Italica is a well-preserved Roman city located in modern-day Santiponce, 9 kilometres north of Seville in Spain. The city was founded in 206 BC during the Second Punic War (218-202) when the Roman commander Publius Cornelius Scipio settled his Italian veterans on this site following a victory at the Battle of Ilipa. Although the nearby town of Hispalis (Seville) would always remain a larger city, Italica became an important centre of Roman culture and was awarded the title of colonia. The name Italica reflected the veterans’ Italian origins. Coordinates: 37° 26′ 38″ N, 6° 2′ 48″ W
Felix dies natalis, Roma! (Happy birthday, Rome!) This week on the 21st of April is the traditional date given for the founding of Rome. According to Roman mythology, the founders were Romulus and Remus, twin brothers and supposed sons of the god Mars and the priestess Rhea Silvia. The twins were then abandoned by their parents as babies because of a prophecy that they would overthrow their great-uncle Amulius, but were saved by a she-wolf who nursed them. Romulus killed his brother after a vicious quarrel and went on to establish a city which he named after himself.
Located in the village of Nennig in the delightful Upper Moselle Valley, the Roman Villa Nennig (German: Römische Villa Nennig) houses a richly illustrated gladiatorial mosaic, one of the most important Roman artefacts north of the Alps. Protected by a dedicated building built about 150 years ago and covering an area of roughly 160m2, the mosaic vividly portrays musicians, hunting scenes and gladiatorial contests.
Last year, the Forum Antique de Bavay, located in northern France, hosted a small exhibition devoted to the book Mémoires d’Hadrien (Memoirs of Hadrian). The exhibition sheds light on the genesis of Mémoires d’Hadrien and presents archaeological objects and ancient texts. It provides insight into the meticulous work behind Marguerite Yourcenar’s historic novel, compiling postcards and photographs of works and places relating to her subject, studying all the ancient sources with a passionate and serious enthusiasm. On display are books, manuscripts, statuary, portrait busts, and coins, as well as different artefacts from the time of Hadrian and the Antonines. Fifty works are on loan from the Louvre, the British Museum, Hadrian’s Villa, the Museum Ingres in Montauban, the Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon and the Musée Saint-Raymond in Toulouse. It is the first exhibition in France about Mémoires d’Hadrien.
This month’s masterpiece from Hadrian’s Villa is a series of heavily restored mosaic panels depicting bucolic scenes with animals. The first panel depicts a rocky landscape with a flock of goats peacefully grazing by a stream. A standing bronze statue dressed in a long tunic is standing on a rock. It holds a bunch of grapes in its right hand and a thyrsus in his left hand. The statue is probably an image of the god Dionysos meant to evoke a sacro-idyllic landscape. Dionysus was also considered to be a god of fertility and there seems to be a human phallus represented on the tablet next to the statue. The phallus was a symbol of his power, the ability to create new life.
Hadrian and his travels have often served as the guiding thread for my own travels. However, my recent trip to Turkey had a different focus, the Hittite civilization, with one of the highlights being a visit to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. After dazzling at the magnificent artifacts on display on the main floor of the museum, I discovered that there was also a section dedicated to the Roman period in Ancyra which featured, to my big surprise, parts of a statue of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
Although mentioned several times in the Biblical texts, the actual existence of the Hittites was largely forgotten until the late 19th century. With the discovery of Hattusa in 1834, the city that was for many years the capital of the Hittite Empire, the Hittites were finally recognized as one of the Great Superpowers of the ancient Middle East in the Late Bronze Age.