I know I said that I would post my results from each day (12/21-23/2008), but my hostel lied about having internet access, and I couldn’t find an internet cafe. As a result, I wrote everything up by hand and never really organized it, so now is my opportunity to do so. Here’s the basic synopsis: On Saturday, I left Rome for Naples, and I arrived there at night. I spent all day on Sunday at the Cumae site, patchy/confusing transportation time excepted. My focus that say was on the Temple of Apollo so-called Temple of Jupiter. I devoted all of Tuesday to the cave of the Sibyl. Because of my findings, I actually went to Lake Avernus on Wednesday. I departed Italy early Thursday morning; I had done everything I needed to, and Italy, being extremely Catholic, was shutting down for Christmas – the already poor transportation to the archaeological sites was going to turn into a total nightmare, anyway, and the site was going to be closed on the 24th and the 25th. There was nothing left for me to look into, so I am satisfied with how it went.
To begin with, here’s the relevant part of my research proposal:

The Cumaean Sibyl is my intended topic of senior research. I plan to begin my paper with historical background on the Sibyl and a description of her influences on Rome, mainly through the Sibylline Books. From this point, I would like to transition to philological analysis and focus on how Vergil adapts the historical Sibyl to the context of the Aeneid. I am particularly interested in how Vergil’s Sibyl receives her prophecies from Apollo instead of speaking her own prophecies as other traditions say she did. I also plan to use the fourth poem of the Eclogues in my analysis of Vergil’s Sibyl. My hope is to establish a link between the role of the Sibyl and the role of the poet, and discuss any implications which Sibylline prophecy holds for imperial Roman politics. At this point, I intend to transition to a discussion of the Sibyl’s role in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Because Ovid reconsiders Vergil’s characters and imparts to them an even greater literary and political significance, I expect that the discussion of Ovid’s Sibyl will be the culmination of my research project.
After completing my fall 2008 study abroad program in Italy, I would like to conduct research for my thesis project at the Antro della Sibilla, the cave in Cuma (a town north of Naples) where the historical Sibyl resided. I plan to study the layout of the site and take photographs for the background information section of my paper. My most important goal, however, is to collect evidence for an argument which I plan to develop in my paper. As I mentioned before, Vergil’s Sibyl delivers her prophecies under the inspiration of the god Apollo. Nevertheless, Vergil also describes how the Sibyl would write down her prophecies on leaves, which would then be scattered by the winds, rendering them useless to the person consulting the Sibyl. Prophecy involving leaves recalls Dodona, the location of an oracle of the Greek god Zeus, whom the Romans, including Vergil, associated with the Roman god Jupiter. The same hill which holds the Antro della Sibilla also contains on it the ruins of both a temple to Apollo and a temple to Jupiter.
The existence of the two temples is significant to my research because both gods share the domain of prophecy, but Jupiter is Roman god, while Apollo was adopted from the Greeks. In Vergil’s lifetime, the emperor Augustus had relocated the Sibylline Books within Rome from the temple of Capitoline Jupiter to the temple of Palatine Apollo. In effect, the possession of a vision of Rome’s future transferred from the most powerful native deity to a god of a conquered people. Therefore, I believe that Vergil connected the symbolic significance of the relocation of the Sibylline Books to his literary Sibyl. Right before Aeneas, the protagonist of the epic, invades Italy, he must consult the Sibyl when she is speaking under the influence of Apollo, not prophesying through Jupiter’s leaves. The Sibyl’s different types of inspiration by the two gods who also happen to have temples on her hill is possibly then a commentary Roman imperialism and the implications of the absorption of foreign cultures.
I plan to study the relationship between the location and characteristics of each of the three sites in order to find support for my argument. I expect that differences in the elevation, size, and architectural characteristics of the two temples will reveal the ways in which the Romans perceived the importance of each of the two gods in the context of the other buildings which share the hill.

That’s what I was doing in Cumae.

As I mentioned above, I devoted my first day to the so-called Temple of Jupiter and the Temple of Apollo. I was immediately glad that I studied the site in person, or else my entire thesis would have been thrown off by a bad assumption. As it turns out, the Temple of Jupiter, although it does sit higher on the acropolis than the Temple of Apollo, has no visual impact whatsoever; a trail winds back along a gradual slope that eventually leads to the top, where the temple is shrouded by ilex trees.

The hill on the left is where the so-called ToJ is. To the right of the rock on the right in the foreground of the picture and a little higher up is the Temple of Apollo. Downhill, behind and to the right of the observer, is the Forum. See what I mean by "no visual impact"?

The hill on the left is where the so-called ToJ is. To the right of the rock on the right in the foreground of the picture and a little higher up is the Temple of Apollo. Downhill, behind and to the right of the observer, is the Forum. See what I mean by "no visual impact"?

Even assuming that the top of the hill had been cleared of trees back then (unlikely, the area was even then known for ilex forests), the distance makes it invisible to someone standing in the Forum of the town (or roughly thereabouts; the Forum is currently closed). There’s another big problem; there is really no evidence that the temple was in fact a Temple of Jupiter. In the 18th Century, some scholars decided that the lofty position of the temple meant that it belonged to the sky-god. That’s barely a reason to name it the Temple of Jupiter, but the name, like so many others in archaeology, became conventional anyway. There’s already a Capitolium in the Forum, so it’s not like Jupiter was underrepresented in Cumae. The structure itself is difficult to study because it was converted into a basilica, which caused some significant changes, then it was burned in the the Neapolitan invasion. Part of the podium is the only remnant of the Greek phase, and the remaining opus reticulatum walls are from the Augustan phase. There’s not so much as a single Corinthian column to suggest even the possibility that the temple belonged to Jupiter.

The remnants of the so-called Temple of Jupiter. Lame.

The remnants of the so-called Temple of Jupiter. Lame.

As I am about to discuss, the Augustan renovations to the Temple of Apollo were much more impressive, and the fact that the ID of the Temple of Apollo is secure, while the ID of the Temple of Jupiter is obscure, is telling in its own right; The Temple of Apollo was far more important. As for my question as to whether there is a shift in emphasis from Jupiter to Apollo, I seriously doubt it. Livy, writing a bit later than Vergil, tells the story of the Sibyl and Tarquinius Priscus, in which the Sibylline books are written on palm leaves. My gut instinct (versus my informed academic opinion) says that he must have had another source than Vergil; why would the leaves get mixed up by the winds if the Sibyl could put them in book format? Anyway, my point is that there is an emphasis on Apollo, but no conscious detraction from Jupiter’s status.

My suspicions concerning the Temple of Apollo seem to have been correct – the temple does sit right on top of the Antro della Sibilla; although erosion caused the current entrance to the cave to be located several meters from the space directly below the temple, the remains of the cave’s walls can still be observed until they terminate almost directly under the terrace supporting the temple.

This picture is taken at roughly the vantage point from the bottom of the Augustan ramp in front of the TOA (the ramp is now blocked off). The green bit of stone that cuts the bottom of the photo in half is where the entrance to the Antro della Sibilla used to be. The white fence parallel to it demarcates the Crypta Romana.

This picture is taken at roughly the vantage point from the bottom of the Augustan ramp in front of the TOA (the ramp is now blocked off). The green bit of stone that cuts the bottom of the photo in half is where the entrance to the Antro della Sibilla used to be. The white fence parallel to it demarcates the Crypta Romana.

The original Greek temple was peripteral and set on a large stylobate on a north-south axis. Augustus actually reoriented the temple to an east-west axis, placing a massive porch on the front of the temple, creating what is called a transverse cella, which means that the front of the temple sits on the long, rather than the short, side of the rectangular inner chamber of the temple. Transverse cellae are extremely rare in Roman architecture; the only examples I can think of off the top of my head are the Temple to Veiovis and the Temple of Concord in Rome. The objective seems to have been to make the temple dominate the acropolis. From the forum and the road running down the opposite mountains, the temple would have been clearly visible to anyone approaching the city.

The Augustan-age entrance to the TOA: a really big porch.

The Augustan-age entrance to the TOA: a really big porch.

Due to the sheer size of the temple, I believe that the colossal temple to Apollo that Vergil describes Daedalus building is actually a hyperbolic reference to the Augustan Temple of Apollo at Cumae. McKay (A.G. McKay, Cumae and the Phlegraean Fields (Hamilton, Ontario: Cromlech Press, 1972)) theorizes that the doors of Vergil’s Temple of Apollo at Cumae are a reference to the bronze doors on the Temple of Palatine Apollo in Rome (162-4), where Augustus placed the restored Sibylline Books. Interestingly, at the same time as Augustus renovated the two temples, he monumentalized the Antro della Sibilla and restored the cult activity there. Just as he had the Sibylline Books recreated, he also had the Sibyl recreated, so to speak. Nevertheless, there is an issue of dating that matters in my project: Did Vergil write about Cumae in response to Augustus’ restorations, or did Augustus restore the acropolis because Vergil wrote about it so movingly. I read one article that suggests the latter, but I am not entirely convinced. I’ll conclude this section with a quote from the signs around the archaeological park, which are actually from a legitimate source: “The temple, in fact, became the symbol of the alliance between Apollo and the gens Iulia, which according to the Sybilline [sic] oracle was destined to dominate the world.”

Although my focus on this day was the two temples, I noticed something interesting on the western outer wall of the Antro della Sibilla. In three different spots, lunar calendars are cut into the stone.

A lunar calendar on the outer west wall of the Antro della Sibilla.

A lunar calendar on the outer west wall of the Antro della Sibilla.

Apparently, the west side is where the moon would have rose, so it is appropriate. Some of my research linked these to cult activity related to either Artemis or Hera. There is, after all, evidence that Hera was the inspiring deity for the Sibyl before Apollo. Since I am a little uncertain as to the exact direction in which I am taking my paper, I couldn’t say if this will ultimately be relevant to my project, but it is noteworthy all the same.

This concludes the overview of my findings from Day 1.

Comments

One Response to “Research in Cumae: Day 1 (72 hours remain)”

  1. stan gibbons on April 30th, 2010 7:46 am

    I have some stories about my visit to Lake Avernus & Cumae from 40 years ago if anybody is interested as I would be in getting some updates !

    Stan

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