Month: September 2018

Story of a Mysterious Sword

Story of a Mysterious Sword

It is the oldest metal weapon found today in the Tyrrhenian Sea and among the oldest in the entire Mediterranean basin.

A Spasso con Sara to discover the “Sword of Capo Linaro”.

 

This extraordinary bronze artefact was found in the waters in front of the tip of Capo Linaro. We are in Santa Marinella, just north of Rome, in an area where, during the first half of the third century BC, the Romans founded the maritime colony of Castrum Novum, to control the Etruscan coast of Caere (today Cerveteri).

 

The site of Castrum Novum and its distance from Rome.

The weapon began to tell its story again thanks to a citizen of Santa Marinella. Struck by the extraordinary discoveries that, since 2011, follow one another uninterruptedly in his city, Mr. Ottavio Borzone, decided to hand over the artifact to Flavio Enei, Director of the Civic Museum, after having found it in the cellar of his house among the objects of his father.

 

The “Sword of Capo Linaro”.

 

The “Sword of Capo Linaro” has a cuspidated, double-edged shape, is covered with marine incrustations and has no handle. It is about 43.5 cm long and weighs 380 grams. It dates back, on the basis of some comparisons, to the Recent Bronze Age (1350-1200 BC).

The mystery, however, envelops its origin and there are still many questions that bother archaeologists. The sword could, in fact, be identified either with a weapon that fell into the sea due to a shipwreck or have been thrown into the water specifically for ritual purposes. Considering the changes that have affected the landscape of the area over the centuries, it is also very likely that it belongs to a context located on the mainland, perhaps a tomb near the ancient beach. The raising of the water level along that stretch of coast would therefore have allowed its discovery on a seabed of 2-3 meters.

 

Reconstruction of the variation of the coastline of Ceare.

Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ART & CULTURE, 0 comments
The Roman Theatre of Terracina (Latina, Italy)

The Roman Theatre of Terracina (Latina, Italy)

The Roman theatre represents, without a doubt, the real archaeological dream of Terracina.
A Spasso con Sara to discover this unique archeological site!

 

The theatre of Terracina, located along the northern front of the ancient Forum Aemilianum, occupies an area of about 70 meters by 60 in the area of the square Urbano II (nowaday it doesn’t exist anymore). The location in that specific section of the ancient city was dictated by purely practical reasons. At that point, in fact, it was possible to place a large part of the steps on which the spectators sat (cavea) on the natural slope of the ground.

 

Position of the Roman theatre complex in Terracina (Credits: Google 2018).

 

The building technique (for experts, opus incertum) places it among the oldest in Lazio region. Its original nucleus is, in fact, datable between 70 and 60 BC.

Roman Theatre of Terracina. The red arrow indicates a wall in opus incertum referring to the first phase of construction.

During the first century AD, the complex was affected by a radical restructuring that enhanced its appearance. Refined and coloured marbles, coming from the most remote corners of the empire, replaced the previous local limestone. The modest white mosaic, which was the floor of the first theatre, was replaced by large slabs of marble, some of which are still preserved. Significant changes also affected the stage building. These works, which began under the reign of Augustus (27 BC -14 AD), were probably completed in the phase of his successors (14 AD, the year of establishment of Tiberius – 68 AD, the year of Nero’s death and the end of the Julius-Claudian dynasty).

 

 Roman Theatre of Terracina. The first floor of the complex made of white mosaic.

The maintenance of the theatre was constant throughout the Flavian age (second half of the first century AD) and continued until that of the Severi (late second – early third century AD). Some traces, found in the more recent layers, document, however, a violent fire after which the environments, heavily damaged and left without maintenance, were abandoned. The curtains of the curtain fell and a new story began.

 

You can see…

Archaeological excavations, which have been going on for several years now (the first conference was organized more than 10 years ago), have brought to light a large part of the eastern sector of the theatre and have also traced its western border, obliterated by the presence of modern buildings. During the research, the demolition of a modern house in dilapidated condition and the stratigraphic removal of other buildings, without medieval walls, has allowed the rediscovery of other parts of the complex.

Roman Theatre of Terracina. Image from above and illustrative scheme of the archaeological excavation (The image was shown by Dr. Nicoletta Cassieri during the last conference on the excavations).

 

Climbing along the current Via S. Galba (the small road that runs along the four-sided arch leading to the Foro Emiliano) and continuing along the stairs, looking to the left, you will have a beautiful view from above over the excavation of the theater. There are 14 perfectly preserved rows of steps on which we can imagine the richest citizens of Terracina (the places reserved for the plebs and women are not visible as obliterated by a water preserve already in the eighteenth century and a cobblestone road then traced by the ramp that we walked to get to the top of the excavation). In fact, the places closest to the orchestra were intended for them, the semicircular space, decorated with precious marbles, reserved for musicians and separated from the stage by a long horizontal wall. Beyond this wall, there are a series of septa on which were placed the wooden boards of the stage, the space in which the actors, with expressive masks, staged tragedies and comedies. Behind them, the architecture of the scene was raised, with statues, marbles and columns.

Roman Theatre of Terracina. Explanatory overview of the visible remains.

 

Reconstructive drawing of a Roman theatre (Credits: digilander.libero.it/sarotheatres/intro.html)

 

A large portico opened behind the scene (it is the cd porticus post scaenam). Surrounded by columns on four sides, arranged around an open central space, it was the place where spectators could shelter themselves in case of rain or walk during the intervals of the shows. It was directly accessible from the Appian Way and from the piazza del Foro Emiliano, from which it is still visible today.

 

Roman Theatre of Terracina. The porticus photographed by the Aemilian Forum (now Piazza Municipio). Below, in the photo, a stretch of the ancient Via Appia (decumanus maximus).

 Roman Theatre of Terracina. Remains of the columns of the porticus.

Archaeological Findings

The findings made within the complex have given important emotions to archaeologists and citizens. Togated statues, male portraits, heads of divinities, architectural elements such as frames, columns, capitals and fragments of marble, give an idea of how the building should look in ancient times.

 

Roman Theatre of Terracina. Fragment of a fresco that decorated the eastern entrance of the theatre (the photograph was shown by Dr Nicoletta Cassieri during the last conference on the excavations).

 

The most significant finds have been found near the scene. Worthy of note are two female marble statues, headless and larger than life. Perhaps, judging by their dress and hair, they are two priestesses of Isis. Famous are the fragments of a monumental male statue more than two metres high and made of ancient yellow (a precious marble). It represented an oriental barbarian, as can be deduced from his clothing: tight trousers, short tunic, belt under the chest and Phrygian cap.

 

Roman Theatre of Terracina. One of the female acephalous statues at the time of their discovery (the photograph was shown by Dr. Nicoletta Cassieri during the last conference on the excavations).

 

Perhaps you don’t know that…

Inside the theater was found a marble altar dedicated to Jupiter Anxur, the god who has always been attributed the famous shrine of Monte Sant’Angelo that stood on the artificial platform visible from every corner of the city. This is a fundamental discovery. The find is, in fact, the first epigraphic attestation of the existence of the cult of Jupiter Anxur in Terracina, previously known only through literary testimonies.

 

Roman Theatre of Terracina. The altar with dedication to Jupiter Anxur at the moment of its discovery (The photograph was shown by Dr. Nicoletta Cassieri during the last conference on the excavations).

 

Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES, 0 comments
The Seven Pilgrimage Churches of Rome

The Seven Pilgrimage Churches of Rome

Take a tour of the Seven Churches. Today it is synonymous with wasting time. A few centuries ago, instead, it meant “venturing” into one of the most beautiful and significant journeys of the Christian faith. Where? Obviously in Rome.
7 special appointments A Spasso con Sara to discover the 7 churches of the famous “tour” codified by San Filippo Neri in the mid-sixteenth century.

 

Capital of the Christian world

Rome. The city where Peter and Paul, princes of the Apostles, died. Their tombs and those of the other martyrs of the Christian faith. And then the churches, places of worship and precious caskets of relics that testified to the earthly life and Passion of Christ.

Upper part of the Gothic baldachin of the papal altar of the Basilica of St John in Lateran. Here would be the heads of Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of the city of Rome (Credits: Bruno Brunelli on Flickr.com).

The Eternal City was, from the first century AD, an essential destination for the followers of the Christian faith. Small guides (see the famous Mirabilia Urbis) and prayer books in their hands were the “compasses” with which pilgrims walked around Rome.

 

Page of one of the Mirabilia Urbis (Credits: sothebys.com).

 

The itinerary of San Filippo Neri

Among the itineraries they followed, there was the Seven Pilgrimage Churches. The route, entirely on foot, included a route codified by San Filippo Neri in the 16th century.
Having moved to Rome to devote himself to the evangelical mission, the Florentine priest transformed the “walk” of the Seven Churches into a real tradition that, from a few dozen participants, quickly reached hundreds of people (even 6000 under the pontificate of Pius IV, according to sources between 1560 and 1565).

 

St Filippo Neri (Credits: www.giornalecittadinopress.it).

 

However, the famous pilgrimage was not invented by him. The Saint, in fact, linked himself to the ancient medieval tradition of the pilgrims to the tombs of Peter and Paul and that, on the occasion of the first Jubilee of History, the one called by Pope Boniface VIII in 1300, had indicated the stages that the devout traveller was required to make once he arrived in the Eternal City.

 

Representation of pilgrims travelling in 1300, during the first Jubilee of the Christian world (Credits: viestoriche.net).

 

Filippo’s itinerary (sometimes followed during the days of the Roman Carnival to divert the faithful from earthly temptations) covered a ring route of about 20 km (16 miles), touching the following stages: St. Peter in the Vatican, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. Sebastian, St. John Lateran, the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, Santa Mary the Major.

Map with the itinerary of the Seven Pilgrimage Churches of San Filippo Neri. 1) Saint Peter in the Vatican 2) Saint Paul Outside the Walls 3) Saint Sebastian 4) Saint John Lateran 5) Holy Cross in Jerusalem 6) Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls 7) Saint Mary the Major (Credits: xacobeo.fr).

 

The journey was usually divided into two days. The most “trained” could make it in just one day, from the first Vespers to the first of the next day.

Today the Seven Pilgrimage Churches is held twice a year at night, in September and May, usually just before the 26th of May, the feast of San Filippo Neri.

It can also be considered an act of devotion typical of Friday or Holy Saturday, which involves entering seven different places of worship to pray near the dead Christ.

 

The Seven Pilgrimage Churches today (Credits: www.vallicella.org).

 

Posted by Sara Pandozzi in CHURCHES & HOLY SITES, 0 comments
Terracina. September 4th, 1943. Story of a massacre.

Terracina. September 4th, 1943. Story of a massacre.

Today, September 4th, marks the anniversary of the first Terracina bombing. The tragic episode cost the lives of 138 people (according to the number of officially ascertained victims) and destroyed most of the houses in the historic center bringing to light several ancient monuments including the Capitolium.

 

A cursed Day

It’s a sultry day at the end of summer and children play in the streets. Men and women are in the countryside. Fishermen put their nets in place after a day at sea. My grandmother Giovanna is 17 years old and her day runs slowly and quietly out of the door of her house at Vicolo Rappini, near the Spiaggetta.

Women walking near Porta Napoletana (Credits: ugo52.blogspot.com).

I asked her several times to tell me what happened that day, but she often cried. The eyes were wiped dry and the hands were put on the ears. Then I let her stay and we ate an ice cream on the terrace. But a few weeks ago, grandmother began telling me about that ominous day. At first they were just flashes. Sirens, whistles of bombs, a boy engraving her infected heel with a razor, linen, the only memory of my great grandmother Giuseppina, mistaken on the black market for a handful of flour … and then hunger, misery, fear for a future that seemed hopeless. It was the story of the war.

The war arrived in Terracina with all its violence at 16:30 on September 4th, 1943. It was afternoon when two American squadrons bombed it. And that was just the first of a long series of air raids. For 8 consecutive months, Terracina was bombed (the last bombing was that of the Germans on 27th May, 1944). Once, on 21st January 1944, the threat came even from the sea. The Americans, for diversification purposes in the landing at Neptune, carried out with six ships two cannonade from the sea along the entire coast of the city.

Planes flying over the Spiaggetta of Terracina. In the background Monte Sant’Angelo (Credits: agropontino.blogspot.com)

 

But that cursed 4th September, the people of Terracina were not ready.

My grandmother and her brothers told me that the siren announcing the approach of aircraft loaded with bombs had been ringing since the beginning of the war. Those deadly airplanes, which the children, without even knowing what they were doing, reproduced by running in the street with their arms outstretched, had often “caressed” Terracina, but had never struck her. And in a sense the people of Terracina were almost tired of hearing that sound and having to escape to the shelters as a precaution. Many people had become accustomed to this practice and thought they had nothing to fear.

What could the war from Terracina want? Very few German soldiers were in the city. There were no major military objectives.

And so, as happened almost every day, that afternoon the siren also rang. And it was a moment, just a handful of seconds and the American bombers appeared from behind Monte Sant’Angelo, preceded by a strong bang that anticipated that wind of death. The four engines opened their bellies and unloaded all their load onto the charming town in Lazio. The bombs, which someone described in his stories as similar to large cylinders, fell everywhere, destroying, without distinction, men, buildings, animals, exterminating and tearing apart anything they encountered along the way. At the same time as the fall of the bombs, there were machine guns, responsible for the death of many unfortunate people.

It all lasted a few minutes. It was a quick, but extremely painful step. Huge chasms opened up along the main streets. Cadavers everywhere. Unexploded bombs lay here and there. Tradition has it that some brave people from Terrachins defused them. Many are the victims. The butcher and his apprentice, surprised while working in the small shop near Via del Rio. The daughter of Perugini, owner of an activity in Piazza della Repubblica. And then the children, who intrigued by that sound, had come out to watch those monsters that would soon kill them.

 

The first bombing of Terracina took place on September 4, 1943 and cost the lives of 138 people (Credits: anxurtime.it).

 

A senseless massacre

It was then discovered that the bombing, an integral part of a series of missions aimed at convincing Italy to conclude the armistice, was a useless bloodbath. Terracina was in fact hit after the armistice of Cassibile, whose signature, for various reasons, was kept hidden until September 8th, 1943. The American command did not stop its war actions on the secondary Italian cities, among which Terracina, a strategic objective because it had a port.

First page of the newspaper Corriere della Sera. It is announced that the armistice was signed on 8 September 1943. As you known, the armistice was signed a few days earlier, but was officially announced only September 8 (Credits: lacooltura.com).

 

It is shocking to know, as the historian Bianchini reports, that part of the population was completely unaware of what had happened. The women who returned from Frasso, at the end of a day spent picking grapes, walked and sang. Monte Leano had hidden the sight and sound of that terrible moment. And so, once they learned the misfortune of people fleeing to the countryside, they immediately rushed to the city to trace their loved ones.

 

The Storia di Terracina written by Arturo Bianchini (Credits: abebooks.it).

 

The power of hope: the history of the a “miracle”

And in this context of death, there are a number of folk tales, including the Pentolaccia.

In Terracina Alta, in the old town centre, there were many houses built directly on Roman antiquities. Some of them were even excavated inside the ancient city walls.

In one of these houses lived a lady who that afternoon was preparing a pot of legumes for the evening dinner. When the preparation was finished, he placed the pot on the window sill of the house. Suddenly the siren rang and then the woman ran with her family to take cover. Back at the end of the bombing, the house was no longer there, but the pot had remained miraculously still there, on the windowsill, just as it had left it.

True or not, little interests us. That pot is the symbol of a daily life that wanted at all costs to survive the violence and barbarity of war, a war that still represents a painful plague in the souls of those who experienced it over their skin.

 

The pot that the woman left to cool on the windowsill of her house during that famous September 4, 1943. The house was destroyed, but the pot still remained there. The house is located more or less in Via Anxur 100.

The back of some of the houses (including the house of the history of the pot) dug into the walls of Terracina. As you can see, nothing remained after the bombing.

An indelible memory

Years later we continue to remember that sad afternoon with some ceremonies that generally include a tribute to the monument of the fallen in Piazza Garibaldi. The city of Terracina was awarded the Gold Medal of Civil Merit. This year the commemoration in Garibaldi Square will take place in today’s day at 10:45 a.m.

 

The monument in memory of the victims of the Second World War created by Duilio Cambellotti and located in Piazza Garibaldi (credits: www.artefascista.it – photo by Gianni Porcellini).

 

 

Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ON THIS DAY, 0 comments