAR than what we would think of a modern circus. Chariots in four colors (representing the four seasons) would race around the track. Aundra also talked about the gladiatorial fights at the Coliseum. She explained that there were different types of gladiators. Gladiators were sorted based on the type of armor they wore and the weapons that they carried. Previously on the trip, we went to the Coliseum. We took a tour and learned that there was an intricate web of tunnels under the stage which allowed for trap doors in the floor to bring up wild animals and different scenery. They had many types of fights that lasted throughout the day. There were fights between men and animals, as well as men against one another, and there were plays in which prisoners would be killed to make the stories seem more realistic.

Deana Furman and Anthony Arico

Being as I was presenting on them, I only have a few pictures from a prior
night during which I attempted to scope out the baths from their perimeter:

(Here you can see straight through to the natatio, or swimming pool, room.)

(This was the western palaestra, an open courtyard for gymnastics and wrestling.)

(This was one of two main entrances which Roman bathers would have used; from here they would have passed on to the apodyterium, a changing room with lockers.)

(All that remains of the Circus Maximus is this track made up of loose gravel; a lap around this and my legs were on fire as I could barely stand. I clocked 3:30 though.)

(I presume you’ve all seen this picture before. Nevertheless, the Coliseum.)

(Here you can see through the floor to the below-ground passageways.)

William Skinner

Hadrian’s Villa

Today we took an hour bus ride to Tivoli where we visited Hadrian’s Villa. Hadrian succeeded Trajan in 117 AD, and work started on the villa in 118 AD. It includes elements of Greek and Egyptian influence as a testament to the various cultures of the Roman Empire during Hadrian’s reign. The villa is spread over about 120 hectares and includes many buildings that served different functions. We saw the Poikile (Pecile), which was a large courtyard designed for after lunch strolls; the Building with Three Exedras, which may have served as a dining room; the Baths, with intact mosaics and complex heating systems; the Canopus, where many marble statues were unearthed and where parties and social gatherings were held; the Piazza d’Oro, which still includes many examples of polychrome mosaic and latrines that once had running water; and the Maritime Theater, which was not a theater but rather a private getaway for the emperor.

Hadrian’s villa once had over 500 statues and ornate frescoes and mosaics, but throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance it was stripped of most of its artwork which is now in museums.

Chelsea and Rosie

Apologies for the glut of photos:

(We walked through a large arch in this nine meter high wall to enter the Poikele.)

(Originally there would have been a portico on either side of the wall.)

(It was certainly a nice place for an after lunch stroll, or a stroll at any time of day;
walking around the perimeter seven times was equal to walking two Roman miles.)

(At the center of the Poikele was a vast and magnificent pool.)

(The pool was home to several fish and fowl who were excited by our presence.)

(The Poikele was actually built on a raised platform above underground rooms.)

(Our next stop was the Building with Three Exedrae; this is the Eastern exedra.)

(The Western exedra would have had a rectangular niche with a large window.)

(The Southern exedra, facing the atrium and Poikele, would have had large statue.)

(The Winter Palace was so named because of heating systems on the top floors.)

(In front of the Winter Palace was a small stadium believed to be a nymphaeum.)

(Above and below: the small bath complex was, well, small.)

(This is, of course, as compared to the large bath complex directly to the south.)

(The large baths, despite their size were not as well decorated as the small baths.)

(Above and below: When I said large, I meant large.)

(On the side of a hill behind the baths was the praetorium.)

(It was perhaps a residential area for praetorian guards of the emperor.)

(There was some original stucco decoration at the base of the praetorium walls.)

(Above and below: more stucco decoration preserved on a vault in the baths.)

(Nick walks atop the hill into which the praetorium was inset, next to the Canopus.)

(A woman collects fallen fruits from the olive trees on the hilltop.)

(The Canopus lay at the base of a valley and was a place for social gatherings.)

(At the northen end was a colonnade of Corinthian columns.)

(At the southern end was an apsical temple dedicated to Serapis.)

(On the western side was a row of caryatids.)

(On the eastern side was a crocodile fountain piece.)

(This statue at the northern end is believed to be a depiction of Antinous, a man whom Hadrian was smitten with and who drowned in the Canopus canal in Egypt.)

(Above and below: yet another bath complex called the Heliocaminus.)

(We finally made our way into the ruins of the Imperial Palace.)

(There we found some well-preserved monocrome geometric tile mosaics.)

(Above and below: the main room of the Imperial Palace.)

(Just next door was the appropriately named Building with Doric Columns.)

(Behind the Imperial Palace was the Piazza d’Oro, or Golden Square.)

(There were several private latrines around the circumference of the court.)

(There was also a good example of a polycrome mosaic floor in a rhombus pattern.)

(This structure was at the southeastern corner of the Piazza d’Oro.)

(This was the Latin library to the north of the Imperial Palace.)

(This was the so-called Philosopher’s Hall, thought to be a library or audience hall.)

(Finally, we visited the Maritime Theatre, a retreat only reached by swing bridge.)

William Skinner

The pyramid tomb of Gaius Cestius, the Ara Pacis, and the Mausoleum of Augustus

Today we visited the pyramid tomb of Gaius Cestius and the Ara Pacis of Augustus. We were granted special permission to go into the pyramid and see the third style frescoes on the interior. The third style incorporates domestic details, such as the candle sticks that are in this tomb.

After the pyramid, we visited the Ara Pacis. Augustus had the Ara Pacis built between 13 and 9 BCE. The Ara Pacis, literally “Altar of Augustan Peace,” was a tribute to Augustus’ reign. It depicts scenes that link Augustus to the two founding myths of Rome. It has a repeated theme of fertility and growth that Augustus sought to promote within his empire. It is the most important Augustan monument.

The Mausoleum of Augustus was a very opulent tomb, begun in 28 BCE. On either side of the entrance, there were two inscribed pillars that were a copy of the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, which was Augustus’ own account of his feats in battle and his accomplishments as emperor.

Chelsea and Rosie 

(The pyramid was an unlikely sight, rising above the streets of modern Rome.)

(The interior of the pyramid was surprisingly small given the monument’s size;
for the record, I must say that Sam is a professional photobomber.)

(Oddly, the tomb of Cestius shared the same address as a cat sanctuary.)

(The front two panels of the Ara Pacis show the two foundation myths of Rome, with that of Romulus and Remus on the left and that of Aeneas on the right.)

(The best preserved panel depicted Augustus’ vision of prosperity for Rome.)

(Unfortunately we were unable to access the Mausoleum of Augustus.)

William Skinner

The Theater of Marcellus, the Capitoline Museum, and Palatine Hill

Today we visited the Theater of Marcellus, the Capitoline Museum, and Palatine Hill. The Theater of Marcellus was the largest theater in Rome at the time of its construction.

At the Capitoline Museum each of us had to find an artifact that contained elements related to what we had learned on Etruscan and Roman history. During class that night, we were able to hear from each other about the various artifacts we had found. This was a great way for us to apply what we had learned thus far on the trip.

After the Capitoline Museum, we visited Palatine Hill, the most important hill in Rome where the emperors resided, with the University of California’s Professor Crispin Corrado, a specialist in Roman history. Since the founding of Rome, the Palatine Hill was where the most important people lived. We visited Augustus’ house on the Hill and the imperial palace that was built by Tiberius but expanded by Caligula and Claudius. During Nero’s reign, work began on a new and larger palace which was destroyed in the fire of 64 AD. Nero later built the Domus Aurea on top of previous Republican period houses. We also saw the palace of the Flavian dynasty which at one time had a black marble walkway that functioned as a mirror for the paranoid Domitian; it enabled him to see any approaching possible threat.

After Professor Corrado’s tour of Palatine Hill, we went to overlook the city. 

Chelsea and Rosie

A few pictures from Palatine Hill:

(The so-called “hut of Romulus” is identified by these post holes in the stone; whether the mythic founder of Rome actually lived there is a matter of debate.)

(Inside the House of Augustus, a well-preserved late second style wall painting)

(Also in the House of Augustus, stucco reliefs on the underside of a vault)

(Above and below: the ruins of the Flavian palace)

(Above and below: the ruins of the Hippodrome, or stadium, of Domitian)

William Skinner

The Catacombs of San Callisto and the Tomb of Caecilia Metella

This was by far the largest of the catacombs found, and although we could only visit a small portion of the complex, it was nevertheless impressive. At one point the catacombs contained the remains of 16 popes until the remains were moved to the Vatican by Pope Paschal in 821 CE. There were 4 floors in the structure, with the deepest at 75 meters. Many Christians were buried in the walls, including many children since the child mortality rate in the earlier centuries was so high. Even though most of the catacombs have yet to be excavated, and even less of what has been excavated is open to the public, we saw enough to know that these catacombs were something special. After the catacombs, Caroline did her student-led presentation on the Tomb of Caecilia Metella, which is one of the best-preserved funeral monuments in Rome.

Alicia, Dylan, Mitchell, Scott

(Our walk to the catacombs was at once scenic and pleasant.)

(Photographs were not permitted inside the catacombs.)

(That did not stop this intrepid photographer from snapping one.)

(The size of Caecilia Metella’s tomb was not a reflection of accomplishments during her lifetime, but rather solely of her family’s wealth and status.)

(The tomb measured twenty-nine meters in diameter; her sarcophagus once rested at the bottom of this immense cylinder; it is now in the Farnese Palace.)

(It was here, on the tomb’s exterior, that we were first introduced to the advent of the Roman architectural motif of the bucranium, or ox skull, and garland.)

(The tomb was converted into the Caetani fortress during the medieval era.)

(As with most ruins in Rome, it is now the home of many a “love bird.”)

William Skinner

Cerveteri, cont’d.

(May not work in 64-bit browsers. Also, apologies for YouTube’s horrid quality.)

William Skinner

Tarquinia and Cerveteri

Tarquinia and Cerveteri were next, both having formally been cities of the dead (necropoleis) to the Etruscan people. Located about an hour outside of Rome, both of these burial grounds housed different classes of people. Tarquinia held the remains of over 50 underground tombs until it was discovered in 1922 and the remains were moved to other locations. Each tomb held entire families and contained both male and female remains. We were in tombs that could hold upwards of 8 people in one tomb. Cerveteri on the other hand, held more extravagant tombs. Many of these tombs were created in mounds of earth that rose approximately 20-25 feet from the ground. Over 1000 tombs were found just within Cerveteri, complete with Etruscan artifacts in good condition that had been relatively protected from the elements. The structure of these tombs contained a central hallway and several rooms.

Alicia, Dylan, Mitchell, Scott

(Our travels took us first to Tarquinia.)

(With the exception of a few above-ground cremation vessels, we ventured down into the earth to explore this necropolis.)

(These cremation urns predate the below-ground interment sites of a later Etruscan period; the phallic-shaped urns indicated a deceased male, whereas a female’s cremation urn was denoted by a distinct hut-like shape.)

(Each tomb was reached by a stairwell dug into the earth; the tombs were separated by a pane of glass and lit with a press of a switch.)

(The Tomb of the Leopards is perhaps the most iconic of the Tarquinia tombs.)

(The Tomb of Hunting and Fishing is a close second.)

(This was an example of a more expansive tomb for a large family.)

(In between Tarquinia and Cerveteri we paid a visit to the Museo Nazionale in the Palazzo Vitelleschi, which housed many wonderful Etruscan artifacts.)

(Pictures were forbidden, so photos of actual artifacts were a no-go.)

(As we arrived at Cerveteri, we found it to be guarded by feline sentinels.)

(Unlike Tarquinia, these tombs were above ground, and boy were they huge.)

(A veritable city of the dead, it had two-story real estate.)

(The only inhabitants who showed themselves were the cats and this fellow.)

(Not sure what to expect, we delved into the dark hillside entryways.)

(And there we found this, the appropriately named Tomb of the Capitals.)

(Funeral beds ran along the base of the walls of the burial chambers.)

(No proper necropolis would be complete without roads for its dead citizens.)

(The most spectacular tomb was not within a mound, but hidden underground.)

(The Tomb of the Reliefs illustrated beautifully the Etruscans’ everyday life.)

(For many of us, the site proved to be a fantastical exercise in exploration.)

(We ardently climbed over and through the mounds, trying to absorb it all.)

(In Cerveteri, being king of the hill was an accomplishment with its rewards.)

(To survey the ancient site from such a height was phenomenal.)

(Unfortunately, every day must draw to a close. Every exciting, blessed day.)

William Skinner