The incipit of a piece in the Times that leaves one’s head a-shaking:
Once famed for staging Ben Hur-style chariot races, the Circus Maximus in Rome is about to suffer the ultimate humiliation: a beach football tournament featuring players in centurion gear.
The three-day event pitting the best of Europe’s beach footballers against one another has been denounced as a vulgar misuse of the arena.
Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at the University of Rome, said that the tournament, for which the turf surface will be covered by sand, was an “improper and degrading use for a key Roman archaeological site”.
It was the latest example, he added, of the misuse of the Circus Maximus, which had been used for pop concerts and other events “which are not consonant with the history and beauty of the site”.
The Italian 2006 World Cup victory celebrations were held at the Circus Maximus. In 2001 the actress Sabrina Ferilli stripped to her underwear for thousands of AS Roma fans celebrating winning the national title.
When told that the players in the Euro Beach Soccer Cup would wear centurions’ helmets Professor Carandini said that lovers of Ancient Rome were mature enough to pack into museums and exhibitions “without the need for stunts of this kind”.
Gianni Alemanno, the Mayor of Rome, told La Repubblica: “This is not the first time the Circus Maximus has played host to sporting events, and it won’t be the last.” Rome respected its monuments but it had to be a place of enjoyment as well, he added.
Alessandro Onorato, the head of the Christian Democratic faction on the city council, said that the event was “utterly shameful”. “This Administration talks a lot about restoring the beaches on the coast near Rome and then, when it has the chance to promote them, what does it do? It moves the beach to the Circus Maximus.”
Massimiliano Valeriani, a councillor for the centre-left Democratic Party, said that Mr Alemanno “treats Rome as if it was just any other city where you can do anything, however invasive or debatable”.
Francesco Giro, the Deputy Culture Minister, said that it would be better to hold certain events outside Rome. He also had reservations about concerts held outside the Colosseum.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. A couple of years ago some entrepreneur was proposing having some chariot races in the Circus Maximus, but that doesn’t seem to have ever come to fruition. Can anyone update us on the plans mentioned around the same time to excavate/restore the spina? I’m not sure if that’s what’s depicted in the photo I’ve attached or not (photo was apparently taken in the first half of this year).
… a spectacular find, of course, and the last we had heard, the O’Neills were working to have the site preserved. As such we were quite dismayed to have this Telegraph piece land in our mailbox this a.m.:
In January father and son team Edward and Michael O’Neill discovered the headwaters of the aqueduct, which was built by the Emperor Trajan, hidden beneath a crumbling 13th century church north of Rome.
A sophisticated example of Roman hydraulic engineering, the aqueduct, known as the Aqua Traiana, was inaugurated in 109AD and carried fresh water 35 miles to the imperial capital.
But since the discovery was publicised, the archeologists claim that the farmer on whose land it stands has begun a crude excavation of the site in the hope of finding valuable Roman treasure.
They claim to have photographic evidence that the owner has burned vegetation around the entrance to the underground grotto, cut down mature fig trees which are holding the fragile structure together with their thick roots and started to dismantle sections of masonry.
“It’s a complete tragedy,” Edward O’Neill told the Daily Telegraph. “He’s doing some kind of treasure hunt.
“What is needed is an expert process by archeologists to preserve the site.” Repeated telephone calls to the landowner, Davide Piccioni, went unanswered yesterday.
In an attempt to stop the alleged damage to the site, the O’Neills and two American archeologists – Prof Katherine Rinne of Virginia University and Prof Rabun Taylor of the University of Texas at Austin – have sent a letter to Italian heritage authorities.
They have called for urgent intervention in order to prevent the landowner from further damaging the site, which they say has been “completely transformed” in the last six months.
They have also complained that the farmer has closed off access to the site since the grotto and spring were discovered five months ago.
The mayor of the local town, Lucia Dutto, said she too was concerned. “We have asked the superintendent of archaeology to carry out an immediate inspection of the site, so that further interference can be prevented. But until that happens, we can do nothing because it is private property.”
Ted O’Neill has also written directly to us, and sent along some photos which may be of interest. Here’s a photo of what the site looked like a while ago:
Ted O’Neill writes, inter alia:
The very upsetting news for us, is that on the important Santa Fiora
site – the location of the Nymphaeum shrine at the head of Trajan’s
aqueduct, seriously damaging works are in progress that we are
currently powerless to stop.
We and the archaeologists have been locked out of the site
since the date of the Press Conference in January. In mid-March we were able to
come fairly close (within about 50 yards) of the nymphaeum-church and
we were shocked by what we saw.
The owner had destroyed vegetation above the roman and Christian
ruins, up to the level of some masonary structures which he was bent
on removing. We are convinced that the masonary belongs, if not to
the roman nymphaeum, then to the early-christian church structure
which was added to the front of the nympheum shortly after the decrees
of Emperor Teodosio in 391AD which forbade pagan worship.
More perilously, the destruction of fig-trees above the nyphaeum
itself is likely to have led to the collapse of roman hydraulic cement
attached to the walls of the roman spring chamber. Roman building
materials in this type of construction teach us a great deal about the
science of how Trajan’s great water-supply worked. The fig tree
roots were the only thing still holding the this once rock-hard
material to the walls when we last visited in 2009. The material is
now extremely crumbly because the fig trees have sucked out all the
calcium, so a particular professional preservation technique is
required to save it.
Currently the local Council is powerless to act because they are
waiting for a “Vincolo” – like listing a listed building in the UK –
which would allow them to initiate a compulsory purchase, but the
owner is blocking this whole process by not allowing the Council or
Archaeologist Quilici to enter and make a detailed relief map.
In conclusion, these arbitrary interventions, carried out without the
slightest historical or archaeological understanding are undermining
the structural integrity of the Santa Maria della Fiora site. We
want to ensure that the monument is saved, but if the owner continues
digging about, there will be nothing left.
As mentioned above, the O’Neills have sent off a letter to the various Soprintendenzas … here’s some addresses (in Italian) if you’d like to add your voice:
1) La Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici per l’Etruria Meridionale ha responsibilita’
per tutta la roba antica e tutto che sia sotto il livello della terra.
Loro stanno a Villa Giulia, indietro di Villa Borghese a Rome.
Soprintendente Dott.ssa Annamaria Moretti
Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici per l’Etruria meridionale
Piazzale di Villa Giulia, 9 – 00196 ROMA
tel.06/3226571 – fax 06/3202010
Chiamando 06.322.6571, potresti chiedere la inspettrice Dott.ssa Ludovica Lombardi
o la inspettrice Dott.ssa Ida Caruso. Siccome voi state al confine del Comune di
Bracciano e Comune di Manziana, queste due condividono la responsabilita.
Dott.ssa Lombardi e davvero una persona gentile e simpatica. Dott.ssa
Caruso e simpatica anche lei, e’ molto influente li a Villa Giulia, e una stretta amica
della Soprintentende, e tiene una interessa personale sull’acquedotto di Traiano.
Si puo scrivere per la cortese attenzione della Soprintendente Annamaria Moretti,
e mettere Lombardi e Caruso per conoscenza.
Chiamando 0669624202 potresti parlare con Arch. Anna De Luca oppore con
Arch. Sandro Mantovanni. De Luca e’ risponsabile per la zona di Bracciano e
Mantovanni per Manziana, credo, e entrambi sono tosti e appassionati per
il tuo acquedotto e il suo ristauro.
2) Sovrintendenza per I Beni Architettonici Ed Il Paesaggio e Per Il Patrimonio
– Provincia di Roma, Viterbo ecc. tengono responsabilita’ per tutto quello
sopra terra – i Monumenti – in questo caso, la chiesetta / ninfeo.
Loro stanno nel Ghetto, vicino il Portico d’Ottavia.
Sovrintendente: Dott.ssa Federica Galloni
Sovrintendenza per I Beni Architettonici Ed Il Paesaggio e Per Il Patrimonio
via Cavalletti, 2, 00186 Roma
Tel. 06.696.24202 / 06.696.24203
Slate has a lengthy excerpt from Christopher Hitchens‘ memoirs … a couple of ‘subexcerpts’ might be of interest:
I often have difficulty convincing my graduate students that I really did go off to prep school at the age of eight, from station platforms begrimed with coal dust and echoing to the mounting “whomp, whomp, woof, woof” of the pistons beginning to turn, as my own “trunk” and “tuck box” were loaded into a “luggage car.” Not only that, but that I wore corduroy shorts in all weathers, blazers with a school crest on Sundays, slept in a dormitory with open windows, began every day with a cold bath (followed by the declension of Latin irregular verbs), wolfed lumpy porridge for breakfast, attended compulsory divine service every morning and evening, and kept a diary in which—in a special code—I recorded the number of times when I was left alone with a grown-up man, who was perhaps four times my weight and five times my age, and bent over to be thrashed with a cane.
This often feels as if it happened to somebody else yet I can be sure it did not because I can recall the element of sadomasochism so well. Awareness of this is no doubt innate in all of us, and I suppose a case could be made for teaching it to children as part of “sex education” or the facts of life, but I had to sit in a freezing classroom at first light, at a tender age, and hear my silver-haired Latin teacher Mr. Witherington approach the verge of tears as he digressed from the study of Caesar and Tacitus and told us with an awful catch in his voice of the way in which he had been flogged at Eastbourne School. And that same brutish academy, we thought as we squirmed our tiny rears on the wooden benches, was one of those to which we were supposed to aspire.
… with a new theme. I kinda like it, but I’m not sure about how it handles quotations. The motivation for this is weirdness happening with my old template for reasons I can’t quite figure out … still not sure I’ll keep this, but I’ll probably see if it grows on me over the next week or so.