Sunday, June 03, 2012

Piazza Armerina, Villa Romana del Casale

Villa Romana del Casale
This fine villa, built either by Maxentius, Roman emperor 306-312 CE, or perhaps his son, is featured in an Ancient Life article in Archeology Odyssey magazine from some time ago, Premier Issue 1998 at page 72, see  The pity is the restriction to access archives -- how many of us are not about to join something else just for a look, and instead trust to the serendipitous finding of an issue or two.  Another article is in March/April 2003 at pp.28 ff -- beautiful illustrations of these mosaics, "the most extensive collection of mosaics to have survived the destruction of the empire."  Featured in the article, entitled Ferocious Elegance:  The Cyclops, floor of the Vestibule of polyphemus, the "bikini girls" as shown here, a photograph of the villa itself, and the Room of the Small Hunt, and Corridor of the Great Hunt. These are realistic action depictions, not merely fluff to entertain. Need access to archives, magazine people.

The information includes:  area of mosaics?  38,000 square feet.  Since the stones come from North Africa, it looks like skilled North African craftsmen were involved.  Names of the rooms include the frigidaria, the cold baths.  It is there that the bikini girls mosaic is found, in two rows.  There is a handball game or exercise going on, and also the giving of prizes.

Since the other mosaics show daily life, such as the more familiar hunting scenes, dining, massages after the meal ("post-prandial" -- before the meal would be preprandial -- either way, nice idea), the women being athletic shows their regular fitness and competitions.

The kind of Roman latrine shown at Romana del Casale is common for Romans, see Archeology Odyssey May-June 2004 at p.53, article, Roman Latrines, How the Ancients Did Their Business, by Ann Olda Koloski-Ostro, illustrating facing lines of boards with holes and openways, a water channel at the sitter's feet for dunking the sponge on the stick used for cleanliness. And windows for good ventilation. A stone bowl, deep, holds all the sticked sponges, handles up, for repeated use.  This arrangement is also apparently at Ephesus, more multi-seating facilities.  Yet writings of the time reflect a coarser approach, dumping the equivalent of chamber pots out on the street, so more is to be learned.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Foodie inspiration, Sicily Spaghetti - No Can Do

No-can pasta sauce in Italy and Sicily -- legendary.  But in the absence of a trip, do your own this lazy way, producing two sauces for the same meal.
Sauce 1. Small roasting pan:  3 onions chopped roughly, 5 tomatoes, oregano, basil sprigs, thyme, garlic or scapes. Add 1/4 cup olive oil.  Roast at 350 for 45 min. Add 1/4 cup broth of some sort, O'Doul's beer, wine, coke, whatever.  Mash and cook and add liquid until texture you like.
Sauce 2. Meanwhile, peel and slice in 1/4 or so slices, eggplant. Sprinkle with salt, let sweat 15 min. and drain on paper towel if supserstitious. Otherwise skip. Put 1/4 cup olive oil in tagine, put in slices, cover, cook stove top 15 min. Add 1/4 cup broth, O'Doul's, wine, beer anything. Cook away. Add garlic any time.

Keep a can or organic crushed tomatoes handy.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Trapani - Roman Naval Victory over Carthage. Battle of the Egadi Islands

Battle of the Egadi Islands, Off Trapani
Victory Made Possible
By Tapping the Resources of Rome's 200 Richest. Rome's 1 percent?
The need for pressuring the wealthy for more. In 242 BC, after some 20 years of warfare, Hannibal's father (one Hamilcar Barca) was the General from Carthage who finally was pinned down by Roman forces on a road above Drepana, near Trapani. Send for help. But in the meantime, Rome mustered a fleet to cut them off.  The place of confrontation was the Egadi Islands, a few miles off the coast there.  There were hundreds of ships and thousands of men, say accounts of the Greek hstorian Polybius. That could be exaggerated, but makes the point:  this was important.

Rome's ships, under the commander Lutatius, included the "quinquiremines" -- fast ramming ships, with oarsmen, trained troops, and fast because they carried no extra stores. Carthage had heavy-laden ships and inexperienced -- there for an emergency only, hastily mustered.  The weather was bad, but Lutatius gambled that his best chance lay in attacking while Carthage was disadvantaged. Perhaps Lutatius struck by ambush at sea.

 And the Roman ships were fitted with rams: triple-stacked blades, shaped like an arrow head rather than a blunt ram,  two feet wide, that rode just under the waterline, to splinter planks on enemy vessels and cripple them, while preserving the integrity of the Roman ship.

The town of Trapani launches ferries today to the islands, and undersea explorers continue to bring up barnacled rams, helmets, pottery storage amphorae for carrying oils and wine. Without the rams, this could be seen as just another site of many ship sinkings;  the rams mean war.  The damage from impact seen on them shows the violence of that impact.

How to pay for them? One practice: the Romans "pressed Rome's 200 richest families to sponsor warships."  See Archeology Magazine, January-February 2012, The Weapon that Changed History, Evidence of Rome's Decisive Victory over Carthage is Discovered in the Waters off Sicily, by Andrew Curry, at

Triremes, quadriremes, quinqueremes, penteconters, the Roman victory over Carthage was not only a victory of design and training, unencumbered by vast stores on board; but also the tactic re-emerging today.  Is this Rome's  percent?  Who can research that?  The 200 richest tapped for funds. Galleys needed rams. Where else to go.

 When you need to tap the richest to accomplish important societal goals, do it.  Rome found the money in the coffers of Rome's richest to pay for it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ionian Riviera - Sicily's northern coast

This is a scenic resort-oriented drive when you find there is no room on the car-ferry from Catania back to Naples; so you amble back to Palermo.We do not make reservations for sites in advance because we have no idea how much time we will want to spend somewhere.  We would have stayed longer in Sicily, to see Taormina and more of Catania, but had the flight home to be concerned about, from Rome.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Naples: Ferry to Sicily. Auto, and Sleeper Cabin.

Ferry, Naples to Palermo, auto and cabin

Take the Naples overnight ferry to Palermo. Take the car with you. There are sleeper cabins. On at 6 or 7 in the evening, there by 8 in the morning or so.

Make reservations because of increased interest in ferrying cars, but you may find that internet reservations may not get processed. Get there in advance, just in case. We tried to reserve a place on the internet, but there was no record at the dock. We got on line and did get on, but it was dicey.

Naples, cafe at the docks, waiting for the ferry to Sicily
Here we are waiting, with refreshments, in a cafe near the docks.

Return trip: We had wanted to leave from Messina, but that ferry was full, so we went back the beautiful resort-coast road to Palermo again. That completed a rough circle around Sicily, omitting the lovely Syracusa area for lack of time.