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Photos Travel

Our Ancient Cyprus Travel Guide

Lying at the crossroads of the eastern Mediterranean, the island of Cyprus has long been a meeting point for many of the world’s great civilizations. Situated where Europe, Asia and Africa meet, its location shaped its history of bringing civilizations together. Many powers conquered the island, and Cyprus was ruled in turn by the Hittites, the Egyptians, the Persians and the Greeks until it was absorbed by the Romans. Cyprus is also known as the “Island of Love”. According to mythology Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty, was born from the foam of the sea on the south-western coast of Cyprus.

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Travel

When in Rome: Visiting the House of Livia on the Palatine Hill

I wrote about the series of special events that took place in Rome, in celebration of the 2000th anniversary of Emperor Augustus’ death. My last post focused on the ‘House of Augustus’ (see here) and today I will concentrate on the ‘House of Livia’ in this follow-up piece.

The House of Livia, Palatine Hill, Rome Carole Raddato CC BY-SA
The House of Livia, Palatine Hill, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato CC BY-SA
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Travel

When in Rome… Visiting the House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill

In 2014 Rome celebrated the 2000th anniversary of Emperor Augustus’ death. To commemorate the date, a series of special events and openings were launched in the Italian capital, including the opening of new parts of the ‘House of Augustus’ and ‘House of Livia’ on the Palatine Hill. After years of restoration works, new lavishly frescoed rooms are now on show for the first time. The restoration included installing protective roofing, stabilizing the structures, conserving the frescoes as well as designing a visitation route through the house with lighting and information panels… and the results are impressive!

I travelled to Rome and visited for the first time the House of Augustus, the House of Livia and Nero’s Domus Aurea (all on pre-booked tours). I will be writing a blog post for each of these wonderful places. Today, we start with the House of Augustus.

The peristyle of the House of Augustus, Palatine Hill, Rome Carole Raddato CC BY-SA
The peristyle of the House of Augustus, Palatine Hill, Rome. Photo © Carole Raddato CC BY-SA
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Travel

Exploring Verulamium, the Roman City of St Albans (UK)

Anyone with an interest in Roman Britain should have St Albans on top of their list of places to visit. I myself visited St Albans twice and enjoyed it on both occasions. A short train ride north of London, St Albans is a must-see site. There are a few remains of the Roman town still visible (Verulamium), such as parts of the city walls, a hypocaust in situ under a mosaic floor, but the most spectacular are the remains of the Roman theatre.

In its heyday Verulamium was the third largest city in Roman Britain. The city was founded on the ancient Celtic site of Verlamion (meaning ‘settlement above the marsh’), a late Iron Age settlement and major center of the Catuvellauni tribe. After the Roman invasion of 43 AD, the city was renamed Verulamium and became one of the largest and most prosperous towns in the province of Britannia. In around AD 50, Verulamium was granted the rank of municipium, meaning its citizens had “Latin Rights”. It grew to a significant town, and as such was a prime target during the revolt of Boudicca in 61 AD. Verulamium was sacked and burnt to the ground on her orders but the Romans crushed the revolt and Verulamium recovered quickly.

Verulamium about 300 AD showing large town houses surrounded by gardens (Artist impression of Verulamium by John Pearson)
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Education

The Ancient People of Palmyra, Syria

The recent developments in the Middle East have drawn the attention of the world to the magnificent ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra. Its impressive remains were brought to light by travellers, first in 1678, and by archaeologists in more recent times. Equally impressive are the numerous representations of the inhabitants of the city in the form of funerary sculptures in the distinctive Palmyrene style.

From the 1st century BC the city grew in both wealth and population with the name Palmyra (city of palms) coming to replace the older Tadmor. It flourished as a caravan oasis on the trade route linking the Mediterranean with the West and Central Asia (the Silk Road). It was incorporated into the Roman Empire in the early years of Tiberius’ reign and became a metropolis with “free” status (civitas libera) under Hadrian, who visited the city in 129 AD and renamed it “Hadriana Palmyra”. Caracalla declared Palmyra a Roman colony in 212 AD and exempted the city from paying taxes on luxury items.

Palmyra on Vici.org
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Travel

Curse Scrolls, Mystery Cults, and the Secret Roman History of Mainz

I want to tell you about Mainz, Germany. Not just Mainz, but the secret Roman history of Mainz. Like most cities I’ve traveled to in Europe, Mainz has many well-hidden secrets.  Although Mainz has a lot to offer for a day-trip, I wouldn’t consider it a touristy area. Most people go to see the Cathedral or the first Gutenberg Bible at the Gutenberg Museum. I have seen those things in 2008, when I first visited Mainz for a few hours. This time I spent the entire day exploring the city and found a few things that I missed the last time. This trip I found lead curse scrolls in the underground Sanctuary of Isis and Mater Magna, a house with four roofs, a Roman theater bisected by the railway, and a monument to a long-dead Roman General.

Theodor Heuss Bridge Mainz
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Culture Travel

Trier: The Rome of the North

After so many years of travel, it is difficult to choose one single place as a favorite, but there is one place stands out in my mind more than the others. Trier, Germany’s oldest city, and nicknamed, “the Rome of the North,” calls me back again and again. Every visit to Trier is like the first visit. If you wander around long enough you’ll find something new every time. Trier is situated along the Moselle Valley in Germany, near Luxembourg. Trier boasts not one or two, but eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. If you’re looking to check a few UNSECO sites off your travel bucket list, Trier is an excellent place to begin.

Trier Black Gate

Although the history of Trier spans more than two millennia, it’s the Roman history that keeps bringing me back. I’ve been to Rome once, Trier at least five times, and there is no question that Trier wins out for me. Rome has more, and the ruins are bigger, but in Trier you get a sense of being back in time that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s not crowded so you can wander this beautiful city as slowly or as quickly as you like. Everything is within walking distance so there is no metro, and there is no need to jostle and bustle for a spot in line to see the ruins.There are no crowds, no matter the time of year, and there is a sense of relaxation and history everywhere. Coffee shops are everywhere and many offer a spectacular view of Trier’s famous monuments. Everything in Trier, with the exception the badly deteriorated ruins of the Barbara Baths are within walking distance of the central square.

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Exhibitions Interviews

Everyday Life in Pompeii

Two thousand years ago, Mount Vesuvius – a stratovolcano located close to the Gulf of Naples – erupted with tremendous force and little warning. Within only 24 hours, the Roman city of Pompeii was buried under a rain of hot ash and falling debris. Lying undiscovered for over 1,600 years, the city’s rediscovery remains one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time.

Pompeii: In the Shadow of the Volcano, which opened last month at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Canada, examines everyday life in Pompeii through six distinct sections on those who called the ancient city home. (The exhibition then travels to the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts in February 2016.) In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Curator Paul Denis about the exhibition as well as the ways in which our lives mirror those from the distant past.

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Travel

Time Travel on Rome’s Ancient Appian Way

The Appian Way — Rome’s gateway to the East — was Europe’s first super highway and the wonder of its day. Built in 312 B.C., it connected Rome with Capua (near Naples), running in a straight line for much of the way. Eventually it stretched 400 miles to Brindisi, from where Roman ships sailed to Greece and Egypt.

While our modern roads seem to sprout potholes right after they’re built, sections of this marvel of Roman engineering still exist. When I visit Rome, I get a thrill walking on the same stones as Julius Caesar or St. Peter. Huge basalt paving blocks form the sturdy base of this roadway. In its heyday, a central strip accommodated animal-powered vehicles, and elevated sidewalks served pedestrians.

The ancient paving blocks of the Appian Way can be seen in a park just outside of central Rome. (photo: Rick Steves)
The ancient paving blocks of the Appian Way can be seen in a park just outside of central Rome. (photo: Rick Steves)

Fortunately, about the first 10 miles of the Appian Way is preserved as a regional park (Parco dell’Appia Antica). In addition to the roadway, there are ruined Roman monuments, two major Christian catacombs, and a church marking the spot where Peter had a vision of Jesus.

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Travel

The Hadrianic aqueduct of Caesarea Maritima, Israel

Caesarea Maritima is perhaps one of Israel’s most famous attractions. Its ruins are located by the sea-shore of Israel about half way between Tel Aviv and Haifa. It is the site of one of the most important cities of the Roman World, the capital of the province of Judaea. The city was founded between 22 and 10 BC by Herod the Great (37-4 BC) as an urban centre and harbour on the site of the earlier Straton’s Tower. The city has been populated through the late Roman and Byzantine era. Today, Caesarea is a large and beautiful national park and a fascinating place to visit while exploring the Holy Land.

Herod the Great’s palace and circus, Caesarea