Tag Archives: romans

Romans on the Dalmatian Coast

There are a number of Roman ruins along the Dalmatian coast. I love Roman ruins, frustrated archaeologist that I am. But some of the most beautiful things were the small things, these exquisite pieces of metal and ivory and glass.

Split archeological museum

These are from the museum in Split, look how wondrous this workmanship is.

Split archeological museum

Split archeological museum

This extraordinary hand, foregrounded against a collection of rings

Split archeological museum

stork battle!

Split archeological museum

fascinations of ancient melted glass (and dice)

Split archeological museum

Split archeological museum

Glass unmelted:

Split archeological museum

Split archeological museum

The old city of Split is built within the walls of Diocletian’s palace itself, pieces of Roman architecture knitted within its walls and cellars. The most amazing cellars lie beneath the city, matching the layout of the palace that once stood above.

Split

An old olive press

Split

The cathedral, once Diocletian’s mausoleum. I read this, about the fall of Salona:

The Latin inhabitants of these ruined cities fled for sanctuary to the Adriatic islands off the coast. As a peace of sorts returned, many of them made their way back to the mainland, where they laid the foundations of two new cities. In central Dalmatia, the refugees from Salona moved into the vast, ruined palace of the Emperor Diocletian, 6 located a few miles away from Salona at Spalato. In this giant hulk with its vast walls, sixteen towers, huge mausoleum, reception halls, libraries, cavernous underground cellars and hundreds of other rooms, the survivors of the barbarian onslaught created the city of Split. They converted the mausoleum of this notorious persecutor of Christians into a cathedral and dedicated it to St Duje, after Bishop Domnius of Salona, one of the victims of Diocletian’s purges. The watchtower over the main entrance was converted into small churches, two of which, St Martin’s and Our Lady of the Belfry, survive. The refugees from Epidaurum moved a short distance down the coast and founded another new city, which was to become known as Ragusa, or Dubrovnik (Tanner, M. (2001). Croatia : A Nation Forged in War).

My pics of the dome didn’t work somehow, but here’s the space.

Split Katedrala Sv. Duje

The temple of Jupiter.

Split

We got on a bus and traveled to the city of Salona. From the museum’s website:

Initially, Salona had been the coastal stronghold and the port of the Illyrian Delmats in the immediate vicinity of the ancient Greek colonies Tragurion and Epetion. Along with the local Illyrian population and the Greek settlers, Salona was at the time inhabited by a large Italic community. Following the civil war between Caesar and Pompey in 48 B.C., Salona was granted the status of a Roman colony thus becoming the centre of Illyricum and later of the province of Dalmatia.

It is massive, the coliseum preserved as a memory of the violence just as central to their civilisation as the beauty and the warm baths.

Salona

Salona

Salona

Salona

Salona

One last note, there were griffons. There were a number of griffons. They were beautiful.

Salona

Split archeological museum

Romans In Dalmatia

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The Rabat Domvs Romanus

Rabat’s Domvs Romanus was discovered in 1881 by gardeners planting trees in Howard Garden. Excavated by Dr A. A. Caruana in 1881. They found a number of Islamic graves and some of the mosaics — the mosaics are extraordinary and allow the fairly precise dating of their placement with a span of 50 years at the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 1st century BC. Sadly the British went ahead and destroyed a big chunk of it, cutting the road to Mtarfa railway through the north end in 1899. It was excavated anew by Temmi Zammit in 1922. Which, well, it was early days in archaeology, so loads of interesting things have been lost. We both remember a reference to the cartloads of pottery that were catalogued and then destroyed — but can’t remember where we read this. It wasn’t here. Ah well.

There is a little museum here, containing finds both from the site as well as a few donated from elsewhere. They had these amazing figurines from between the 1st and 3rd Century AD, the middle one is, of course, my favourite. The accompanying notice describes the figure as Eegemone (il cadottiero) — though I imagine this may be Egemone, il condottiero — and the one on the right Ermanio (il vecchio recalvostro). This is the only one for whom provenance is known, found in St Paul’s Square, Mdina. There is nothing about the significance of the names.

Rabat -- Domus Romanus

Then there is this wonderful glass drinking vessel known as a Rython, with this amazing snail’s head, found in a tomb (but which? no one knows) in Rabat, c 1st Century AD. The glass chalice to the right is also lovely:

Rabat -- Domus Romanus

Bonnano in Malta: Phoenician, Punic, and Roman gives two wonderful maps. One is of the site as a whole, with a look at the system of cisterns providing water to the house.

The second shows just the villa itself, with the areas where the mosaics were found:

There was the Triclinium, where dining happened, where the pater familias conducted all of his business — where once there were amazing mosaics, mostly gone but what remains of them are so beautiful with their tiny pieces and fine shadings:

Rabat -- Domus Romanus

Such extraordinary mosaics. They were later repaired with coarse tiles.

Rabat -- Domus Romanus

Rabat -- Domus Romanus

I am rather in awe of these floors. There is a display about the cocciopesto floor — believed to have originated in Carthage (those Phoenicians again) around the 4th Century BC, sometimes referred to as Pavimentum Punicum. Crushed pottery was mixed with lime to form a cheap, resistant material — their red colour came from from crushed pottery. This was often combined with white marble tesserae to create simple designs, then called opus signinum. Opus sculatum is the lozenge shaped tiles, put together to form a perspective cube. Such floors were found in almost all Roman sites in Malta, and still found today in fact. Those found here are considered some of the finest in the Mediterranean. No question why (I am just sad glass had to come between us):

Rabat -- Domus Romanus

Rabat -- Domus Romanus

Masks lined these floors. Signage states they probably drew on Greek New Comedy — they almost certainly represent a story but no way to know now what that may have been. I find them very eerie with their open mouths, can’t quite imagine wanting them to gape at me from the floors of my home. .

Rabat -- Domus Romanus

Rabat -- Domus Romanus

Rabat -- Domus Romanus

The floors were built over buried amphora, to control the damp…

Rabat -- Domus Romanus

There are quotations from Vitruvius here from his book on architecture, which has re-entered my list of things to read.

The mosaics, surely, would be enough to demonstrate this was the villa of someone very high status, but in addition very fine Imperial sculptures were also found here — of Claudius and his family probably. A rare thing to have the emperor and his family in your home. Like the masks, I don’t think I would have much appreciated that either.

The museum also holds this statue, found elsewhere in Mdina, which gets much more mention in the books. A goddess, unknown, with an ‘Isis knot’ under her breast, a ‘Lybian’ style to her hair, an eastern necklace.

Rabat - Domus Romana

Outside, staring at the ruins of other poorer homes aligned along a long-buried street

Rabat -- Domus Romanus

A jumble of bits and pieces here

Rabat -- Domus Romanus

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Romans & Socialists, Caerleon & Newport

We began our Sunday (not last Sunday either, but the Sunday before) in Newport. A bit grim, Newport. What is not permanently shut down is shut down for the Sunday…but there are burgeoning signs of life and it is the kind of place I like to imagine arriving at its possibilities of beauty and full employment and a bustling centre catering to the needs of its current residents. This probably will not happen under capitalism as we know it.

Newport

Cupcakes may be a good start, and this arcade could contribute to that start — it would certainly be a better one that the desultory big apartment box development of seemingly even shittier quality than London’s ‘luxury flats along the Thames’, though that seems hard to fathom.

Newport

We stood in front of this entance waiting for the bus that would take us to Caerleon, only £1 and 15 minutes away. It was beautiful, unexpected and beautiful.

Caerleon, Wales

The two small, but quite wonderful museums of Roman life there were not unexpected. I knew this had been a centre for Roman troops, that a huge bath complex had existed here, villas, barracks, and an amphitheater. Nothing had quite prepared me for how cool, and empty, the amphitheater was.

Caerleon, Wales

Caerleon, Wales

Nor did I have any idea that Arthur Machen, Arthur Machen of A London Adventure, or the Art of Wandering as well as of The Imposters was born here, though he left when he was two for a village named Llanddewi Fach five miles away. Arthur Machen who I quite adore.

Caerleon, Wales

His house even has one of these, built since he lived there of course, but I imagine using the same cellars:

Caerleon, Wales

We didn’t get reservations at the restaurant in the nice and ancient priory next door, but did have a pint in the lovely Hanbury Inn, where, by the way, Tennyson began work on ‘Idylls of the King’:

Caerleon, Wales

There were chartists here too, of course, but the plaque mentioning them is more about the walls built to defend against them. Only a bit of that is still standing, thank god.

Caerleon, Wales

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We couldn’t dally, we walked back to Newport. A walk partially along the river, partially along the motorway, strong in contrasts and industrial grit but also some pigs. I like those walks if I’m honest.

Caerleon To Newport, Wales

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And then? Fish & chips, delicious fish & chips in the Harbour fish bar, and then to see friend Fox and Thee Faction, and my new music crush, Helen Love at a fundraising gig in Le Pub as part of the We Shall Overcome weekend — from Thee Faction’s website:

The weekend acknowledges two things. First, it acknowledges the horrendous dismantling of society that the Tories have been pursuing. We have never been so socially insecure since before 1945. There is no safety net we can reliably fall back on. Everything is precarious. So everyone is a failed pay cheque or two away from absolute destitution. And that means that an enormous number of us are already there. Secondly, it acknowledges that every night socially and politically conscious musicians are busy, in ones, twos, threes, fours, playing in pubs and clubs across the land, doing their bit and making a little bit of noise to a relatively small number of people.

Comrade Joe Solo has done phenomenal work to piece this whole thing together. There are well over 200 events happening, under one fist.

Cool to be a little piece of something like that.

Newport

Newport

Newport

I keep realising I leave it too long between gigs, great music, pints, awesome pubs like this one, and toilets that entertain.

Newport

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