Today, my Ancient City class went to the general area of the Forum Boarium, the cow market. The area is associated with Hercules. Legend has it, Hercules, driving the cattle of Geryon from Spain to Greece, stopped in the area that would become Rome. His stop there didn’t work out so well for Cacus, to say the least. Anyway, Livy and Ovid claim that the area actually was a cow market, and I’m prepared to accept that.

My class started in the Sanctuary of S. Omobono, where twin temples once stood, one to Mater Matuta (Goddess of Pretty Much Everything, Including Dawn, Healing, Childbirth, and the Sea), and the other to Fortuna. There is a tradition that Servius Tullius built temples in that area, and since one layer dates to the 6th C. BCE, I find it more fun to believe that he built them than to try to look for the “facts.” I guess I’ll never be an archaeologist, and that’s fine with me.

Next, we saw the ruins of temples to Janus, Juno, and Spes (Hope) along the triumphal route. The current church on the site has the old columns built into the side of the building. The three temples are 3rd C. BCE-ish, and were built by different generals at different times. From there, it was just a few blocks to the Temple of Portunus, which is currently under renovation. It’s a shame we couldn’t go inside – the building is preserved very well. The Round Temple also sits in that area, and it is generally thought to have been dedicated to Hercules Victor. Once again, I’ll believe that, given the tradition surrounding the area. Besides, the temple has Corinthian columns, which I think Vitruvius says are appropriate for Hercules. Of course, when you throw in all the other gods who apparently like over-the-top, tacky architecture, my argument for accepting mythology hardly stands. Okay, Corinthian isn’t that bad; I just prefer the style of the old Etruscan temples.

The best part of the trip was the Arch of the Argentarii, which is not an arch at all, but a gateway. It has a sacrifice scene depicted on the lower part, images of the Septimius Severus’ happy family in the middle, and military scenes up top. This picture is how I feel about the Greek test next week:

Bye, cow!

Bye, cow!

My favorite part was the relief above the cow sacrifice scene. I’ll show it to you first.

No more Geta

Lacuna, Inc. - The Early Days

See the blank space next to the woman? That’s where Emperor Caracalla’s brother, Geta, used to be. Caracalla killed him, then went through all the trouble of erasing his memory. I don’t find that humorous at Geta’s expense, but rather at the idea that Caracalla could do something that awful and then pretend it never happened. Maybe self-deception (in addition to the pathetic attempt to deceive the public) on that scale is amusing because we lie to ourselves so much every day that we simultaneously identify with the behavior, but take comfort in the fact that our dishonesty is relatively minor. Or, maybe I just have a distorted sense of humor, but I deceive myself by believing the former explanation.

Later today, I went running in the park. This particular park is absolutely gorgeous – the grounds belonged to the villa of one of the prominant Roman families sometime around the Renaissance, or at least I think that’s the history. The sculptures, fountains, and gardens are spectacular. I think some of the stonework was stolen from Roman buildings, which is a fairly common sight in Rome. There are some great hills, too, and the pond has swans in it. I tried every route I could find, and when I was pretty sure I had done all of them and had run somewhere over 5k, it occured to me that it would be really great to excercise on the Campus Martius. So, I went with the impulse and ran down the hill to Trastevere, over the Tiber, and past the Largo Argentina. This span of the run was perfect; I had “Falling Down” by Atreyu seemingly synchronized with my pulse, the sun was setting over the Tiber, and I felt like I could run forever. It was all wonderfully like a montage in a movie, until I had a quintessentially-Susie moment and tripped on a loose cobblestone. Typical. Not only did I fall forward, the force of it (and trying not to hit my head on the pavement) turned into a sort of half suicide dive, so I ended up on my back. Needless to say, everyone around was laughing as I hastily jumped up and kept running. Hey, I’m a big believer in Schadenfreude, so I am happy to have been the source of it today. Anyway, I meant to go to the Piazza Navona, but I couldn’t find it, and ended up somewhere called the Piazza Farnesi. It was getting dark, so I followed the alleys to Lungotevere and went to Trastevere from there. There’s a huge travertine staircase that provides a sort of shortcut up the Janiculum, so I ran up that, just for grins. The total time came out to about two and a half hours, and it was probably the most I have ever enjoyed running since my lacrosse career ended.

It’s time to do some reading. There’s only one day left until Sulmona!


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