Five Days in Rome (Day 3)

This is Day 3 of five days visiting Rome for the Northern Bridge Winter School.  I’m very lucky that Northern Bridge provides me with funding that means I can do a PhD.  I’m in year one of that.   Along with about 14 colleagues, we are at the British College in Rome.  If you missed out on Day 2 and Day 1, click on those words to see the previous entries!


Now it’s Wednesday. Woohoo! The halfway point and the perfect intersection between being knackered and getting a good sleep meant I’m raring to go.  Woo!


There’s lots today about the Forum in Rome, so expect pictures galore!


Here I am contemplating how fecking cold it is in Rome, even if the sky IS blue.


Today’s lecture is in the form of a walking tour with Robert Coates-Stephens from the British School where he is Cary Fellow and works on Archaeology, History & Letters. In other words he knew a TONNE about the Forum, including the different schools of thought and matters of lively debate.


I haven’t a Scooby Doo what this was other than the last remaining part of an ancient building.  All the columns have elided into one. I’m sorry, Robert.


This, however, is the arch of Septimius Severus (no relation to Severus Snape).  It’s a ginormous and dominant triumphal arch.


Here I am with some of our colleagues, including Felix and Kevin.


We moved down the ‘floor’ of the Forum, which is roughly the level to which archaeological digs have reached and stopped. There is a bit of an argument over the years as to WHEN you bring the remains back to (do you reconstruct columns or parts of palaces, do you get rid of mediaeval structures, for example?)


Here lie the remnants of a Vespasian building.


Still pretty impressive without the rest of the building.


We wandered through an exhibition entitled ‘Carthago’ which had some reconstructed / original mosaics showing wrestling. All right, chaps, that’s quite enough!


This one brought out everyone’s inner Kenneth Williams (oooooh, matron!)


We started to make our way up the ancient Ramp, a recently reopened structure via which the wealthy would have taken their chariots to get to the top of the Palatine Hill (the wealthiest bit of ancient Rome).


Karen looks rather shocked in this image as I squint, while Kevin and Karen are perfecting their duck-lip poses in the image below.


You can see something of the height of this covered ramp, designed (I assume) to keep both rain and sun off the skulls of the rich.


At the top of the ramp, visitors are rewarded with a sweeping view of the Forum (here showing the gardens of the Vestal Virgins).


Here’s an image from the Vestal Virgin garden (up close).  The statues are what remains of many old statues of individual Virgins. I understand the plaques below each statue are dedications from men for whom the Virgins provided a recommendation or reference (much like a leg up into a particular business or administration job).  The women took the role of chastity on for 30 years, after which time they could then go ahead and be married.  Failure resulted in death (usually a non-intervention like live entombment).


Here is Alice contemplating the fate of the Vestals.


I paired up with Dr Katherine Baxter for a slow wander back to the School. After a refreshing coffee (with a mini-apricot cake), we strolled around a corner and found the Trevi Fountain. What luck!


We returned in time for our afternoon of archival research, led by Valerie from the School library.  We worked with a wide range of original and old texts and images.


These original etchings and prints were carefully curated and cared for.


In a further workshop, examining how to reference and explain original objects, I worked with Alice on discussing the image below, one photograph from a range by Thomas Ashby (an early British School Rector) taken in Sardinia in the early part of the 20th Century.


It was interesting to see how another scholar (Alice is a classicist) interprets visual prompts. We both agreed that the framing of the image (entitled ‘Fonni. Cugusi Boi’) was aesthetically pleasing but multi-layered.  We are drawn in by the composition, wondering who these people might be.  When we thought about it, the woman and child are almost concealed, hidden within the domestic environment.  The man is outside, set against the white background of the wall, dramatically dressed. The family member who most likely does ‘outside’ dealings.  So many other readings are possible.


Our research on the picture brought us all around the library and Alice looks either delighted to be finding the book she needs, or utterly frightened at the idea I might move the rolling bookcases towards her!

Keep an eye out for Day 4! There’s more to come!

Patrick xo

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