Archive for roman

This Couple Lives on Top of Roman History

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

May 2

Roland Geiger holds a tile nearly 2,000 years old found in the parking lot of his home in St. Wendel, Germany.

Roland Geiger holds a tile nearly 2,000 years old found in the parking lot of his home in St. Wendel, Germany.

I was invited to have dinner with Roland and Anne Geiger recently. As we sat in their cozy dining room heated by a wood-burning stove with our nostrils being savagely attacked by the wonderful smells coming out of the kitchen behind the wall, Roland entertained me with stories of what he has found on the property. More than once my mouth fell open, and it was not just from hunger. It was excitement at the thought that we were sitting on top of more than 2,000 years of history.

Roland casually pointed out a broken but still useful pot in the corner. ‘Used for cooking meat,’ he explained. They found animal bones and rocks inside. It now serves as a planter. He brought out a tile with wiggles scratched into its surface. ‘This was used to hold plaster,’ he explained. The Romans made these square tiles and attached them to the walls of houses with a concrete mix. Then they plastered over the wiggles, and the wiggles held the plaster in place. This ingenious system is copied today all over Europe with wallpaper that acts as an adhesive for paint.

Holding a Roman invention for applying plaster to a wall so that it would stick.

Holding a Roman invention for applying plaster to a wall so that it would stick.

But the most valuable thing in Roland’s collection, his ‘precious,’ is a broken tile in two parts with a faint etching on it. It could be a name. Yes, it probably is a name. ‘S, and then a very old e, the kind of letter used in the capital until about the year 1 and then in the provinces until around the year 100 AD,’ Roland pointed out as the wind was sucked out of my lungs by the thought that I was holding a piece of history in my not quite steady hands. ‘Then we have here a v, an i and an r and another i.’ The name ‘Seviri’ etched into the tile by the tile maker who needed to keep track of who had ordered which stack of tiles. Like attaching a sticky note, except one made with materials on hand. For this tile maker, it was a tile.

The name 'Seviri' is easily seen once the tile has been moistened

The name ‘Seviri’ is easily seen once the tile has been moistened

Roland sent images of the tile into the ether and soon had an answer from a professor in Madrid, who confirmed the purpose of the tile and the age.

Later Roland took me up into his barn where there are boxes and boxes of finds, many of them absolute treasures to the history nut. More fragments of the wiggly wall tiles. Pottery fragments from Roman and medieval times. All found in his garden, his parking lot, below his 17th century house which itself is a treasure worthy of another story.

Just a bunch of Roman stuff. Really? The heart starts to beat when one sees boxes of fragments of history in the attic of the Geiger home.

Just a bunch of Roman stuff. Really? The heart starts to beat when one sees boxes of fragments of history in the attic of the Geiger home.

Fittingly, Roland Geiger is an accomplished genealogist and excellent researcher who has helped many of our clients dig deeper into their family histories in the Saarland as well as in Rheinland Pfalz and surrounding areas of Germany.
Roland can be reached at [email protected] or through his web site at www.hfrg.com

The Roman Bridge and Old Town of Chaves, Portugal

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

August 17 – from a trip to this region in May

Signs of the extent of the Roman Empire are everywhere in Portugal. We took a daytrip from our country inn in the Douro River Valley to the pleasant little town of Chaves to find out more.

The Roman bridge dates back to the 3rd century. It still carries pedestrian traffic back and forth to both sides of the town.

The Roman bridge dates back to the 3rd century. It still carries pedestrian traffic back and forth to both sides of the town.

The town of Chaves has been inhabited since Paleolithic times. The region has seen persistent human settlement since Roman legions conquered and occupied the fertile valley of the Tâmega River, constructing a nascent outpost and taking over the existing castros in the area. The settlement was located at the convergence of three important Roman roads: the Bracara Augusta, Asturica, and Lamecum that crossed the Roman Province of Gallaecia, linking Rome to the region’s natural resources.  It was a military centre known for its baths, which lasted until the 16th century. This civilization constructed protective walls to protect the local population; spanned the river with the bridge; promoted the baths (with its warm medicinal waters); exploited local mines and alluvial deposits and other natural resources. Its importance led to the urban nucleus being elevated to the status ofmunicipality in 79 AD, during the reign of the first Flavian Caesar, Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus. Its benefactor consequently influenced its toponymy, becoming known as Aquae Flaviae. Artefacts from the area around the Matriz church indicate that Aquae Flaviae’s centre was located in this place, in addition to an ancient headstone showing gladiatorial combat.

The Roman era bridge, emblematic of the city of Chaves, was constructed during the reign of Emperor Trajan to span the Tâmega River, in order to connect the Roman provincial settlements of Astorga (in Spanish León) and Bracara Augusta (now Braga) in Gallaecia. The structure still has Roman inscriptions on the principal columns, that identify the bridge and its dedication to Emperor Caesar Vespasianus Augustus.

 

Narrow lane in the medieval town

Narrow lane in the medieval town

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Column with Latin inscription noting that the bridge was built with money raised by the citizens of the Roman town

Column with Latin inscription noting that the bridge was built with money raised by the citizens of the Roman town

The Longest and most complete Roman walls in the world

Friday, August 16th, 2013

August 16 – from a trip to this region in May

Our guest photographs the 3rd century Roman walls of Lugo, Galicia, Spain

Our guest photographs the 3rd century Roman walls of Lugo, Galicia, Spain

You might think these are in Italy. No, they are in the small city of Lugo, Galicia, Spain. We were surprised too. How did we find out about this little treasure town? Well, it started with Jenean’s laptop needing a new power cord. We stopped on our way from Santiago de Compostela to a country inn near Astorga at a large electronics store at the Lugo exit which has outlets across Europe. The young man who helped us there is in the wrong job. He should be the director of Lugo tourism. We mentioned that we were on our way through the area, and he acted surprised. ‘You aren’t going to see the longest Roman walls in the world?’ He then proceeded to extoll the many virtures of Lugo. Here we were, preparing to just get back in the van and continue on our way and this young man convinced us to make a detour and lunch stop in what is now one of our favorite destinations.

Lugo’s Roman walls reach a height of from 33 to 49 feet, and they undulate along the landscape around the core of the central city, completely encircling it. You can walk along the broad top of the wall for a unique perspective on not only the long wall, which stretches for nearly 7,000 feet, but you can also look down on the town, the rooftops and the towers of the several churches. The wall passes near the cathedral, which is also beautiful. Seventy-one towers make this wall one that is impressive from the outside, too.

We walked part of the wall and then descended down to the area near the cathedral where, as our young helper at Media Market had explained, the best tapas could be found. We tried one of the handful there and were all pleased by our selections with the exception of my calamari, which tasted frozen. The owner took it off our bill.

During Roman times, the region was full of gold mines, some of them open and visible today.

The 7,000 feet of intact Roman walls include 71 towers

The 7,000 feet of intact Roman walls include 71 towers

LugoLunch2

Yum! Nothing like Spanish tapas to take the edge off hunger, served fresh and fast

LugoLunch3

We could not get enough of these lightly fried green peppers served with sea salt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Roman Forum

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

The Foro Romano, heart of ancient Roman civilization

April 2

(From Wikipedia with photos by European Focus) The Roman Forum (Latin: Forum Romanum, Italian: Foro Romano) is a rectangular forum (plaza) surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum. It was for centuries the center of Roman public life: the site of triumphal processions and elections, venue for public speeches, criminal trials, and gladiatorial matches, and nucleus of commercial affairs. Here statues and monuments commemorated the city’s great men. The teeming heart of ancient Rome, it has been called the most celebrated meeting place in the world, and in all history. Located in the small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Forum today is a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments and intermittent archeological excavations attracting numerous sightseers.

The Senate met in the chamber at right center of this view


Many of the oldest and most important structures of the ancient city were located on or near the Forum. The Kingdom’s earliest shrines and temples were located on the southeastern edge. These included the ancient former royal residence, the Regia (8th century BC), and the Temple of Vesta (7th century BC), as well as the surrounding complex of the Vestal Virgins, all of which were rebuilt after the rise of imperial Rome. Other archaic shrines to the northwest, such as the Umbilicus Urbis and the Vulcanal (Shrine of Vulcan), developed into the Republic’s formal Comitium (assembly area). This is where the Senate — as well as Republican government itself — began. The Senate House, government offices, tribunals, temples, memorials and statues gradually cluttered the area. Over time the archaic Comitium was replaced by the larger adjacent Forum and the focus of judicial activity moved to the new Basilica Aemilia (179 BC). Some 130 years later, Julius Caesar built the Basilica Julia, along with the new Curia Julia, refocusing both the judicial offices and the Senate itself. This new Forum, in what proved to be its final form, then served as a revitalized city square where the people of Rome could gather for commercial, political, judicial and religious pursuits in ever greater numbers.

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A Visit to Arles, France

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

The Roman amphitheater is used on a regular basis for all kinds of events


One of the largest concentrations of the ruins of the Roman Empire in France can be found in Arles. From a long bridge leading into the city over the marshes to an amphitheater, large theater complex and a portion of the Roman Forum plus other ruins make this a destination not just for lovers of Roman architecture and history, but for those who appreciate the history of Vincent van Gogh, who spent a considerable portion of his life here. Strolling around Arles today as the sun was breaking through the overcast and the beautiful blue sky appeared through the arches of the amphitheater, the same sun creating a glow around the alleys and little corners of Arles and one can feel the inspiration that created such works as “Sunflowers” plus “Cafe at Night” and “Starry Night” by van Gogh during his time in Arles.

A scene just off the old Roman Forum. Would Vincent have captured this on canvas?

The city is restoring the exterior of the amphitheater and this gives me mixed emotions. I loved the old gray beast that was the old Arles amphitheater. It was falling to pieces in sections but that made it appear all the more ancient and mysterious. Now, entirely new sections of stone have replaced sections which were deemed too decrepit to salvage. It makes sections appear as if they were built yesterday, which in fact, they were. No doubt there were many arguments at city council meetings before this work was carried out.

A man walks through the square near the old Roman Forum


A statue of a pilgrim on the Aragonese Way to Santiago di Compostela, Spain, burial place of St. James. Arles was the starting point for one of the four main routes from France to Santiago. Arles was the more southerly route along the Camino Aragon.


Jenean Derheim walks down the Rue du Arena

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