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Apamea, Syria: Roman Ruins in a Warzone

The human cost of war can be so unimaginably large that it seems unfeeling to speak about the damage to cultural and natural heritage, yet it is important to acknowledge that cost as well. The disaster in Syria will be felt not just by a few generations, but for the rest of time. After World War II, the international community recognized the need to protect cultural and natural heritage in times of conflict, and UNESCO was formed. As in all human history, it seems like all those conferences, petitions, international declarations, talks and meetings failed to come up with a decisive way to prevent the destruction of life and heritage. Unfortunately, Syria is just one of the many cases of failed attempts.

The colonnade at Apamea, following Cardo Maximus. It was built in 2nd century CE. This huge boulevard was 2 km long. Photo by Mina Bulic

The destruction of archaeological sites in conflict zones is not, as the media often reports, done mostly because of the religious views of perpetrators. No, the main reason is that there is big money to be made in the black antiquities market. Some people buy and own artifacts coming from Syria, Iraq and other zones of conflict (sometimes without realizing their origin) and in this way they finance the dogs of war. You have to wonder, who are the people who own artifacts from Apamea?  Whose villas and gardens are decorated by Syria’s war? It seems many of those people are coming from our “civilized” west…

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Travel

The Fratricide and Architecture: The Cendere Bridge

In the southeast of Turkey, not far from the city of Adiyaman,  there lies a Roman bridge. It is one of the best preserved Roman structures in Turkey. The restoration was done in 1997, but even before that, the bridge was still in use by vehicles. Today there is a modern bridge that serves the traffic; there are more stray dogs than people visiting the old bridge.

Cendere bridge; columns dedicated to Septimius Severus and Julia Domna; photo by Mina Bulic

Built between 198 and 200 CE by the XVI legion (XVI Flavia Firma) based at Samosata, the bridge crosses the Cendere River at its narrowest point. The Cendere Bridge was probably built as part of construction efforts to facilitate the military campaign of Septimus Severus in the Parthian Empire and Mesopotamia.  The 118 m long bridge used to have four Doric columns with statues, two on each side of the bridge, inscribed with dedication texts. The first pair was dedicated to Emperor Septimius Severus and his wife Julia Domna.

Categories
Travel

The gems of Palazzo Altemps

The National Roman Museum is of course situated in Rome, but the collection is divided among different buildings around the city. One of the branches of NRM is situated in the Palazzo Altemps. Designed in XV century, this building passed from hand to hand of many well-off families,  until 1997 when it became a part of the museum. Today it is home to one of the most impressive collections of Greek and Roman sculptures. It is usually not crowded with people and during your visit to Rome this is that rare place where you can feel the luxury of contemplating the sculptures, probably alone just like all those popes, cardinals and other collectors of this kind of beauty.  Or, if you are like me and you usually do street photography, you can just take your time and click: the sculptures look very much alive but I am sure they will not move. Here are the stars of the collection.

Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus

The Ludovisi Battle sarcophagus in Palazzio Altemps, III century AD
The Ludovisi Battle sarcophagus, III century AD