Category: history

Bad Romans

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
Oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh!
They were some bad Romans.

Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah!
Roma-Roma-ma-man!
Ga-ga-ooh-la-la!
Want your bad Romans

Claudius was ugly
Caligula was diseased
Ceasar wanted everything
As long as it’s free
Antony wanted love
Love-love-love
He wanted love

Nero had drama
With his baby mama
Commodus liked to watch men fight in the sand
Gladiator love
Love-love-love
Gladiator love

You know Julius Ceasar
He was dictator for life
They thought he was a bad, bad Roman

Brutus killed Caesar
Octavian wanted revenge
He went and killed some bad Romans
There’s lots love and
And even more revenge
When you talk about the bad Romans

Et-et-et-tu-uuu!
Et-tu-Bruté-ay-ay!
He was a bad Roman!

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
Oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh!
They were some bad Romans

Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah!
Roma-Roma-ma-mans!
Ga-ga-ooh-la-la!
Very very bad Romans

badromans1

Happy Ides of March! There’s much room for more verses to come…

Wall walking

I’m still a ways behind on the day trips of the last month or so.

When Jes and Tariq came to visit, they decided they wanted to see Hadrian’s Wall. They wanted to see Vindolanda, where I did my excavation in April and some other wallish things.

You can get to all the forts and landmarks on the wall on a bus from Newcastle, the AD122. But it only leaves once a day, at 9am. I wasn’t sure we’d be able to catch it on time, but with lots of coffee and a little luck, we boarded the bus and drove along the wall (literally, the road sometimes follows on top of the wall).

We started out at Vindolanda, where I gave them a tour from what I remembered of my orientation, told them what I’d found and showed them where I’d dug.

The original plan was to take the bus to Housesteads Roman Fort and look around. Housesteads is usually used as an example of the typical Roman fort plan and I hadn’t been yet.

We were waiting for the bus in front of Vindolanda. It was cold and windy and we were bored.

So we decided to walk to Housesteads instead.

I’m still not sure how far it was, but it wasn’t an easy walk by any means (though we were definitely the youngest and the most exhausted of the wall walkers that day - clearly the old people were in better shape!)

But it was beautiful.

What goes up must come down, photo by me

It looks nice until you realize that once you get to the top you have to go down again. And then up again. For at least 3 miles.

Climb me! photo by me

And sometimes the path would go over an old farmer’s wall and you have to climb over it on an Official Hadrian’s Wall Path Ladder (UNESCO approved!)

Jes and Tariq being a cute couple, photo by me

But the views from the top are spectacular. I think you can see Scotland back there. That’s Jes and Tariq, being cute.

Lake, photo by me

This was my second favourite view.

Milecastle 39, photo by me

The Romans had a Milecastle on every Roman mile of the wall. This is Milecastle 39, one of the best preserved on the wall.

Robin Hood tree, photo by me

Recognize this? This was my favourite part of the walk. This is none other than the iconic tree from the beginning of the Robin Hood movie with Kevin Costner. It’s somewhere between Once Brewed and Housesteads. Isn’t it a great tree?!

The three of us, photo by me

So we had to take a self portrait, obviously. My hair was escaping from its braids by this point. It was so windy!

Me and Jes walking the wall, photo by Tariq

All in all, it was a great day adventure and a good workout. My legs really hurt the next day.

Olympia

The last stop on our Greek odyssey was the birthplace of the Olympic games - the fair city of Olympia.

Olympia is on exactly the other side of the Peloponnese from Corinth, so our bus journey from Corinth to Pyrgos (from which we transferred to Olympia) was a scenic one. The bus stuck mainly to the coast and out our window we got to watch the Peloponnesian countryside go by.

There isn’t really a modern city next to ancient Olympia. Instead, there’s a little tourist town built up by the Olympics in Athens in 2004. They held the opening ceremonies in Olympia, and they light all of the Olympic torches in the Temple of Hera.

Temple of Hera at Olympia, photo by me

The site is quite beautiful. Like many of the ancient Greek sites, it’s in the wilderness (sort of). There are lots of trees and lots of lizards and snakes. It definitely adds atmosphere to the photos.

A tholos, photo by me

I have a theory that they strategically place trees and bushes to make for better shots for the tourists.

Ruins, photo by me

Olympia was also the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the statue of Zeus at Olympia. That makes it the third site of the Wonders that I’ve seen!

Zeus was here, photo by me

The museum at Olympia is so amazing, they have molds used to make the colossal statue of Zeus.

Molds used to make pieces of the statue of Zeus, photo by me

And of course, there’s the Olympic stadium:

Stadium, photo by me

But it’s a bit anti-climactic.

Korinthos

Our destination after Delphi was the city of Corinth, called Korinthos in modern Greek.

Modern and ancient Korinthos shared the same prime geographical location - the Isthmus of Corinth is the narrowest stretch of land on the Peloponnese, the shortest passage between the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf - from the Ionian Sea to the Aegean Sea.

It’s largely because of the Isthmus that Corinth became an important Greek city. In fact, it was one of the most important city states in Classical Greece. And it was the capital of the Roman Province of Greece during the Empire.

The modern city of Korinthos is largely an industrial hub, shaped by the Corinth Canal, which was cut across the Isthmus in 1881. But the idea of the Corinth Canal originated much earlier, with Nero. He ordered the building of a canal across the Isthmus in 67 CE, but died soon after and his plans were scrapped by Galba.

We stayed in the modern city of Korinthos, unfortunately. It wasn’t a terribly nice place and there didn’t seem to be anywhere at all to eat. I’m also fairly sure we were the only people staying in our giant hotel. There were tons of stray dogs, and if you were nice to them they followed you around.

Chandra making nice to some dogs in Korinthos, photo by me

We escaped to the ancient city as soon as possible in the morning. It turned out to be a much nicer place.

Ancient Corinth, photo by me

What remains of Ancient Corinth is mostly Roman. We didn’t see much of the Greek city. It was heavily redeveloped as the Roman capital of Greece, and therefore boasts of Roman style forum and some really great plumbing.

The remains of Roman buildings, photo by me

It’s amazing how much of the city still remains. There was so much to see. I hadn’t been to an archaeological site this big since I was in Pompeii and Ostia.A Corinthian column in Corinth - I couldn't resist, photo by me

It was an incredibly rainy day - which really threw us off after nearly a week of intense heat - but it was a great site to visit. I think next time, though, I’d stay in Ancient Corinth instead.

There's a mountain back there, I swear, photo by me

The sacred mountains

After our class tour of Athens, complete with presentations, long walks uphill and a few failed dinner plans, Chandra and I headed to Delphi.

Once we finally found the bus station, we boarded the sketchiest bus ever. On the way to the bus station I practiced saying Delphi in Greek. It’s pronounced “thel-fon,” like saying “cell phone” with a lisp. Luckily, I never had to embarrass myself because it only takes one bus to get to Delphi and it’s all quite straight forward (we began to appreciate this more once we tried to get to Corinth and Olympia… more on this later!)

We arrived in Delphi as the sun was beginning to set. Over the mountains. It was, from the first moment, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

The modern city of Delphi, photo by me

Delphi's flowers, photo by me

We checked into our hotel, then spent the next hour or so chasing the sunset. I wanted to get the perfect picture, and we were willing to risk asp-filled fields to get it! How many times will you get a chance to take a photo of Delphi at sunset?

Sun setting, photo by me

I was waiting for the sun to disappear behind the mountain… Finally, it did.

Sun set from Delphi, photo by me

As I stood, awed and amazed, I realized that I had never really been to place with mountains like these. They made the most beautiful shades of blues I have ever seen.

We ate dinner at a restaurant overlooking the sunset. It was perfect. We stayed in the best hotel of the trip. And the next morning we found out that it’s just as beautiful during the day.

Mount Parnassos and such, photo by me

We went to the archaeological site for the day. Delphi was the most important Panhellenic (which means that Greeks from all city states could worship there) sanctuary in Classical Greece. It was a sacred oracle dedicated to Apollo. If you had an question about your future, you could ask the Pythia, beautiful young priestesses who would tell you the word of Apollo. Of course, like most oracles, it’s all about interpretation.

The ruins of ancient Delphi, photo by me

It’s not hard to understand why the Greeks would find this site sacred.

Because of Delphi’s status - both as an important sanctuary and as neutral ground for all Greeks - it eventually became a very important place to control. The Athenians used it as their main treasury when they formed the Delian League (a united Greece under the rule of Athens), and many city states built treasuries or dedications on the site to show their wealth or power.

The treasury of the Athenians, photo by me

Delphi really was one of the most stunning places I’ve ever visited, historically and geographically - though I’d argue that, like much of the ancient world, Delphi’s importance is undeniably linked to its geography.