Eάλω η Πόλις remembers the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans on the 29th of May 1453. Tabula Peutingeriana, one of the most important Late Roman Itineraries, presents the city of Constantinople in an interesting way.
Modern English dictionaries define the word Itinerary as “a detailed plan for a journey, especially a list of places to visit.” Did you know that an Itinerarium (plural: Itineraria) was an Ancient Roman road map where cities, villages, Mansiones and Mutationes were listed, with the intervening distances marked?
What we know today about Rome’s road system comes from one such Itinerarium, the famous Tabula Peutingeriana, named for its former owner, Conrad Peutinger, a German humanist. Tabula Peutingeriana is a 13th-century copy of an antique world Itinerarium of Roman roads from the British Isles up to India and Central Asia, created sometime around the 4th century A.D. The entire map was originally a long, narrow parchment roll and in its present state measures 6.75 meters long but only 34 centimetres wide. https://www.euratlas.net/cartogra/peutinger/
At first sight, the Tabula Peutingeriana looks very unlike any modern map. It shows the entire Roman world in full colour, including cities, the locations of lighthouses, bridges, inns, tunnels, and most importantly, all the major Roman roads are listed. The distances between various cities and landmarks are marked. But, the landmass and the seas have been stretched and flattened. The Mediterranean has been reduced to a thin strip of water, more like a river than a sea. Instead of being oriented from north to south, the map, which is only 34 cm wide, works from west to east. https://digitalmapsoftheancientworld.com/ancient-maps/tabula-peutingeriana/
The director of the Department of Manuscripts, Autographs and Closed Collections at the Austrian National Library, Andreas Fingernagel, says it is an intensely practical document. “The red lines are the main roads. Every so often there is a little hook along the red lines which represents a rest stop – and the distance between hooks was one day’s travel… Every so often there is a pictogram of a building to show you that there was a hotel or a spa where you could stay, some of the buildings have large courtyards – a sign of more luxurious accommodation,” he said.
For a PowerPoint on Tabula Peutingeriana, please… Click HERE!
“The Galerian Complex, the most important monumental group in Thessaloniki, was built at the turning-point of two worlds, the Roman and Byzantine. Its erection began in the late 3rd century-early 4th century AD when the Caesar Galerius Valerianus Maximianus (293-311 AD) chose Thessaloniki as the seat of the eastern part of the Roman Empire.” The Small Arch of Galerius found in the Octagon area of the Complex, valued and cherished, is exhibited today in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. http://galeriuspalace.culture.gr/en/
One of the most important buildings within the Galerian Complex, the Octagon is a significant and luxurious structure worth exploring. It was the first important building that visitors arriving at the Palace by sea would enter and be dazzled. Facing the glorious Thermaic Golf of Thessaloniki, the Octagon is massive and opulent. All Palace buildings were meant to impress the visitor and set the tone… the Octagon area did an excellent job!
Excavation of this amazing structure started in 1950 and continued up until 1981, bringing to light all that survives today. A splendid conservation and restoration program continued and in 2008, the archaeological site of the Palace of Galerius in Thessaloniki was awarded a EUROPA NOSTRA medal by the European Union. Today, the Galerian Complex, right in the heart of the city, is one of the most popular archaeological sites in Thessaloniki.
… Agathoniki was on an official visit to the Court of Emperor Galerius in Thessaloniki… powerful and rich, she was treated with respect for her age and the loyal services extended to the Emperor… She was modestly dressed but her gifts to the Emperor were valuable and exotic, coming all the way from Seres, the mythical lands of the East. She was guided to enter the Palace Complex through the grand, South Peristyle Court, its Porticos adorned with magnificent floor mosaics and a beautiful garden in the center. It was her first visit to Thessaloniki and she enjoyed every single thing she saw… she was, however, on a mission, so she briskly walked through a triple arch, a Tribelon with two columns, to enter an impressive Vestibule with two semi-circular niches on its narrow ends. She stopped for a minute to compose herself, reflect on her mission, and confidently entered the grandest room of the Palace… the domed Octagon! The room was magnificent! Its walls were covered with multicoloured marble revetments and square panels intricately worked in the opus sectile technique. The floor, featuring marble geometric motifs, created simple yet elegant chromatic oppositions… and there were four different Emblemata, right where she was standing, worthy of a great master! What a wonderful Audience Hall this is, she thought, as the entrance of the Emperor brought her to her knees…
Agathoniki, the imaginary visitor of our story, saw many more wonderful rooms and artefacts in the Palace of Galerius… My favourite artefact, still surviving today, is a small, marble Arch. Discovered at the north end of the eastern portico of the South Peristyle Court, the Small Marble Arch crowned a horseshoe-shaped niche framed by pilasters. This Arch, known by the conventional name “The Small Arch of Galerius”, is on display in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. Could this small, luxuriously adorned, niche be a Palace Temple?
This Arch, known today as “The Small Arch of Galerius”, is on display in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. According to Thessaloniki Museum experts, “The arch, a work of high artistic quality, is the product of a local workshop in Thessaloniki. The rich relief decorations occupy three sides of the arch. The main side depicts two men from the East, possibly Persians, raising two circular medallions with their hands. The right medallion depicts Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus, while the left one initially depicted his wife, Galeria Valeria. During a later intervention, after Galerius’ death, a mural crown was added to the female portrait. This alteration transformed the female bust into the depiction of a deity, most probably the “Tyche (fortune) of Thessaloniki”, who accompanied Galerius, the deified ruler of the city. Two winged Eros figures holding a garland fill the space between the medallions. Another medallion with a bust of Dionysos is located at the inner part of the arch, surrounded by vine branches. The right side of the arch depicts the hooved god Pan playing a pipe and holding a lagobolon (stick for hunting hares). The left side depicts a maenad.” http://galeriuspalace.culture.gr/en/monuments/oktagono/ and https://www.amth.gr/en/exhibitions/highlights
Along with my Grade 6 students, we study the history of Thessaloniki, visit the Archaeological Site of the Galerian Complex and prepare a RWAP (Research-Writing-Art-Project) that they thoroughly enjoy…
For a PowerPoint on the Galerian Complex Octagon Hall, please click HERE!
For a student RWAP on the Small Arch of Galerius, please click HERE!
For examples of Student RWAP Work, please click HERE!
Known as the “most noble girl, the nobilissima puella” Aelia Galla Placidia is still today, revered for her family lineage, her astonishing life and her magnificent Mausoleum in Ravenna!
The Gold Medallion depicting Galla Placidia, splendidly framed and mounted as a pendant, in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, made me think. She is presented to us in profile, her hair tightly braided, wearing a tiara with three rows of pearls. She is heavily adorned with jewelry. She wears ear pendants and a necklace with more precious pearls. She is depicted as a modest, yet fashionable lady. Her peplum, fastened by a fibula adorned with yet more pearls, covers her embroidered tunic, adorned with a Chi-Rho ornament on her shoulder. What a life she had! Imperial daughter, wife, and mother…
Galla Placidia was born in Constantinople, between 388 and 392, to Emperor
Theodosius I (ruled 379–395) and his second wife Flavia Galla. She grew up in
Constantinople under the care of her cousin Serena, her mother died in
childbirth in 394, wife of magister militum Stilicho. Serena, an
educated woman and a patroness of the arts, is probably responsible for the classical
education Galla Placidia received, as well as her skills in weaving and the art
of embroidery. The Roman princess, summoned by her father, was in Milan, in
395, where Theodosius I died.
It seems that Placidia remained in Italy, and was in Rome, in 408, when the Visigoths of Alaric I attacked. During these turbulent years, Placidia agreed to the execution of her cousin Serena. The following years were not easy for the “nobilissima puella.” By 410, she was a captive of the Goths and taken to Gaul, where, in 414 at Narbonne, with extravagance and pomp, she was married to the Visigoth chieftain Athaulf, King of the Visigoths from 414 to 415. When Athaulf was murdered in 415, she was once more taken captive by her husband’s enemies, “treated with cruel and wanton insult.” She was apparently forced to walk more than twelve miles along with the crowd of captives, suffering with such dignity that raised opposition to her enemies, leading to the assassination of their ruler, Sigeric. The new Visigoth leader was Wallia, Ataulf’s relative, and her supporter.
Ιn 416, Galla Placidia was finally returned to the Romans and soon after, her half-brother Honorius, Emperor of the West, forced her to marry the powerful Roman general Constantius. In 421, as Constantius III, Placidia’s husband became co-emperor in the West and she was proclaimed Augusta (Empress). Constantius’s death in the same year started a new set of unpleasant events for Galla Placidia. Emperor Honorius behaved towards her with “indecent familiarity,” they quarreled openly, and Placidia had no other choice than flee Ravenna with her children, seeking refuge in Constantinople with her nephew, the Eastern Emperor Theodosius II (402-450).
During the final years of her life, Galla Placidia enjoyed the political power she was familiar with. On August 15, 423, Honorius died and on October 23, 425, her son, Valentinian III, was proclaimed Emperor of the Western Roman Empire. For twelve years Placidia served as Valentinian’s regent seeking to balance the power of rival, ambitious generals and thus, protect the well-being of the Empire. Galla Placidia died in Rome on the 27th of November, 450. Her final resting place is unknown. It seems unclear whether the famous Mausoleum in Ravenna was intended for Galla Placidia’s resting place. http://www.roman-emperors.org/galla.htm
Honorius and Galla Placidia are the Protagonists in a “Poem for two Voices” student Activity inspired by the Velp Medallions. The Student Activity Worksheet is… HERE!
The Pompeiian Portraits of Distinction shows a young couple, stylish, bold and educated at the prime of their life. They are both adorable in the way she brings her stylus to her lips, he holds his papyrus under his chin. They are both pensive… contemplative. They make you wonder… are they thinking of something they have just read or are they pondering on what they are about to write?
According to the experts at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, the two portraits are amazing examples of the IV Pompeian style, discovered in Pompeii on May 24th, 1760. They were among the first discoveries made and dazzled the world! The small painting of “Sappho” holding a stylus and wax tablets, is the companion of the male portrait, depicting a young man holding a Papyrus Roll just under his chin, quite romantic looking, with blondish hair and wearing a lush laurel wreath.
Heraklitos and the Asarotos Oikos Mosaic is one of the many reasons why you should visit the Gregoriano Profano Museum in the Vatican! It’s an exhibit I dearly love, a mosaic that amuses me, tests my observation… a work of art of the highest quality!
The story of the Asarotos Oikos theme in mosaic-work takes us back to the Hellenistic Period, to the great city of Pergamon on the coast of Asia Minor, and to a legendary mosaicist, called Sosus (εκ Περγάμου ψηφιδογράφος Σώσος). Pliny the Elder describes Hellenistic mosaic making and Sosus’s accomplishments as “…Paved floors originated among the Greeks and were skilfully embellished with a kind of paintwork until this was superseded by mosaics. In this latter field the most famous exponent was Sosus, who at Pergamum laid the floor of what is known in Greek as ‘the Unswept Room’ because, by means of small cubes tinted in various shades, he represented on the floor refuse from the dinner table and other sweepings, malting them appear as if they had been left there…” Pliny, Natural History, 36.60.25 https://www.loebclassics.com/view/pliny_elder-natural_history/1938/pb_LCL419.145.xml?readMode=reader
The Gregoriano Profano Museum in the Vatican has one of the finest Asarotos Oikos mosaics, carefully executed and brightly colored. It was discovered in 1833, on the Aventine Hill in Rome, and as the archaeologists established, it decorated the dining room floor of a Hadrian period villa. This is a unique mosaic, the masterpiece of Heraklitos, the mosaicist, proud to sign his name.
Heraklitos created a complex floor mosaic composition. The threshold of the triclinium (the Roman dining-room) greeted guests with a design of theatrical masks, ritual objects, and the mosaicist’s signature! The central mosaic decoration presented a complex Nilotic scene, now mostly destroyed. The Assarotos Oikos themed mosaic, boarder-like, covered the four sides of the room depicting, on a white background, “…the debris of a banquet, the remains that would normally be swept away.” It is amusing for me to try to identify what Heraklitos depicted on this amazing floor… fruit, leafy vegetables, lobster and crab claws, clams and oysters, sea urchins, chicken bones, and nutshells, even a tiny mouse, gnawing on a walnut shell. I am equally amazed at the artist’s skill to demonstrate an understanding of three-dimentionality by using contrasting colors and casting shadows against the white floor background. http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/museo-gregoriano-profano/Mosaico-dell-asarotos-oikos.html
An interesting article titled “The asàrotos òikos mosaic as an elite status symbol” by Ehud Fathy of the Tel Aviv University provides an interesting explanation of how we should read this mosaic theme. “The asàrotos òikos mosaics have all been discovered exclusively in the domestic spaces of the Roman elite. The manufacturing of such detailed mosaics must have demanded great financial investment, and while the mosaics must have amused the guests with their Trompe-l’œil qualities, it is hard to believe that such an expenditure was made with this sole purpose in mind. The aim of this article is to explore the asàrotos òikos mosaics as a Roman status symbol of elitist erudition… ” file:///C:/Users/aspil/Downloads/Dialnet-TheAsarotosOikosMosaicAsAnEliteStatusSymbol-6037238%20(1).pdf
For a PowerPoint on the Vatican Asarotos Oikos Mosaic, please… click HERE!
If your Christmas “walking shoes” take you to Oxford, England, go the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology to see Last Supper in Pompeii, a wonderful Exhibition on the Roman love affair with food and wine! Inspiration for this Exhibition comes from Pompeii, this amazing time capsule of 79 AD Roman life. Dr Paul Roberts, Head of the Ashmolean Department of Antiquities and exhibition curator, says: ‘The evocative names given to the excavations (the Villa of the Mysteries; the House of the Tragic Poet) have inspired everything from Victorian exhibitions, swords-and-sandals romances to countless scholarly works. Our fascination with the doomed people of Pompeii and their everyday lives has never waned. What better connection can we make with them as ordinary people than through their food and drink?’
Last Supper in Pompeii displays 300 objects related to the culinary arts and the role they played in Roman history and culture. Exquisite floor mosaics from the villas of the affluent Pompeiians, frescoes depicting banquets, and statues, fountains or furnishings that decorated famous triclinia, are all present. Precious or humble dining sets and utensils, simple cooking pots and carbonised food that was on the Pompeiian tables when the volcano erupted tell us interesting stories or Roman culinary voyages and cultural connections.
My favourite Exhibition fresco is titled Distribution of Bread (AD 40–79) and comes from the House of the Baker in Pompeii. It shows a man behind a wooden counter handing a loaf of bread to a man, while a young boy reaches up eagerly. The shelves are heaped with loaves of the typical round Pompeiian bread, archaeologists even found carbonized one in its entirety. Scholars today believe that the fresco represents a politician’s free distribution of bread (annona) rather than a baker selling his loaves from a food stall.
The Distribution of Bread is a fascinating Pompeian fresco. I like the artist’s ability to create a sense of depth and space through a diagonal composition, his choice of earthy colours with touches of white and aubergine purple to accentuate the depicted figures. I also like the anecdotal details… the well-crafted wooden stall, the herringbone woven basket painted on the left side of the fresco, the abundance of displayed bread loaves… most of all, I like the human touch, the boy, impatient and eager to get his part of the Distributed Bread!
How two great Roman statues can be used to discuss the Roman Government. “Augustus of Primaporta VS Aulus Matellus”is a Project my spirited Grade 6 students enjoy doing for their Social Studies Roman Unit.
A lot of my Projects, I call them RWAP (Research Writing Art Project), ask students to focus on 4 parts: 1. Title 2. Provide colored copies of at least 2 artworks related to their Project, correctly identified. For the correct identification, I expect them to write the name of the artist (if known), the title of the work, date, medium, and current location, 3. Writing Assignment as required, 4. Art Assignment is open to student imagination and creativity.
For the Augustus vs Matellus Project students are asked to study their Social Studies Textbook Unit on Roman Government, and the following Khan Academy articles:
Their Writing Assignment is to 1. Create a Ven Diagram comparing Matellus to Augustus. They are asked to use their RWAP Book and write in Bullet Points their Comments. 2. Write a paragraph presenting which of the two statues they prefer, explaining why by giving at least 3 reasons.
Their Art Assignment
is to “study” the two statues and… Be imaginative! Be creative! Be original!