Friday, July 16, 2004

Ostia Antica is really cool.

Hi again. It's 6:30 p.m. and we all just got back from our field trip to Ostia Antica. This is the city that was built around the mouth of the Tiber River ('os' is Latin for mouth) and Ostia served as a port city for Rome. It was a really short bus trip, and is actually quite easy to get to when you're taking public transportation. If you go to Rome, you should go to Ostia Antica! It is absolutely fabulous, much like Pompeii. Actually it's quite similar to Pompeii, except, because it had a much longer life (it was still inhabited into the 5th century A.D.) and because it wasn't 'frozen' in time like Pompeii, the ruins are more in ruins than Pompeii. However, there is a museum which houses a lot of statuary, and you can walk around the whole town, able to go in most of the buildings, but some you need special permission (which we had!!! yay!!!). There are remains of buildings such as thermae and balneae (public and private baths), popinae (fast food/bars), domus (private houses), templa (temples), a forum, insulae (apartment buildings), and an amphitheater. We went to all of these and several of them still had frescoes painted on the walls or on the ceilings, and also lots and lots of mosaic floors. In one of the public baths, you can go into the service area under the ground floor where you find the furnace that heated the water and the areas for slaves to do maintenance such as fuelling the fire and draining the pools. You could also see the tubes that brought the hot air/steam up into the walls to heat the walls and floor of the steam rooms and hot baths. We still aren't sure exactly how it all worked, but let's just say these guys were awesome at radiant heating! I walked around the palaestra of the baths as well, which is where people exercised, and the solarium. And of course, we saw the 20-seater latrine, with the holes in the walls where hooks would hang for the 'sponges on sticks' which they used because they didn't have toilet paper. Don't worry...I got a photo!!! I like baths, so this was the highlight of my day. Another bath had a huge mosaic of Neptune on the floor which we saw from the second floor of an apartment building. And it's practically impossible to be on a second floor in any Roman ruins because they just don't exist anymore in most places, they are the first things to collapse. We had a great tour guide whose name was Joanne Sporza who is at Hunter College, NY and has spent the last 15 years studying Ostia. She directed us to a website: that she says is fabulous. I haven't had a chance to look yet, but soon will and now you can too if you are interested. We even saw a Mithraeum (which I have never seen before). Mithraism was a mystery cult that actually gave Christianity a run for its money in ancient times; they were 'competitor' religions. The Mithraea are out-of-the-way, cave or grotto-like shrines to the god Mithras. Most of these shrines had an altar and a statue of Mithras with his knee on a bull, holding the bull's head and preparing to sacrifice it by cutting its throat. Unfortunately we don't know much about Mithraism because it's a mystery cult, and its members (all men) were initiated in and sworn to secrecy, and we have no literary evidence about the cult worship other than these shrines and statues. It was a great day and because it's fish for dinner which I don't really like even if I did have that awesome fish soup last week, but I digress...a few of us are going to a nice restaurant in the neighborhood, I forget its real name, but it's Italian for 'hearth' so we all call it 'The Hearth,' because we are worthless Americans ha ha. There is also some talk about going to the movies, but it's been a long day so probably not likely...

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