Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Villa Romana Del Casale in Armerina!

Photos by Jack Waldron

Villa Romana is a World Heritage Site, and contains some of the most spectacular Roman floor mosaics (from 2nd - 4th century AD) to be found in Italy. The owner of the villa is still uncertain, but must have been a very important aristocrat from the period.
From a bed chamber, an erotic mosaic (above and below).
Below, the underfloor of the tepidarium.
The Corridor of the Great Hunt is almost 66 meters long, and displays the capturing of animals from North Africa to India for gladiatorial exhibition. The techniques used to capture the animals is extremely interesting, such as the use of a mirror to fool a mother tiger into believing she has found her cub, while the capturers apprehend the cub itself.  The animals are loaded onto transport ships . . . scenes that remind one of the Noah Ark epic.

A boar hunt scene from the Room of the Small Hunt. Below, the full mosaic displays the hunting of numerous wild beasts. Notice the deer hunt at bottom left, with the use of nets.

Above, Room of the Ten Girls, which is actually displaying women performing gymnastic exercises and receiving prizes.
Above, cupids fishing.
Above, a bedchamber with a mosaic of children involved in a hunt.  Notice the rat biting the boys leg at bottom left.

Beautiful Armerina, near the Villa Romana.
The very busy public fountain in Armerina, where residents collect their very fresh drinking water.

*All photos and content property of Jack Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

Ancient Syracuse to Spectacular Taormina!!

Photos by Jack Waldron
Above, the theater at ancient Syracuse, which is the largest Greek theater in Sicily, and was inaugurated by Aeschylus in 476 BC with a production of "Women of Aetna".  
The Roman amphitheater at Syracuse (pictured above) dates from the 1st century AD.  The rectangular depression in the center was probably built for machinery that was used to create spectacles for the audience.
This statue post/support was just sitting outside the toilets beaconing for a pose.
The Temple of Apollo (above and two pictures below) on the island of Ortigia, which is connected to Syracuse by two short bridges, was built in the 7th century BC of local limestone, and as can be seen below, was inscribed by its architects, Kleomenes and Epicleos (not pictured).
Below, a different view of the Temple of Apollo on Ortigia.

The Duomo (or, Santa Maria del Piliero, or, delle Colonne)(pictured above and two below).  As you can see, this church has occupied the original Greek Doric temple, known in antiquity as Gelon's Doric Temple of Athena, built in 480 BC.  Twenty-four of the original thirty-six Doric columns remain: two columns from the opisthodomos of the cella, nineteen columns of the peristyle are incorporated in the aisles, and three more unseen.
On the outside of the church can be seen penetrating the medieval wall along Via Minerva, twelve of the original Doric columns with their architrave and triglyphs.

The Greek theater of Taormina was built in the 4th century BC, and as you can see by the stage scena was built by the Romans, thus hindering the audience from the spectacular view.  The Greeks always (when possible) positioned their theaters with such views.
Patti Smith (married to the late Fred Smith, infamous guitarist of the MC5) via Detroit!!  The theater holds some of the best concerts in all of Italy.

*All photos and content property of Jack Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ancient Morgantina!

Photos by Jack Waldron
Above, a view from the acropolis of Aidone, with ancient Morgantina in the distance left of photo, and the Ionian Sea on the horizon.
Above and below, the Deity of Morgantina, recently repatriated from the U.S. after being sold illegally on the black market in the 1970's.
Below, two tholos in the sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone:

  • Zeus, the king of all the gods, had three sisters. 
  • Hera was both his wife and his sister. Hera was the goddess of marriage and the queen of all the gods. 
  • Hestia, another of his sisters, was a much loved goddess by the woman of Greece - Hestia was the goddess of home and hearth. 
  • His third sister, Demeter, was in charge of the harvest. All the gods jobs were important. But Demeter's job was very important. If she was upset, the crops could die. Everyone, gods and mortals alike, worked hard to keep Demeter happy. What made her happy was enjoying the company of her daughter, Persephone.  
  • Persephone had grown into a beautiful young woman, with a smile for everyone. One day, while picking flowers in the fields, Hades, her uncle, the god of the underworld, noticed her. 
  • Hades was normally a gloomy fellow. But Persephone’s beauty had dazzled him. He fell in love instantly. Quickly, before anyone could interfere, he kidnapped Persephone and hurled his chariot down into the darkest depths of the underworld, taking Persephone with him.  
  • Locked in a room in the Hall of Hades, Persephone cried and cried. She refused to speak to Hades. And she refused to eat. Legend said if you ate anything in Hades, you could never leave. She did not know if the legend was true, but she did not want to risk it in case someone came to rescue her. 
  • Nearly a week went by. Finally, unable to bear her hunger, Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds. It seemed her fate was sealed. She would have to live in the Underworld forever.
  • Meanwhile, back on earth,  Demeter was miserable. She missed her daughter. She was not able to care for the crops. She was not able to do anything much except cry.
  • Zeus, king of all the gods, was worried about the crops. The people would die if the crops failed. If that happened, who would worship Zeus? He had to do something. Zeus did what he often did. He sent Hermes, his youngest son, the messenger, to crack a deal, this time with Hades. 
  • Even as a baby, Hermes was great at making deals. Everyone knew that. But this deal might be the challenge of his life. His uncle Hades, king of the underworld, was really in love. This was no passing fancy. 
  • When Hermes heard that Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds, he had to think quickly. The deal he made with Hades was that if Persephone would marry Hades, she would live as queen of the underworld for six months out of the year. However, each spring, Persephone would return and live on earth for the other six months of the year. Hades agreed. Zeus agreed. Persephone agreed. And finally, Demeter agreed.  
  • Each spring, Demeter makes sure all the flowers bloom in welcome when her daughter, Queen of the Underworld,  returns to her. Each fall, when Persephone returns to Hades, Demeter cries, and lets all the crops die until spring, when the cycle starts again.

Thought by many experts to have been a Roman invention, the domed bath (with a square opening in the roof) of the North Bath at Morgantina was a revolutionary development of the Greek Hellenistic period.  
The excellent lecture in the video below explains the history, archeology and design of the north bath at Morgantina.


Above, a pipe which delivered water to the ancient city also displays a unique design, with a removable cap that to allow for cleaning.
Ancient Morgantina!!

*All photos and content property of Jack Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

On The Road To Catania From Agrigento . . .

Photos by Jack Waldron
On the road from Agrigento, I ran into Dave (70 years old) and Lin (61 years old) from New Zealand, who are cycling around Sicily.   
Michael was camping with Urst (great dog!) in Falconara, near Gela.  He saw me eating limone sherbet outside my tent and invited me over for some grilled steak!  He is a Dutch special forces vet of the Afgan war.  We had a great time chatting and drinking beer till the wee hours of the morning.
Above, a stop along the road to beautiful Punta Secca, not far from the most southern tip of Sicily (and Europe!).
I then ran into Freddy from Palermo, who was around Sicily.  We cycled and camped together for the next four days.  A great guy who directed me to the coastal roads around southern Sicily.  He is a biology Phd. candidate studying in Milano.  We stopped the rarely visited temple of Giove Olimpico near Syracuse (above).  Below, Freddy is caught by some actors, who were performing for the kids at our campground in Marzamemi.
Below, Denis and his girlfriend pose for a photo inside his cafe at the campground Il Forte.  They were so kind, and they treated us to fresh made croissants filled with sweet ricotta cheese, a Sicilian specialty!!

Above, Cecile, who I met at the beautiful campground on the sea at Herakleia Minoa, is practicing Tai Chi in the atrium of the house I have been staying at for past week.  The owners of the house (Mario, Danella and their son Andrea) invited me in with the warmest hospitality, and I have been visiting ancient sights around Catania (ancient Syracuse, ancient Morgantina, Villa Ramano and ancient Taormina) while here.  

*All photos and content property of Jack Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Akragas (Agrigento), Valley Of Temples

Photos by Jack Waldron
Above, a fine example of a Sepultura or grave piece, at the museum in Agrigento.
Above, a Telamon reconstructed from the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter (an hypaethral building), to celebrate the Agrigentans' victory over the Carthaginians at Himera (480-479 BC).  Built in honor of Zeus, it is one the largest temples of antiquity, a truly colossal structure.  The Telamon are believed to be carved in the image of the thousands of Carthaginian slaves, who were captured at Himera, and brought back to Akragas (Agrigento) to work on building the city and its structures.
Below, the head of a colossal Telamon in the museum.

Above, one of the capitals of the Temple of Jupiter.  Below, a cork model of the Temple of Jupiter.  The rectangular platform is almost the same size as a football stadium for 42,000 spectators.
The museum near the archeological site of Akragas (Agrigento) has one of the most extensive collections of ancient pottery in the world from the prehistoric period through the 1st century BC.  The pieces are in superb condition, and shouldn't be missed!!  Below, a symposium scene.
Below, the Temple of Concord (430 BC), which is one of the most complete ancient Greek temples, due in part to it having been turned into a christian basilica in 597 AD.

"The Temple of Concordia has a peristatis of 6 x 13 columns built over a basement of 39.44 x 16.91 m; each Doric column has twenty grooves and a slight entasis, and is surmounted by an architrave with triglyphs and metopes; also perfectly preserved are the tympani. The cella, preceded by a pronaos, is accessed by a single step; also existing are the pylons with the stairs which allowed to reach the roof and, over the cella's walls and in the blocks of the peristasis entablature, the holes for the wooden beam of the ceiling. The exterior and the interior of the temple were covered by polychrome stucco. The upper frame had gutters with lion-like protomes, while the roof was covered by marble tiles."

Below, the Temple of Herakles.  "Stylistically, the temple belongs to the last years of the 6th century BC. It has been also suggested that this temple was one of first built under Theron. Also the entablature, of which parts have been found, would date it to the 470-460s or the middle 5th century BC (though the more recent remains could be a replacement of the older ones). One hypothesis is that the temple was begun before the Battle of Himera, to be completed only in the following decades. Polyaenus mentions a temple of Athena being built under Theron outside the city, which could be identified with that of "Hercules", though also with a new one in the inner acropolis."

Above, a slave holds a mirror for a woman.

*All photos and content property of Jack Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)