Categories
Uncategorized

A taste of Ancient Rome – A Saturnalia feast

I organised a small banquet at home on the occasion of the Saturnalia festival. I absolutely love ancient Roman food and for this banquet I tried a few more ancient recipes. Once again, everything was delicious!

My Saturnalia feast menu
My Saturnalia feast menu
Categories
Education

Io, Saturnalia!

Happy Saturnalia to all!

December 17, marks the beginning of the Saturnalia, a festival held in honour of Saturn that lasted for between 3 and 7 days. It was celebrated in Rome for the first time in 497 BC when the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum was dedicated. The poet Catullus called it “the best of days” – Saturnalibus, optimo dierum!.

The Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum, Rome. Saturnalia
The Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum, Rome

The holiday began with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn. After the rituals, the celebrants shouted ‘Io, Saturnalia’ (Macrobius I.10.18). It was followed by several days of feasting and fun.

“It is now the month of December, when the greatest part of the city is in a bustle. Loose reins are given to public dissipation; everywhere you may hear the sound of great preparations, as if there were some real difference between the days devoted to Saturn and those for transacting business. … Were you here, I would willingly confer with you as to the plan of our conduct; whether we should eve in our usual way, or, to avoid singularity, both take a better supper and throw off the toga“ (Seneca, “Letters“)

To celebrate the festive season in style, I made my own Saturnalia shrine.

My homemade Saturnalia shrine. Saturnalia
My homemade Saturnalia shrine

Hadrian is wearing the pileus, as was the tradition during the festival. These pointy hats were traditionally worn by freedmen but during Saturnalia, all men, regardless of status, wore the pileus. Hadrian is set among foliage, ivy, holly (sacred to Saturn), images of the god Saturn, candles and terracotta figurines (sigillaria). Romans also decorated their houses with greenery. Garlands and wreaths of ivy and holly were hung over doorways and windows. Images of the god Saturn were placed around the altar, candles were lit and a suckling pig was sacrificed to the god.

The image of the god Saturn I placed on my Saturnalia shrine is a fresco from the House of the Dioscuri in Pompeii.

Saturn with head protected by winter cloak, holding a scythe in his right hand, fresco from the House of the Dioscuri at Pompeii Naples Archaeological Museum. Saturnalia
Saturnus with head protected by winter cloak, holding a scythe in his right hand, fresco from the House of the Dioscuri at Pompeii. Naples Archaeological Museum

In addition to the large-scale public feasts at the Temple of Saturn, there was lots of eating and drinking at home, and slaves were allowed to join in. There was a tradition of role-reversal as slaves became masters for at least one banquet.

Gambling and dice-playing, normally prohibited or at best frowned upon, were permitted for all but children usually used nuts as as gambling tokens.

Dice players fresco from the Osteria della Via di Mercurio (VI 10,1.19, room b), in situ wall fresco, Pompeii. Saturnalia
Dice players fresco from the Osteria della Via di Mercurio (VI 10,1.19, room b), in situ wall fresco, Pompeii

On the first day of Saturnalia, a Lord of Misrule was appointed by throwing the dice. The King of the Saturnalia presided over and could command people to do things like to prepare a banquet or sing a song. The young Nero played that role and mockingly commanded his younger step-brother Britannicus to sing (Tacitus, Annals, 13.15). The last day of Saturnalia was a day of gift-giving when candles, writing tablets, knucklebones as well as small terracotta or wax figurines (sigillaria) were exchanged as gifts (Macrobius, Saturnalia, I.10.24).

Replicas of terracotta figurines in the form of animals. Saturnalia
Replicas of terracotta figurines in the form of animals

“At the Saturnalia and Sigillaria he [Hadrian] often surprised his friends with presents, and he gladly received gifts from them and again gave others in return.”

Historia Augusta – The Life of Hadrian

On Saturday I will be cooking a Saturnalia feast. During this banquet, the best of Roman food and Roman wine will be served!

Io, Saturnalia!

To learn more about Saturnalia here are some interesting links:

top

Categories
Exhibitions

Commemorating the 1900th Anniversary of Hadrian’s Accession to the Throne

It appears that I will not be the only one celebrating next year: the Archaeological Museum of Seville in southern Spain is planning to host an exhibition in 2017 to commemorate the 1900th anniversary of the accession of Hadrian to the imperial throne.

Categories
Travel

Mosaics of Spain’s Roman Baetica Route: Archaeological Museum of Seville

On a recent trip to southern Spain, I travelled along the Roman Baetica Route and visited many of the archaeological sites and museums that Andalusia has to offer. Among the plethora of ancient treasures to be found in the region, I was particularly impressed by the incredible mosaics I came across.

The Roman Baetica Route is an ancient Roman road that passes through fourteen cities of the provinces of Seville, Cadiz, and Córdoba, which correspond to modern-day Andalusia. It runs through the most southern part of the Roman province of Hispania and includes territories also crossed by the Via Augusta. The route connected Hispalis (Seville) with Corduba (Córdoba) and Gades (Cádiz). The word Baetica comes from Baetis, the ancient name for the river Guadalquivir.

The Roman Baetica Route

 

Categories
Travel

Mosaics of Spain’s Roman Baetica Route: Italica

On a recent trip to southern Spain, I travelled along the Roman Baetica Route and visited many of the archaeological sites and museums that Andalusia has to offer. Among the plethora of ancient treasures to be found in the region, I was particularly impressed by the incredible mosaics I came across. This installment of the series will focus on Italica.

The Roman Baetica Route is an ancient Roman road that passes through fourteen cities of the provinces of Seville, Cadiz, and Córdoba, which correspond to modern-day Andalusia. It runs through the most southern part of the Roman province of Hispania and includes territories also crossed by the Via Augusta. The route connected Hispalis (Seville) with Corduba (Córdoba) and Gades (Cádiz). The word Baetica comes from Baetis, the ancient name for the river Guadalquivir.

The Roman Baetica Route

Categories
Travel

Mosaics of Spain’s Roman Baetica Route: Fuente Alamo Roman Villa and Casariche

On a recent trip to southern Spain, I travelled along the Roman Baetica Route and visited many of the archaeological sites and museums that Andalusia has to offer. Among the plethora of ancient treasures to be found in the region, I was particularly impressed by the incredible mosaics I came across. This installment of the series will focus on the Roman villa of Fuente Alamo and the museum of Roman mosaics in Casariche.

The Roman Baetica Route is an ancient Roman road that passes through fourteen cities of the provinces of Seville, Cadiz, and Córdoba, which correspond to modern-day Andalusia. It runs through the most southern part of the Roman province of Hispania and includes territories also crossed by the Via Augusta. The route connected Hispalis (Seville) with Corduba (Córdoba) and Gades (Cádiz). The word Baetica comes from Baetis, the ancient name for the river Guadalquivir.

The Roman Baetica Route

Categories
Travel

Mosaics of Spain’s Roman Baetica Route: Lebrija Palace

On a recent trip to southern Spain, I travelled along the Roman Baetica Route and visited many of the archaeological sites and museums that Andalusia has to offer. Among the plethora of ancient treasures to be found in the region, I was particularly impressed by the incredible mosaics I came across. This installment of the series will focus on the Lebrija Palace in Seville.

The Roman Baetica Route is an ancient Roman road that passes through fourteen cities of the provinces of Seville, Cadiz, and Córdoba, which correspond to modern-day Andalusia. It runs through the most southern part of the Roman province of Hispania and includes territories also crossed by the Via Augusta. The route connected Hispalis (Seville) with Corduba (Córdoba) and Gades (Cádiz). The word Baetica comes from Baetis, the ancient name for the river Guadalquivir.

The Roman Baetica Route

Categories
Photos Travel

Mosaics of Spain’s Roman Baetica Route: Carmona and Éjica

On a recent trip to southern Spain, I travelled along the Roman Baetica Route and visited many of the archaeological sites and museums that Andalusia has to offer. Among the plethora of ancient treasures to be found in the region, I was particularly impressed by the incredible mosaics I came across. This installment of the series will focus on Carmona and Éjica.

The Roman Baetica Route is an ancient Roman road that passes through fourteen cities of the provinces of Seville, Cadiz, and Córdoba, which correspond to modern-day Andalusia. It runs through the most southern part of the Roman province of Hispania and includes territories also crossed by the Via Augusta. The route connected Hispalis (Seville) with Corduba (Córdoba) and Gades (Cádiz). The word Baetica comes from Baetis, the ancient name for the river Guadalquivir.

The Roman Baetica Route

 

Categories
Travel

Art and Sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: The Lansdowne Relief

This month’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a dark grey limestone relief decorated with mythological scenes. The Lansdowne Relief was unearthed in 1769 during excavations undertaken by the art dealer and archaeologist Gavin Hamilton, who sold it to Lord Lansdowne. The latter was an avid collector of antiquities who owned a fine collection of classical sculptures until most of it was sold and dispersed in 1930 (including the Lansdowne Antinous, the Lansdowne Amazon and the Lansdowne Hercules).

The Lansdowne relief, found at Hadrian’s Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Image © Carole Raddato.
The Lansdowne relief, found at Hadrian’s Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Image © Carole Raddato.
Categories
Travel

Wandering Along the Colonnade of the Gymnasium of Salamis, Cyprus

Once a thriving port city on the island of Cyprus, the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, Salamis offers a tantalizing glimpse into the vast history of the island. The ruins of the ancient city occupy an extensive area (one square mile) extending along the sea shore against the backdrop of sand dunes and a forest of acacias.

According to ancient Greek tradition, Salamis was founded after the Trojan War by the archer Teukros, son of King Telamon, who came from the island of Salamis. Half-brother to the hero Ajax, Teukros was unable to return home from the war after failing to prevent his half-brother’ suicide, leading him to flee to Cyprus where he founded Salamis. After its legendary beginnings, Salamis later became one of the most important cities on the island and the seat of a powerful kingdom. Archaeologists believe that Salamis was first established by newcomers from the nearby site of Enkomi following the earthquake of 1075 BC. The city was subsequently controlled by the Persians until the arrival of Alexander the Great into Asia Minor. Following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC Salamis came under the control of the Ptolemaic dynasty until its incorporation into the Roman Empire in 58 BC. The importance of the city is reflected in archaeological findings dating back to the Late Geometric periods (8th century BC) to Byzantine times (6th century AD).

Salamis was affected by destructive earthquakes. The earthquake of 76-77 AD was among the most destructive, with a magnitude between 9 and 10. Salamis took the brunt of this earthquake, and fell into ruin. The Jewish insurrection of Artemion in 116 AD further devastated the city. Salamis was rebuilt by the emperors Trajan and Hadrian who embellished it with lavish public buildings.