L’Aquila Earthquake Damages Baths of Caracalla

In addition to the mounting death toll, we’re beginning to hear of damage to antiquities from the tragic earthquake at L’Aquila. The conclusion of a piece in the New York Times notes:

Officials in Rome said that the quake had also damaged the Baths of Caracalla, one of the most imposing ancient Roman ruins in the Italian capital, some 60 miles west of the epicenter of the quake, and there was significant damage reported in the villages around L’Aquila as well.

The Telegraph adds some details, inter alia:

The baths “suffered some damage,” Angelo Bottini said, adding that the results of an initial inspection had “not yet been precisely evaluated”.

The red-brick ruins, which cover some 11 hectares (27 acres) at the foot of Rome’s Aventine Hill, are the frequent site of opera productions and open-air concerts in the summer.

During Emperor Caracalla’s era, the bathing facilities could accommodate more than 1,600 people and included gymnasiums, libraries and gardens.

Bottini said no other historic sites in the city were damaged.

And a bit more from ANSA:

The Terme di Caracalla had suffered damage that still had to be quantified but the Forum and Colosseum were unscathed, Archeological Superintendent Angelo Bottini said. ”But we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to have a complete and detailed picture,” Bottini said.

We’ll be adding updates below as they become available…

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Latin Surviving in Sonoma County

The incipit of a lengthy piece in the Press Democrat:

The cars begin pulling to the curb at Montgomery High in Santa Rosa at 6:45 a.m. Sleepy teens pile out, heading to classes that start an hour before first period.

In Room 50, Latin teacher Jennifer Lehman welcomes a decidedly retro group of students. Her 32 pupils are the only teens studying Latin in the county’s public high schools, according to the Sonoma County Office of Education.

“I love this class,” said the 65-year-old instructor with 44 years of classroom experience.

“I’m teaching five levels of Latin at once to four different classes in a 50-minute session,” she said. “It is so cool, you just can’t believe it.”

Latin language classes are a rarity these days. They still can be found in some parochial schools, and some determined students sign up for Latin at Santa Rosa Junior College. Private tutoring is available.

But teachers and students say that where Latin is taught, devotion and sacrifice can be found.

Lehman’s students gather five mornings a week for 7 a.m. classes. Despite the hour, they exhibit enthusiasm and energy.

“The nice part about Latin is it’s like a puzzle. Some days I have to look up every other word. Some days, every word,” said sophomore honors student Graham Miller, 16.

He said he took Latin for the challenge and was rewarded recently when visiting his brother, who is attending Princeton University.

“In a campus courtyard there was something carved into the cement in Latin. I could just read it. It was about how families that support Princeton had never let Princeton down,” Miller said.

Once a staple of American high schools, Latin today is mostly known as the script carved into granite buildings or gracing currency, legal documents and medication instructions.

Yet Latin, the unspoken language, speaks to us still. Carpe diem (seize the day), semper fidelis (forever faithful) and ad infinitum (without limit) are common Latin terms interwoven into daily communication.

It also is valuable in understanding other languages.

“In history, we were watching a film about the Holocaust. It had German language in it and I could see how German and Latin had similarities,” said Allison Brooke, a 15-year-old honors sophomore in Lehman’s class. “I recognize connections between other languages and Latin all the time.”

The near-demise of Latin instruction has made the hiring of teachers for public institutions challenging.

“It’s sort of a chicken-or-the-egg thing. It’s hard to hire someone full-time when you are starting a class … with a few students,” said Ron Everett, Petaluma district director of education. His district does not provide Latin instruction.

A Couple of Claims

I’ve seen this first one (from USA Today this time) a couple of times now:

Alexander the Great is also said to have had one blue and one brown eye.

I’ve never managed to find any more details on that one …

This second one — from something called Dream Dogs — strikes me as suspicious:

The Maltese has been depicted on ancient Roman and Greek works of art that dates back to 500 BC. The Roman governor Publius is said to have had a Maltese by the name of Issa and even had a portrait of her painted. Much poetry was written of Publius’ Issa.

Okay … we do know of Issa, of course, from Martial’s epigram (1.109), reproduced here via the Latin Library:

Issa est passere nequior Catulli,
Issa est purior osculo columbae,
Issa est blandior omnibus puellis,
Issa est carior Indicis lapillis,
Issa est deliciae catella Publi. 5
Hanc tu, si queritur, loqui putabis;
sentit tristitiamque gaudiumque.
Collo nixa cubat capitque somnos,
ut suspiria nulla sentiantur;
et desiderio coacta uentris 10
gutta pallia non fefellit ulla,
sed blando pede suscitat toroque
deponi monet et rogat leuari.
Castae tantus inest pudor catellae,
ignorat Venerem; nec inuenimus 15
dignum tam tenera uirum puella.
Hanc ne lux rapiat suprema totam,
picta Publius exprimit tabella,
in qua tam similem uidebis Issam,
ut sit tam similis sibi nec ipsa. 20
Issam denique pone cum tabella:
aut utramque putabis esse ueram,
aut utramque putabis esse pictam.

… but I don’t see any evidence that we’re dealing with something identifiable as a maltese. Can anyone help on the portrait claims? (or the Alexander eye colour claims?)