Italy

990

Venusia’s supersize colony

The Samnites were hardy folk. Living in a region dominated by the Apennine mountains to the southeast of Rome, they proved reluctant to submit to the fledgling power’s imperium. Tensions flared into open conflict around 343 BC, when Rome was drawn into a land dispute. The Samnites were eager to be able to graze their […]

989

Metapontum and Tarentum

The fate of the inland cities of Southern Italy depended to a considerable extent on the fortunes of the Greek colonies springing up along the coast; and for Botromagno in particular, on those of Metapontum near the mouth of the Bradano River. The greatest of these colonies was Tarentum (modern Taranto), founded in the 8th […]

986

Hannibal’s Revenge

In the summer of 1911, the young Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) went on a bicycling tour around Rome and began to realise that the history of southern Italy was different from that of the north. When he returned to Oxford, he gave a series of lectures on the subject, but then his mind turned to higher […]

987

Botromagno: Becoming Urban

Today, Gravina is one of those little-known Italian towns that every tourist falls for. Meaning ‘ravine’ in Italian, the town is aptly named, as it teeters alarmingly on the brink of a precipice. This picturesque, if precarious, position lies some distance inland – 40 miles west of the provincial capital of Bari on the east […]

988

Fieldwalking

In 1996, Alastair Small and his wife Carola launched a major fieldwalking project to examine the countryside near Gravina. Focusing on the area along the Basentello River, they undertook ten seasons of survey here, covering an impressive 100km². Small teams of students assisted by local volunteers would scour the fields, walking 15m apart, and subdividing […]

980

Pompeii problems

Questions are being asked about the cultural priorities of the Italian Government in the wake of recent structural damage to the ancient Roman ruins at Pompeii. Italy’s own President, Giorgio Napolitano, described as ‘a disgrace’ the collapse on 6 November 2010 of the Schola Armaturarum Juventus Pompeiani (‘the House of the Gladiators’), and with it […]

997

Postcard from the Asso Valley

For years I have directed small armies of excavators through a project manager, so returning to the role of quartermaster (and co-director) was, to be truthful, both nostalgic and scary. I have always said an excavation runs on its food and accommodation. Rather like a well-honed army, fuel up the excavators, create an atmosphere of […]

A9

Italy Chamber of Secrets

In 1997 four cavers set out to explore the deepest galleries of the Grotta della Monaca. It was not an easy task. Located in the Calabria region of southern Italy, the huge entrance to the cavity hangs over the Esaro River like a brooding black eye. Back then, the only way to reach this forbidding […]

971

Sicily Byzantine banquets for the dead

Sicily was best known during the Roman Republic as the breadbasket of Rome. Although she never reached such dizzy heights again (Africa and Egypt seized the role of Rome’s main grain suppliers), the province remained quietly prosperous throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. The dazzling late Roman villa near Piazza Armerina, with its vast array […]

974

Postcard from the Asso Valley

A gentler, more verdant part of Italy is difficult to imagine. The river Asso is little more than a brook bisecting southern Tuscany before it runs into the deeper Orcia valley and winds its way towards the Tyrrhenian Sea. This is heavenly country, blissfully serene, and awash with vineyards that produce Brunello, a prince of […]

958

The Roman Forum

This is one of the most delectable anti-archaeology books I have read for a long time. The author is the Emeritus Professor of the History of Architecture at Cambridge – and he doesn’t like archaeologists. The Forum at Rome is one of the monuments of antiquity that has suffered most at the hands of archaeologists, […]

933

Ports of Rome

Rome had a problem. The Tiber River is too shallow for maritime craft. So Roman vessels plying the Mediterranean routes had to unload their cargoes at sea, transferring them to smaller skiffs capable of negotiating the river channel. Worse still, unfavourable winds could close the river mouth for days at a time. The Emperors invested […]

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