Graffiti of Pompeii

There are thousands of graffiti recorded in the time capsule town on Pompeii, the town destroyed and buried by a volcanic eruption in 79 AD. They offer a glimpse into everyday ancient life in an unprecedented way. I hope you will find this list an amusing diversion or a useful resource for research.

Note – technically this list is a mixture of graffiti and dipinti. A dipinto is a drawn message or doodle, either made with paint, charcoal etc. A graffiti is incised into the surface, perhaps with a nail or tool. For the sake of simplicity, I’m using the word graffiti as a catch-all term, in keeping with the majority of guidebooks and websites.

I shall provide the location of each graffito wherever possible. Not only will this help tourists find them (if still visible,) but noting which types of graffiti appear where is a fascinating insight into the different neighbourhoods of the town. When I provide a building code, it breaks down into 3 sections. The first part notes the Regio, one of 9 zones of the town carved up by archaeologists. The second number notes the insula, or city block. The final number is the door number. So the House of the Surgeon is categorised as vi.1.10 – Regio 6, block 1, door 10. Some houses are known by a number of names, I’ll use whichever I think is the better known. A lot of buildings have multiple numbered entrances, I shall use the entrance closest to the graffito.

Where I can, I’ll also provide the catalogue number of each graffito in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. Volume IV is dedicated to graffiti recorded in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae. The online database I use is the Epigrafik-Datenbank Clauss-Slaby. This will be handy if you wish to read any of these in the original Oscan, Greek or Latin. If I can’t find a translation or attempt a clumsy one myself, I won’t include an example. This list is intended to be accessible for everyone (or at least those who don’t mind sexual themes or naughty language…) I’m not going to shy away from graffiti that use ‘naughty’ language as some books/sites do. The Pompeians weren’t prudes so I see no reason why I should be. However, perhaps you may wish to bookmark this page to read away from school/work…

If you spot any mistakes, can fill in some missing information or think I’ve missed a great example, just let me know.

POLITICS

If the graffiti is anything to go by, Pompeiians loved politics. The huge number of electoral slogans reminds me of my clogged Facebook timeline during our own modern elections. Official dipinti were written by professional scriptores, usually in red paint in an elegant script. Some of the others may be a teensy bit sarcastic…

  • I ask you to elect Numerius Barcha, a good man, as duovir. May Venus Pompeiana be favourable to your offerings. – CIL IV 00026, House of the Anchor vi.10.7
  • Numerius Veius, a good man. Colonists, I ask you to elect him duovir. – CIL IV 00045 Facade of a shop, viii.5.29
  • Numerius Veius Barcha, I hope you rot! – CIL IV 00075
  • Nymphodotus with Caprasia asks you to elect Marcus Cerrinius Vatia aedile. CIL IV 207
  • All the late drinkers ask you to elect Marcus Cerrinius Vatia aedile. Florus and Fructus wrote this! – CIL VI 581, Taberna Hedones, vii.2.44
  • I beg you to elect Marcus Epidius Sabinus duovir with judicial powers, he is worthy. May you elect one who is a protector of the colony according to the opinion of Suedius Clemens, the worshipful judge, and by agreement of the council on account of his merits and his honesty, worthy of public office. Sabinus, the theatre official, elects him with applause. CIL IV 768, Shop of Sabinus, i.4.18
  • Popidius Natalis, his client, with the worshipers of Isis, call for the election of Cuspius Pansa for aedile.  CIL IV 1011, Bakery of Felix, viii.4.27
  • The ball players ask that you elect Aulus Vettius Firmus aedile, worthy of public office. CIL IV 1147, Estate of Julia Felix, ii.4.4
  • Elect Gnaeus Helvius Sabinus aedile, worthy of public office. Masculus and all those who have a tail recommend him… CIL IV 7240 Caupona of Masculus, i.7.14
  • All the late sleepers ask for Marcus Cerrinius Vatia for aedile. CIL IV 575
  • Vatia for aedile: supported by the petty thieves… CIL IV 576
  • Vote for Isidorus for aedile, he licks cunts the best! CIL IV 1383, Brothel of Aphrodite, Secunda, Nymphe, Spendusa, Veneria, Restituta, Timele vi.11.15
  • Lucius Popidius Ampliatus, son of Lucius, for aedile: supported by his client Montanus in conjunction with the brigands.  CIL IV 7851
  • Valens, you’re sleeping; you’re asleep and dreaming; wake up from your slumber and make Helvius Sabinus aedile. 
  • The neighbours of Lucius Statius Receptus urge you to elect him duovir with judicial power. He is deserving of the office. Aemilius Celer, his neighbour, wrote this. If you deliberately deface this sign, may you fall gravely ill! CIL IV 3775 House of Primigenia ix.8.8
  • Statia and Petronia beg you to elect Marcus Casellius and Lucius Albucius as aediles. There are excellent citizens for the perpetuity of the colony.  CIL IV 3294
  • Bruttius Balbus for duumvir. His actions will be fiscally responsible. Genialis supports this. CIL IV 3792 Shop, ix.2.20

GLADIATORS

Pompeiians loved a good gladiatorial spectacle. Theirs is the oldest surviving permanent amphitheatre in the Roman world. Politicians hoped to win over the citizens by sponsoring lavish spectacles and certain gladiators became ancient celebrities. It seems that ancient Campanians were quite willing to travel to see a good show, following their favourite troupes in the same way that modern sports fans go to away matches. That explains why the amphitheatre at Pompeii is so large for such a small town. Keen fans scribbled the results of fights alongside doodles of their favourite fighters.

Note – the term ‘Neronian’ indicates the gladiator trained at the Imperial training school in Capua.

  • The gladiatorial troupe of Aulus Suettius Certus, aedile, will fight at Pompeii on 31st of May. There will be a hunt and awnings. CIL IV 1189 The Eumachia, vii.9.1
  • At the dedication of the Games of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius… There will be a hunt, athletics, aprinklings, awnings. Good fortune to Maius, leader of the colony. CIL IV 1177 Forum Baths vii.5.2
  • 20 pairs of gladiators of Decimus Lucretius Satrius Valens, perpetual priest of Nero and 10 pairs of gladiators of his son Decimus Lucretius Valens, will fight at Pompeii on 8,9,10,11,12 April. There will be a regular hunt and awnings. Aemilius Celer wrote this on his own by the light of the moon.  CIL IV 3884 Shop facade, ix.8.1
  • Celadus, belonging to Octavus, fought 3 won 3. CIL IV 4297 House of the Gladiators, v.5.3
  • Rusticus Malius – 12 fights, 11 wins. Marcus Terentius – 3 fights, 3 wins. CIL IV 4302 House of the Gladiators v.5.3
  • Celadus the Thracian gladiator is the delight of all the girls! CIL IV 4289 House of the Gladiators, v.5.3
  • Mansuetas the provocator will dedicate his shield to Venus if victorious! CIL IV 283, Quadriporticus viii.7.16
  • Faustus, slave of Ithacus, Neronian, at the amphitheatre; Priscus, Neronian, fought 6, victor; Herrenius, fought 18, killed CIL IV 1421 House of the Labyrinth vi.11.10
  • Asteropaeus, Neronian, 107 victories, victor. Oceanus, freedman, 6 victories, reprieved CIL IV 1422 House of the Labyrinth vi.11.9
  • In honour of the Safety of the Emperor Vespasian Caesar Augustus and his House, on the occasion of the dedication of the altar, the gladiatorial troupe of Gnaeus Allius Nigidius Maius, Flamen of Caesar Augustus, will give games at Pompeii on July 4. Beast hunt. There will be awnings. CIL IV 1180 Large Theatre exterior
  • Oceanus, of free status, victorious 13 times, won. Aracintus, of free status, victorious 4 times, earned a reprieve. CIL IV 8055 House of the Ceii i.6.15
  • Severus, of free status, victorious 13 times, earned a reprieve. Albanus, left-hander, of free status, victorious 19 times, won CIL IV 8056 House of the Ceii i.6.15 Left handed gladiators were quite rare and would have drawn a large crowd.
  • Marcus Attilius. Marcus Attilius, fought 1, won 1, victor. Lucius Raecius Felix, fought 12, won 12, reprieved. CIL IV 10236A Tomb 14 Porta Nuceria necropolis
  • Marcus Attilius, novice, victor; Hilarus, Neronian, fought 14, 12 victories, reprieved CIL IV 10238A Tomb 14 Porta Nuceria necropolis
  • Games at Nola given by Marcus Cominius Heres over 4 days. ‘The Chief’, Neronian, fought 13, 10 victories, victor. Hilarus, Neronian, fought 14, 12 victories, victor. Creunus, fought 7, 5 victories, reprieved.  CIL IV 10237 Tomb 14 Porta Nuceria necropolis
  • Twenty pairs of Gladiators, belonging to Aulus Suettius Antenio and to his freedman Niger, will fight at Puteoli on the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th of March. There will also be a beast hunt and athletic contests. CIL IV 9970
  • Sold to the wife of Decimus Lucretius Valens: Onustus, horseman of prime quality, Sagatus, Thracian murmillo, prime quality! CIL IV 8590 It would be extremely odd for a wife to buy gladiators on her husband’s behalf. It seems likely that this matron was in fact buying/hiring these gladiators for her own entertainment…
  • 20 pairs of gladiators of Gnaeus Alleius Nigidius Maius, quinquennial, and their substitutes will fight without any public expense at Pompeii. Greetings to Gavillius Tigellus and Clodius. Greetings to Telephus, head gladiator instructor. Good luck, Diadumenus and Pyladio CIL IV 7991 House of Trebius Valens iii.2.1
  • Good fortune to Gnaeus Alleius Maius, the prince of the games! CIL IV 7990 Palaestra ii.7.7
  • Marcus Casellius Marcellus, a good aedile and a great giver of games CIL IV 4999 House of M Casellius Marcellus ix.2.26
  • Felix, belonging to Cassius, 13 fights 13 wins. Florus, belonging to Octavius, 14 fights 14 wins CIL IV 4378 House of the Gladiators v.5.3
  • On the 28th of July, Florus won at Nuceria, on the 15th of August, he won at Herculaneum CIL IV 4299 House of the Gladiators v.5.3
  • On the … Of May, the gladiator troupe of Ampliatus will fight at Formia. There will be a beast hunt, sprinklings and awnings. As the whole world desires to see my troupe, I shall provide games everywhere. CIL IV 1184 Gladiator Barracks viii.7.16
  • You have been victorious in every single one of your bouts! It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World! CIL IV 1111 Amphitheatre ii.6
  • Chariot fighter Philippus from the school of Tettius. 8 fights, 8 wins! CIL IV 4280 House of the Gladiators v.5.3

 

WORDS OF WISDOM

  • A small problem gets bigger if you ignore it… CIL IV 1811, Basilica, viii.1.1
  • What’s happening? Oh, eyes, you forcibly dragged me into the fire;
    Now, unforced, you flood my cheeks.
    But never can the tears extinguish the flame, t
    hey inflame the face and melt the spirit. Tiburtinus composed this. IV 4966, Odeon, viii.7.19
  • Once you are dead, you are nothing CIL IV 5279 House of the Centennial, ix.8.3
  • Nothing can last for all time: When the Sun has shone brightly it returns to Ocean; the Moon wanes, which recently was full. Even the fierceness of Venus often becomes a mere puff of wind. CIL IV 9123 Shop of Successus ix.13.4
  • Avoid giving killer looks to the wives of others with desirous expressions, harbour modesty in your mouth. CIL IV 7968A House of the Moralist iii.4.2
  • Remove lustful expressions and a flirtatious gaze from another man’s wife; may there be modesty in your expression. CIL IV 7968B House of the Moralist iii.4.2
  • Postpone your tiresome squabbles if you can, or leave and take them home with you. CIL IV 7968C House of the Moralist iii.4.2
  • When an old man lies on his back, his bollocks cover his arsehole. CIL IV  4488
  • The one who buggers a man on fire burns his penis CIL IV 1882 Basilica viii.1.1
  • He who despises life easily spurns god CIL IV 5370 House of the Arches ix.7.20
  • Beware of wives! CIL IV 4238 Caupona V.2.3
  • The doorman should be awake for those who come bearing gifts. If, however, someone should knock on the door empty handed, the doorman should be deaf or sleeping with the latch firmly shut… CIL IV 1894 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Now, when anger is still fresh, it is time to leave. When grief has departed love shall return. Trust me! CIL IV 4491 House of Sextus Pompeius Axiochus vi.13.19

THE CALL OF NATURE

  • Stranger, my bones beg you not to pee at my tomb: if you want to do the deceased an even bigger favour: take a dump! You see the tomb of Urtica [= ‘Stinging Nettle’]: go away, shitter! It is not safe for you to open your buttocks here. CIL IV 8899 iii.5.4
  • Secundus took a shit here.  (This was written three times on the same wall…) CIL IV 5243 House of the Centenary ix.8.3
  • Lesbianus, you poop and you write, ‘Hi, everybody!’ CIL IV 10070 Shop of Nicanor ii.3.9
  • This is Martha’s dining room, as she shits in this dining room. CIL IV 5244 House of the Centenary ix.8.3 The graffito was found in what is thought to be the slave’s quarters.
  • One day you will understand how I feel. When I need to have a shit I’ll come and shit! CIL IV 5242 House of the Centenary ix.8.3
  • Shitter! Beware misfortune! CIL IV 3832 Caupona of Tertius ix.7.2
  • To the one defecating here.  Beware of the curse.  If you look down on this curse, may you have an angry Jupiter for an enemy! CIL IV 7716 House of Pascius Hermes iii.5.1
  • We have pissed the bed, I confess. We have erred innkeeper, though if you ask us why; there was no chamberpot! CIL IV 4952 Unnamed house viii.7.6

I WAS HERE

  • Gaius Pumidius Dipilus was here five days before the nones of October in the year that Marcus Lepidus and Quintus Catulus were consuls (2nd October 78 BC) CIL IV 1842 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Floronius, privileged soldier of the 7th legion, was here.  The women did not know of his presence.  Only six women came to know, too few for such a stallion.  CIL IV 8767 Large Palaestra ii.7
  • Glyco was here with Martialis while the sun was boiling, we were thirsty. CIL IV 89 Tomb 18 Porta Ercolano necropolis
  • We two dear men, friends forever, were here.  If you want to know our names, they are Gaius and Aulus. CIL IV 8162 Bar i.7.8

MATTERS OF THE HEART

  • Sabinus, my beauty, Hermeros loves you! CIL IV 1256 House of the Tragic Poet vi.8.5. This is just one of many graffiti about love/sex between two men.
  • No young buck is complete until he has fallen in love CIL IV 1787 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Let everyone one in love come and see.  I want to break Venus’ ribs with clubs and cripple the goddess’ loins.  If she can strike through my soft chest, then why can’t I smash her head with a club? CIL IV 1824 Basilica viii.1.1
  • If you are able, but not willing, why do you put off our joy and kindle hope and tell me always to come back tomorrow.  So, force me to die since you force me to live without you.  Your gift will be to stop torturing me.  Certainly, hope returns to the lover what it has once snatched away. CIL IV 1837 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Love dictates to me as I write and Cupid shows me the way, but may I die if the god should wish me to go on without you! CIL IV 1928 Basilica viii.1.1
  • I’m hurrying to you, my Sava. Try to love me! CIL IV 2414 Corridor into the Large Theatre viii.7.20
  • Methe of Atella, slave of Cominia, loves Chrestus. May Venus Pompeiana smile favourably on their hearts and let them always live in harmony. CIL IV 2457 Corridor into the Large Theatre viii.7.20
  • Whoever loves, let him flourish.  Let him die who knows not love.  Let him who forbids love die twice over.  CIL IV 4091 House of Caecilius Jucundus v.1.26
  • If you felt the fires of love, mule-driver, you would make far more haste to see Venus.  I love a charming boy; I ask you, goad the mules; let’s go!  Take me to Pompeii, where love is sweet.  You are mine… CIL IV 5092 House of Poppaeus Sabinus ix.5.11
  • Oh, if only I could grasp my gentle arms around you and and give kisses to your delicate little lips. Come now, my little darling, entrust your pleasures to the winds. Believe me, the nature of men is fickle. Often as I have lain awake in a wasted night, I think on these things: many whom Fortuna raised high, now suddenly rush headlong, and fall, overwhelmed by her. Thus, just as Venus joins the bodies of lovers in a moment, daylight divides them and you will separate their love. CIL IV 5296 ix.9.f
  • Marcellus loves Praenestina, but she doesn’t care for him CIL IV 7679 House of Pinarius Cerialis iii.4.b
  • (Written by Severus) – “Successus, a weaver, loves the innkeeper’s slave girl named Iris, She, however, does not love him. Still he begs her to have pity on him. His rival wrote this. Goodbye”(Answer by Successus) – “Envious one, why do you get in the way. Submit to a handsomer man and one who is being treated very wrongly and good looking”(Answer by Severus) – “I have spoken. I have written all there is to say. You love Iris, but she does not love you!” CIL IV 8258 Bar of Prima i.10.2
  • Secundus says hello to his Prima, wherever she is.  I ask, my mistress, that you love me. CIL IV 8364 House of the Cabinetmaker i.10.7
  • My Ceres, may he who loves prosper, who forbids love may he perish badly. I loved Leda, but in a manner in which it was acceptable. Greetings, Tiberius Claudius. I loved Leda – the girl from Samos. CIL IV 9202 House of Caecilius Jucundus v.1.23
  • A blonde girl taught me to scorn brunettes. I will scorn them if I can; if not… I will reluctantly love them CIL IV 9839 Vineyard wall i.11.10
  • Blondie has taught me to hate dark-haired girls.  I shall hate them, if I can, but I wouldn’t mind loving them.  Pompeian Venus Fisica wrote this CIL IC 1520 House of the Scientists vi.14.43
  • Lovers are like bees; they live a honeyed life! CIL IV 8408a Bar of Astylus and Pardalus ii.2.1
  • If only that were true… CIL IV 8408b Bar of Astylus and Pardalus ii.2.1
  • I don’t want to sell my husband, not for all the gold in the world! CIL IV 3061 House of Caprasius Primus vii.2.48
  • If anyone does not believe in Venus, they should take a look at my girl friend! CIL IV 6842 House of Pinarius iv.16.15
  • Greetings to Primigenia of Nuceria.  I would wish to become a signet ring for no more than an hour, so that I might give you kisses dispatched with your signature… CIL IV 10241 Tomb, Porta Nocera necropolis
  • Sarra, you are not being very nice, leaving me all alone like this! CIL IV 1951 Basilica viii.1.1
  • A woman has borne a son of her own; he isn’t mine and doesn’t look like me, but I wish he was mine and I was wanting him to be mine. CIL IV 1877 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Juvenillia was born on Saturday in the second hour of the evening, Aug 2nd. CIL 294 vii.3 Juvenilla was therefore 3 weeks old when Vesuvius erupted.
  • Let him constrain the winds, he who rebukes lovers! And let him him forbid the waters of a stream from continuing to flow! CIL IV 1649 Shop, vii.6.35

A DRINK AT THE BAR

  • Hedone says, “You can get a drink here for only one coin.  You can drink better wine for two coins.  You can drink Falernian for four coins.” CIL IV 1679 Bar of Hedone vii.2.44
  • Whoever wants to serve themselves can go on an drink from the sea! CIL IV 3494 Bar of Salvius vi.14.36
  • What a lot of tricks you use to deceive, innkeeper. You sell water but drink unmixed wine!  CIL IV 3498 Workshop of Potitus vi.14.37
  • I fucked the barmaid! cil iv 8442 Caupona of Sotericus i.12.3

SEX

Whilst the Romans did have an unwritten code of morality, it seems that their attitude to sex was open, not to be matched until, perhaps, the 20th century. Erotic images taken to the museum in Naples were kept in a secret, locked room that was only opened up to the public in 2005. Whilst the modern idea of constant orgies is inaccurate (and influenced by the early Christian church,) erotic images and graffiti were not limited to brothels and dive bars and were found in the grandest of houses. There is no Latin term for homosexuality as it was not seen as particularly remarkable (even Julius Caesar had an affair with the King of Bithynia,) although a Roman citizen should always seek to be the penetrator, not the penetratee. Fellatio, cunnilingus and heterosexual anal sex were common and frequently advertised by prostitutes. Hookers could be hired for the price of a loaf of bread or beaker of wine, although those with particular talents or services could charge a lot more. Prostitution was legal and regulated and by no means a career solely for women. Visiting prostitutes was not frowned upon and was vastly preferable to seducing another man’s wife/daughter. Some clients even left glowing (and not so complimentary) reviews!

  • Thrust slowly!  (found above a doodle of doggy style sex) CIL IV 794 House of the King of Prussia vii.9.33
  • Atimetus got me pregnant CIL IV 10231 Tomb, Porta Nuceria necropolis
  • I don’t care about your pregnancy, Salvilla; I despise it. CIL IV 8384 House of Minucius i.10.8
  • Fortunatus will fuck you really deep. Come and see, Anthusa! CIL IV 1230 House of the Surgeon vi.1.10
  • Here I’ve finally screwed a beautiful girl, praised by many, but inside there was a mudhole. CIL IV 1516 House of the Scientist vi.14.43
  • My life, my sweetheart, let’s play for a moment, let’s imagine that this bed is a field and that I am your horse… CIL IV 1781 Basilica viii.1.1
  • It is much better to fuck a hairy cunt than a smooth one: it both retains the warmth and stimulates the organ. CIL IV 1830 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Take hold of your servant girl whenever you want to; it’s your right. CIL IV 1863 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Order your cock, it’s time for love! CIL IV 1938 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Restitutus says: “Restituta, take off your tunic, please, and show us your hairy cunt!” CIL IV 3951 Tavern of Verecundus i.2.23
  • Fortunatus, you sweet soul, you mega-fucker. Written by one who knows. CIL IV 4239 House of the Silver Wedding v.2.e
  • My lusty son, with how many women have you banged? CIL IV 5213 House of the Centenary ix.8.3
  • Cock, you are enormous! CIL IV 7089 v.7.4
  • Matrenia with the hot ass CIL IV 8473 Caupona of Hermes ii.1.13
  • Palmyra, you horny beast! CIL IV 8475 Caupona of Hermes ii.1.1
  • Dionysios is allowed to fuck whenever he wants CIL IV 8897 Shop iii.5.3
  • Crescens declares his penis hard and huge! CIL IV 10085b Imperial House ii.1.10
  • Jucundus fucks badly. CIL IV 8715b Large Palaestra ii.7
  • Here I have penetrated my lady’s open buttocks; but it was vulgar of me to write these verses. CIL IV 9246b Villa of the Mysteries
  • Virgula to her friend Tertius: you are so dirtyminded! CIL IV 1881 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Fortuna licks arseholes. CIL IV 4954 House viii.6.5

PROSTITUTES and THEIR CLIENTELE

  • If anyone sits on this bench, let him read this first of all: if anyone wants a screw, he should look for Attice; she costs 4 sestertii. CIL IV 1751 Porta Marina
  • If anyone’s looking for tender embraces in this town, he should know that here all the girls are available. CIL IV 1796 Basilica viii.1.1
  • 15 June, Hermeros fucked here with Phileterus and Caphisus CIL IV 2185 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Phoebus the perfumer is the best fuck CIL IV 2184 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Garlicfarticus’ fucked well here whom he wished CIL IV 2188 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Here Harpocras had a good screw with Drauca for a denarius. CIL IV 2193 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • He butt fucks Aplonia, gives it good, Nonius, fucking… CIL IV 2197 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • When you hand over the money, Batacarus, then I’ll fuck you in the arse! CIL IV 2254 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Restituta with the pretty face CIL IV 2202  Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Mola the fucktress CIL IV 2204  Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18
  • Felicla, slave born of the household, costs 2 asses CIL IV 4023 unnamed house v.1.15
  • Menander, nice manners, costs 2 asses CIL IV 4024 unnamed house v.1.15
  • Successa, slave born of this household, costs 5 asses. She has pretty manners. CIL IV 4025 unnamed house v.1.15
  • Felix costs four asses. Florus ten. CIL IV 7339 unnamed house i.10.3
  • Afillia costs 2 and a half asses CIL IV 7764
  • Communis: 3 asses, Successus: 3 asses, Nicephorus: 2 asses, Amunus: 4 asses, Cresimus, house born slave: 4 asses CIL IV 3964 Bakery i.3.1
  • I’m yours for 2 asses CIL IV 5372 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Athenais costs 2 asses. Sabina costs 2 asses CIL IV 4150 House of Jupiter v.2.15

HOMOSEXUALITY

  • Amplicatus, I know that Icarus is buggering you.  Salvius wrote this. CIL IV 2375 House of the Citharist i.4.5
  • Let Damoetas surrender to me and he will be happier than Pasiphae.  Zosimus wrote this. CIL IV 3299 House of M Casellius Marcellus ix.2.26
  • Weep, you girls.  My penis has given you up.  Now it penetrates men’s behinds.  Goodbye, wondrous femininity! CIL IV 3932 Bar of Innulus and Papilio i.2.20
  • I have buggered men CIL IV 4523 House of Orpheus vi.14.20
  • Albanus takes it up the arse CIL IV 4917 House of L. Caecilius Phoebus  viii.2.36
  • Lucius Habonius injures Caesonius Felix when he makes him suck his cock CIL IV 10232a Tomb 12 Porta Nocera necropolis
  • Vesbinus is catamite, Vitalius fucked him CIL IV 2319b between vii.2.16 and vii.2.17
  • Cosmus, slave of Equitia, is a great catamite and cocksucker who keeps his legs apart! CIL IV 1825 Basilica viii.1.1
  • I want to bugger a boy CIL IV 2110 Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18

CUNNILINGUS

There dozens of references to cunnum recorded in Pompeii. Here are just a few…

  • Satyrus, don’t lick cunt inside the opening but outside the opening. CIL IV 2400 House of M Epidius Sabinus ix.1.22
  • Saturninus, don’t lick cunts! CIL IV 3925 Caupona and brothel of Demetrius and Helpis Afra i.2.19
  • Isidorus, slave born in the household, from Puteoli, muff diver. CIL IV 4699 between vi.15.22 and vi.15.23
  • Theophilus, don’t lick cunts against the city wall like a dog! CIL IV 8898 Shop, iii.5.3
  • Asbestus licks cunt CIL IV 763 viii.4
  • Centius licks Dionusia’s cunt CIL IV 1425 House of the Labyrinth vi.11.10
  • Fronto openly licks pussy CIL IV 2257 Lupanar (brothel) vii.12.18
  • Glyco licks cunts for two asses. CIL IV 3999 Bakery i.3.27
  • Maritimus licks cunt for four asses. Virgins are free of charge CIL IV 8940 Shop, iii.7.1

FELLATIO

It’s not a shock to find scores of graffiti mentioning blow jobs, ranging from tips, reviews and prices.

  • Rufa, may life be as good as your cocksucking! CIL IV 2421 Corridor of Large Theatre viii.7.20
  • Sabina, you suck cock, but you do it so badly! CIL IV 4185 House of the Silver Wedding v.2.1
  • Secundus, a cocksucker of rare skill CIL IV 9027 House of the Peristyle vii.6.28
  • Lick, girl!the mouth is not despised by anyone who is ready to come with the hand! CIL IV 10197 House of the Ship Europa i.15.3
  • Romula sucks her man here and everywhere. House of Marcus Fabius Rufus vii.16.22
  • Veneria sucked the cock of Maximus through the whole grape harvest, leaving both of her holes empty and only her mouth full! CIL IV 1391 Lupanare of Aphrodite, Secunda, Nymphe, Spendusa, Veneria, Restituta, Timele VI.11.15
  • Go down with your mouth along the shaft, then still licking, withdraw it upwards. Ah, there, I’m coming! CIL IV 760 Stabian Baths
  • Euplia sucks cock for 5 asses CIL IV 3330
  • Narcissus is the greatest cocksucker CIL IV 1825a Basilica viii.1.1
  • Felix sucks cock for one as CIL IV 5408 Tomb, Porta Nocera necropolis
  • Lais sucks cock for 2 asses CIL IV 1969
  • The man who shits a dick, what would you think he dined on? CIL IV 1884 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Myrtis, you give great head CIL IV 2273  Lupanar (Brothel) vii.12.18

INSULTS

  • Epaphra, you are bald! CIL IV 1816 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Chie, I hope your hemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than when they every have before! CIL IV 1820 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Phileros is a eunuch!  CIL IV 1826 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Samius to Cornelius: go hang yourself! CIL IV 1864 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Epaphra is not good at ball games. CIL IV 1926 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Good fortune to the Puteolans; good luck to all Nucerians; the executioner’s hook to Pompeians and Pithecusans CIL IV 2183 Amphitheatre
  • Euplia is slack and has a huge clitoris CIL IV 10004 House of the Floral Cubicula i.9.5
  • Lucius Statius Philadelphus, freedman of a woman, is a thief! CIL IV 3990
  • Servilius is n love, he shouldn’t be allowed the chance. Go lick a cunt, Servilius. CIL IV 4304 House of the Gladiators v.5.3
  • Chloe says goodbye to Symphorus. Naeve should drop dead, he really should. CIL IV 4430 House vi.7.1
  • Erotaria, you jealous old bitch! CIL IV 9945 Tomb, Porta Nocera Necropolis

MUNDANITIES

  • A copper pot has gone missing from my shop.  Anyone who returns it to me will be given 65 sestertii.  20 more will be given for information leading to the capture of the thief. CIL IV 0064 Shop viii.5.33
  • On April 20th, I gave a cloak to be washed.  On May 7th, a headband.  On May 8th, two tunics CIL IV 1393 Unnamed house vi.11.13
  • It took 640 paces to walk back and forth between here and there ten times CIL IV 1714 vii.1.40
  • Epaphra, give the paintbrush back CIL IV 1787 Basilica viii.1.1
  • Health to whomever invites me to lunch! CIL IV 1937 Basilica viii.1.1
  • On April 19th, I made bread CIL IV 8792 Large Palaestra ii.7
  • If you wish to waste time, spill millet and pick it up again CIL IV 2069 House of Holconius Rufus viii.4.4
  • Since 14 days before the Kalends of April our wages have been overdue CIL IV 6733 Bakery 6733

 

AND FINALLY…

O walls, you have held up so much tedious graffiti that I am amazed that you have not already collapsed in ruin. CIL IV 1904 Basilica, viii.1.1

 

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An Easter Execution

If you happen to walk past Westminster Abbey during the day it’s likely that you’ll see a long, snaking queue of tourists leading to the north door. Most of these tourists pay little attention to the smaller church of St Margaret’s that stands to the left of the Abbey entrance.

Seen by most as the Abbey’s dowdy, dull little sibling, most of the tourists lining up for Abbey tickets won’t bother venturing in to St Margaret’s. That’s a shame, as it is a fascinating building. Samuel Pepys was married there, as was John Milton and Winston Churchill. Sir Walter Raleigh is buried in St Margaret’s in the chancel. Raleigh had been beheaded in Old Palace Yard just outside in 1618, charged with plotting with the French. His widow, Elizabeth Throckmorton, carried his severed, embalmed head with her in a red velvet bag for the rest of her life. Tradition states that the head was interred with the rest of the body when their son, Carew, died and was buried next to Walter.

Quite a few London guidebooks mention Raleigh and his execution, along with other executions that took place outside Parliament. Few mention that St Margaret’s is the site of a religious martyrdom. I’ve previously written about how a bloody fight in the Abbey resulted in the death of a monk, but that was not to be the last time that Abbey clergy were to be attacked.

During the reign of Henry VIII England had undergone a religious upheaval, breaking away from Roman Catholicism. The Abbey was dissolved in 1540 along with other monasteries up and down the country. The building was saved from destruction thanks to the ties between to Abbey and royalty with Henry announcing that the Abbey was now a cathedral. When Henry died his youngest child and only son Edward became king and carried on the momentum of the Reformation, pushing further towards Protestantism. Edward died of a horrible illness aged only fifteen. He was unmarried and childless, and despite his best efforts his plan to install his very Protestant cousin Lady Jane Grey as his successor failed when his furious and incredibly Catholic older sister Mary marched upon London. Mary claimed her throne and eventually had Jane executed. Mary wasted no time in restoring Roman Catholicism as the official religion of the nation, earning the moniker ‘Bloody Mary’ for her eager execution of Protestant ‘heretics.’

The sudden swing back to the ‘old’ ways made life very difficult for those who had embraced the Reformation.

William Flower was born in Cambridgeshire and had become a monk as a youth at the monastery in Ely. He later left, aged 21, eschewing Catholicism for radical Protestantism. He married a woman named Alice Pulton and the couple went on to have two children. They moved frequently with Flower alternating between working as a schoolmaster and physician/surgeon alongside his radical ministry. The family settled in Lambeth, across the river from Westminster. On 14th April 1555, Easter Sunday, William Flower left Lambeth to go to the service taking place in St Margaret’s. Mary I had been on the throne for nearly two years, masses in London churches were now decidedly Catholic. Flower was so overcome with religious zeal when he watched the sacrament being distributed among the congregation that he took his large wood knife and hacked at the head and hands of one of the priests, John Cheltham/Shelton. Cheltham was seriously injured but members of the congregation tore Flower off of him before the attack became fatal. Cheltham’s blood dropped into the sacred wine, tainting it so much that the congregation were forced to leave the church and celebrate the Eucharist elsewhere. The entire church also had to be reconsecrated following the bloodshed. Flower was taken to the gatehouse in Westminster and put in chains.

Such a frenzied attack may be seen as a crime of passion, yet there are aspects of the attack that point to a premeditated suicide mission. Flower had entered the church wearing a placard that read “Fear God, flee from the idol” in Latin. He also had a religious manifesto in his pocket, later admitting that if the congregation had lynched him before he could be arrested, someone could at least read it and understand his motives. Whilst imprisoned he corresponded with his friend, Robert Smith, a fellow radical who was at the time himself incarcerated in Newgate Prison. Flower wrote that he had not previously met Cheltham and had no personal vendetta, and would have attacked any priest distributing the communion that day. He also told Smith that he had been to St Paul’s that morning and could not bring himself to attack anyone, but had felt compelled by the Spirit later that day to go to St Margaret’s with violent intentions, fully expecting to lose his own life in the process. Flower stated that he wasn’t repentant, telling Smith that God has chosen him to carry out his will.

On the 19th of April Flower was brought before Bishop Bonner for interrogation. Flower remained unrepentant and reiterated his belief that, as a Protestant, he did not believe in transubstantiation and that he believed he was doing holy work. Bonner then tried to convince Flower to come back to the Catholic faith, but Flower thanked him and refused. He told Bonner that if he was aware that Bonner had the power  to decide whether he lived or died, but that Bonner could never have power over his soul and that God alone could judge him.

Witnesses to the attack gave statements at a deposition and Bonner charged Flower with heresy, excommunicating him. On the 24th April William Flower was brought to the spot where he was to be executed, outside St Margaret’s church. He addressed the crowd:

O eternal God, most mighty and merciful Father, who hast sent down thy Son upon the earth, to save me and all mankind, who ascended up into heaven again, and left his blood upon the earth behind him, for the redemption of our sins, have mercy upon me, have mercy upon me, for thy dear Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s sake, in whom I confess only to be all salvation and justification, and that there is none other mean, nor way, nor holiness, in which or by which any man can be saved in this world.– This is my faith, which I beseech all men here to bear witness of.

After then reciting the Lord’s Prayer, Flower was given one last chance to recant. He refused. His right arm, with which he had attacked the priest, was chopped off and his left was tied behind him to the stake on which he was to be burned. The faggots provided for the execution were insufficient to provide a large enough fire to kill Flower quickly. Holding up his severed arm for as long as he could, he prayed for God to receive his soul. The executioners had to prod him with bills into the hottest part of the fire, eventually pulling him down to a lying position into the embers. Even so, the fire still only reached his navel. Still conscious, spectators could still see his tongue move in his mouth as the bottom half of his body was consumed. It took a long time for William Flower to die.

The botched execution gave William Flower an unnecessarily cruel and prolonged death. He was the sixteenth person to die for his faith under the reign of Bloody Mary. His friend Robert Smith later would use their letters to shift public perceptions of Flower from crazed lunatic to religious martyr before himself falling victim of the Marian persecutions and being executed in August that same year, the fortyfirst to die.

284 people were executed for their faith during the 5 year reign of Bloody Mary, the last a mere 2 days before Mary herself died in 1558.Upon her death, Mary’s sister Elizabeth became Queen and quickly set about once again moving the country away from Catholicism. Bishop Bonner, a man who had been ruthlessly efficient in executing heretics, was imprisoned and died in the Marshalsea in 1569, still trying to convert others to his Catholic faith. He too has earned the moniker ‘Bloody.’ Westminster Abbey and, by extension, St Margaret’s, were once more converted into Anglican churches and have remained so ever since. Despite this, William Flower and his attack on John Cheltham are conspicuously missing from the official Westminster Abbey website and his story is not included on the audioguide. His name doesn’t feature on any memorial or monument. William Flower does live on, however, in John Foxe’s Book of of Actes and Monuments, AKA Book of Martyrs, first published in 1563.

 

 

 

 

 

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Veneto Adventure Travel Journal – Verona Day 2

19 April 2016

My last day in the Veneto region begins with grey rain, a sombre reminder that soon I return to a damp Britain. Mercifully, since I’m staying right by the amphitheatre, I only have a short walk to the Museo Lapidario Maffeiano. This epigraphic museum was founded by Scipione Maffei in 1714 and the collection has slowly grown ever since. It features inscriptions in Greek as well as Etruscan and Latin. The museum is right next to the Gates of the Bra.

After an hour or so the rain has disappeared and I’m impatient to the amphitheatre, which has been sitting there, tempting me, since I arrived yesterday morning.

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The amphitheatre was built in the 1st century AD. There was a further, outer ring that has since been mostly lost following the earthquake of 1117. It reached as far as the lamppost in the right of the photo. By the time of the earthquake, the amphitheatre was already nearly a millennium old.

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What is visible here would actually have been enclosed, the arches housed stairways up to the seating and walkways circling the seating areas.

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The only existing part of the original facade stands on the side farthest from the Piazza Bra.

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The arena is used for performances each summer and I’m lucky that there aren’t more areas shut off for modern staging. Musing as I always do as to why the Romans insisted on making their stairs so bloody steep, it’s time to explore.

#igersverona

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The amphitheatre could hold 30,000 spectators for gladiatorial games and beast hunts (such as the hunt staged by a widower for the funeral of his late wife, much to the approval of his friend Pliny the Younger. Pliny commiserates that the panthers had not arrived from Africa in time due to bad weather.) It was built circa 30 AD making it half a century older than the more famous Colosseum in Rome. It is the third biggest Roman arena, smaller than only the Colosseum and the amphitheatre of Capua (slated to be on my 2017 travel list.) It’s one of the best preserved I’ve yet seen and this apparently is due to uncommonly careful preservation over the centuries and solid construction. Like Rome and Capua, Verona boasted a Gladiator school and Games held here drew crowds from the entire region (useful, as the entire population of Roman Verona could not entirely fill it alone.)

We know the names of some of the gladiators who fought at Verona. A secutor named Aedonius died in his eighth bout, aged 26. A retiarius named Generosus boasts on his tombstone that he, a native of Alexandria, fought 27 times in Verona. He managed to retire with enough money to live well until he died, comfortably in his bed. Another retiarius, Glaucus, was from Modena. He fought eight times, defeated in his last. His tomb was put up by his wife Aurelia and his devoted fans. His funerary inscription warns the reader to thoroughly read their horoscopes. Don’t trust Nemesis, she will deceive you! He died aged 23 years and 5 days.

In 312 AD the forces of Emperor Maxentius barricaded themselves inside the amphitheatre and were besieged by Constantine, fresh from successfully defeating their comrades in Turin and Milan. Ruricius Pompeianus, Maxentius’ praetorian prefect, slipped from the city to raise more troops to defend Verona and returned to fight Constantine on open ground. Even with his new recruits and the large garrison in the amphitheatre, Pompeianus was defeated and killed in the battle. Contantine went on to finally defeat Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge. Constantine depicted the siege of Verona on his triumphal arch in Rome three years later.

Shortly after Christianity became the official religion, pagan Games were banned and the amphitheatre lay disused until after the fall of the Empire.  The Goths likely used it to stage entertainments, and when Verona was under the rule of the noble Scaliger family (aka Scala) (1226-1387) the arena was used in a more judiciary sense. Legal disputes could be settled with duels, except that instead of sword fights, the two sides chose a wrestler to represent them. Dante attended at least one such event, and described it in The Inferno.

No record exists of Christians being martyred by the Romans in the arena (although it is of course likely,) but Alberto I della Scala had nearly 200 patarini from Sirmione burnt at the stake inside the arena in 1278. Two years before, he made it illegal for anyone but prostitues to live inside the amphitheatre arches (a millennium after their Roman forebears had also plied their trade here,) and closed off the auditorium. In 1310, Alberto made it an offence to break through the doors into the auditorium or to urinate and defecate there, punishable by fine. Later, under Venetian rule, these laws were expanded to include punishment for anyone who tried to remove the fabric of the amphitheatre for building material. It wasn’t until 1537 that prostitutes were evicted from the arches, which now became workshops and stalls for craftsmen. The arena started to be used for tournaments which continued until 1716. The arena was then used by travelling troupes of comedic actors, dancers and musicians. Bull baiting also became popular, although Goethe was of the opinion that the arena was better suited to soccer. Following the French invasion, Napoleon Bonaparte twice watched bulls being hunted by dogs inside the arena (when he wasn’t using the building as a prisoner-of-war camp for captured Austrians.)

In 1820 the craftsmen in the arches were evicted so that restoration work could take place. After this, the arena was used for more genteel entertainments, such as acrobatics, horse racing and music. Opera was first performed in the amphitheatre in 1856. Ten years later Victor Emanuele II visited the arena for a festival celebrating the annexation of the Veneto into the Kingdom of Italy. There is an equestrian statue of him in the Piazza Bra. Operatic performances became more popular and numerous following a performance of Aida in 1913 and continue annually to this day. It also now hosts rock and pop concerts.

It’s a pleasant stroll down the Via Roma to Castelvecchio, the enormous manor house cum fortress built for the Scaliger family in the fourteenth century. It is possibly on the site of a Roman fort. Work was begun under Cangrande II della Scala, ironically the fortress didn’t prevent his assassination at the hands of his own brother. Completed following his death, Castelvecchio was still an effective deterrent against the House of Gonzaga in Mantua and the Sforzas in Milan.

Utilised as a barracks and prison by the Venetians (who added cannon,) French, (Napoleon always stayed here when in Verona,) and Austrians, the building is suitably intimidating. Castelvecchio became a barracks under Italian rule before becoming the home of the Civic museum in 1924.

Castelvecchio just as the sun is starting to set #igers_verona #Verona

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Next to Castelvecchio is the Arco dei Gavi.

Walking north-east along the Corso Cavour I reach the Porta Borsari, a Roman gateway into Verona.

Further along is the Piazza della Erbe. This is the site of the Roman forum and remains the heart of Verona. It’s a truly beautiful space and surrounded by beautiful buildings.

At the thinner end of the Piazza is the late-Renaissance Palazzo Maffei. This was once the site of the Capitolium, hinted at by the statues of Roman divinities decorating the balustrade (the statue of Hercules is thought to be Roman and from the original temple.)

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Palazzo Maffei

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Domus Mercatorum AKA Casa dei Mercanti

The Merchant House (Domus Mercatorum) was built by Alberto I della Scala in 1301 (although the Gothic crenellations are a a 19thC addition,)  and provided a home for guilds of merchants.

More eyecatching are the tower houses that now feature shops and restaurants on ground level. Look above the parasols and the houses of the Piazza are covered in frescoes.

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The rear of the Mazzanti houses

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The Fountain of Our Lady of Verona was commissioned by the Scaglieri family in 1368. The statue is originally Roman and was found a few metres away in the ancient Capitolium.The basin is also Roman in origin and comes from a bath complex.

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The Berlina (right) was erected in 1207 (although this is not the original,) and is almost impossible to photograph as it is usually a convenient bench for the hot and weary. The new podesta (governor) and judges would sit here to be sworn in. It was also used as a pillory for criminals and the severed heads of executed thieves could be displayed on it.

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Il Palazzo Comunale and the Torre dei Lamberti

 

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At the base of the Torre dei Lamberti, head through the Arco della Costa to the Piazza dei Signori

As I wander in, the Piazza dei Signori is as calm as the Piazza delle Erbe is bustling.

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The Palazzo del Podestà stands on Roman ruins and was built by the Scaliger family as a residence. Dante stayedhere during his exile from Florence. Under the Venetians it became a seat of the judiciary and a new archway (complete with Lion of St Mark) was built to replace the original entrance.

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The Palazzo del Consiglio was built 1475-92 and is usually attributed to a Dominican monk cum architect named Giocondo. Council meetings were held here. The five statues on top represent five famous Veronese men during the Roman period: the poets Catallus and Aemilius Macer, the architect Vitruvius, Pliny the Elder (who died in the 79AD eruption of Vesuvius,) and biographer Cornelius Nepos.

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A medieval tower of the  Palazzo di Cansignorio AKA Palazzo Capitano

 

 

 

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The facade of the Palazzo della Ragione

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The Torre dei Lamberti looks down on the Scala della Ragione

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Just off the Piazza dei Signori are the Scaglieri tombs. They’re suitably impressive fro a family that ruled Verona for nearly two centuries.

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The top of the tomb of Cansignorio della Scala

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The tomb of Cangrande I della Scala is placed above the door of the Church of Santa Maria Antica.

Cangrande I first came into power, aged eighteen, at the suggestion of his brother Alboino. Whereas this does seem young, he had already successfully led Veronese troops into battle aged fourteen during a war against Ferrara and, upon the signing of a peace treaty, offered his little brother co-rulership in 1308. The brothers were allies of the Holy Roman Empire and soon became instrumental in asserting Ghibelline prominence in the region. In 1311 the brothers were chosen to head the Imperial army and successfully liberated Vicenza from Paduan rule. Cangrande was forced to miss the coronation of Emperor Henry VII to be with Alboino, who died of illness later that year. Alboino had two legitimate sons, but Mastino and Alberto were still only toddlers. Cangrande was now the sole ruler of Verona.

Cangrande I was noted for his good nature (although his temper was infamous,) and his ability to befriend people of all backgrounds. He enjoyed debate and fostered a court of poets, painters and academics. He was patron of Dante, who was exiled from Florence and spent a good deal of time in Verona. Dante even heaps praise on Cangrande in his Divine Comedy. Cangrande was deeply religious and devoted to the Virgin Mary, and always fasted for two days and week.

Cangrande I was a great military leader and successfully asserted Veronese control in the region, consolidating and expanding territory. His first act as sole ruler was to assume control of Vicenza with Imperial approval, filling the power vacuum left by the defeating Paduans. When Henry VII died two and a half years later in 1313, the Paduans soon attempted to retake Vicenza, marching overnight to launch a surprise attack in 1314. When Cangrande heard the news he immediately rode out, arriving in Vicenza in a mere three hours. He mounted a war horse and, swinging a mace, led his troops into battle. His lack of hesitation and his courage led to a decisive victory. A peace treaty wherein Padua acknowledged his rule over Vicenza was signed a month later. Hostilities with Padua did continue until 1320 when Cangrande found himself so outnumbered (and himself wounded by an arrow to the leg,) that he signed a peace treaty. A military man at heart, Cangrande was never going to be completely contented living life at court and was back waging war by 1322. In 1328 finally assumed rule over Padua. Less than a year later he was in a solid position to assume control of Treviso, another city that had long been in his crosshairs. A writer named Niccolo de Rossi dryly remarked that Cangrande would be ‘King of Italy within a year.’ Cangrande besieged the city and, low of supplies, the gates were quickly opened. However, Cangrande had fallen ill, and died, aged 38, four days after he triumphantly marched into Treviso.

His body was carried back to Verona where it now lays in the tomb pictured above. With no legitimate sons, his nephews Mastino and Alberto inherited his titles and rule of the cities Cangrande had conquered. Mastino had Cangrande’s doctor hanged shortly afterwards.

In 2004 an autopsy was carried out on the mummified remains of Cangrande. He was 5’8” and had a strong physique. Analysis of faecal matter and liver tissue revealed fatal amounts of digitalis, a poison derived from foxgloves. Stomach samples revealed that the poison had been masked with chamomile and mulberry. Nearly seven centuries after his death, Cangrande I was revealed to be a murder victim. The Duke of Milan and the Republic of Venice both had reasons to curb Verona’s aggressive expansion whilst not wanting an outright war, however Mastino, Cangrande’s own nephew, was himself ruthlessly ambitious. Did he bribe the doctor to poison his uncle, only to hang him before the doctor could implicate him?

 

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Tomb of Mastino II

Whatever the truth, Mastino II della Scala most definitely benefitted from the death of his uncle, and if Venice or Milan were responsible in hopes for a quieter Verona, they were disappointed. Mastino persevered with the policy of Veronese expansion, taking over  Brescia, Parma and Lucca within six years.Unfortunately, although Mastino proved to be a capable general he lacked the eloquence, grace and mercy of Cangrande I.

Florence , Siena , Bologna , Perugia and the Venetian Republic formed an anti-Veronese League shortly after Lucca fell. Mastino was able to defend himself for a year, but the League kept growing, with Milan, Ferrara, Mantua and the Papal States quickly condemning Mastino. In 1337 Padua, the city that Cangrande had taken 16 years to conquer, opened her gates to a Florentine-Venetian army and Mastino’s brother Alberto was taken to Venice as prisoner. Mastino II watched in horror as city after city fell to the League. By April 1338, the armies of the League reached the walls of Verona. Besieged, Mastino started to see traitors and plotters everywhere. In August he murdered his uncle Bartolomeo, Bishop of Verona,running him through with a sword in front of the Bishop’s Palace. A rival of Bartolomeo’s had whispered to Mastino that the Bishop was betraying Verona for Venice.  Mastino, on top of being besieged, now found himself excommunicated.

The walls proved impregnable, but the siege was costly. In 1339 Mastino II had no choice but to sign a peace treaty with humiliating terms. The Scala family would be reduced to ruling Verona and Vicenza, the other cities were distributed to members of the League. His brother Albert was released from his Venetian prison and was allowed to return home. The brothers never did reclaim their former glory, dying in 1351 and 1352 respectively.

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Tomb of Cansignorio

Mastino II had three legitimate sons, Cangrande, Paolo Alboino and Cansignorio. Cangrande II inherited Veronese rule upon his father’s death. He has the dubious honour of being the target of assassination not only from his two brothers but his illegitimate half-brother Fregnano as well.

Cangrande II was infamous for his tough rule that nearly crippled an already weakened city. He was ruthless, ambitious and utterly merciless. After three years in power, Cangrande II visited Bolzano. Fregnano took the opportunity to seize power in Verona and proclaim himself ruler with the aid of the Gonzaga family. Cangrande II hastily returned to Veronaand a bloody battle was fought on the Ponte Navi on February 5th, 1354. Fregnano fell into the river Adige and drowned. Days later, his bloated corpse was fished out and put up on display in the Piazza delle Erbe.

Increasingly paranoid, Cangrande II constructed the Castelvecchio and surrounded himself with Teutonic knights loaned to him by his brother-in-law, Ludwig of Brandenburg. It did him no good, in December 1359 Cangrande II was ambushed by his brothers Cansignorio and Paolo Alboino, who murdered him near the church of St Euphemia. The remaining brother ruled together until 1365, when Cansignorio accused Paolo Alboino of treason (likely a trumped up charge,) and had him imprisoned.

Cansignorio now ruled Verona alone, a city now devastated by war, famine and disease. The glittering court of Cangrande I was a distant memory as the bright talents in arts and literature sought patronage elsewhere. He soon set about trying to restore some former glory, with ambitious building plans drawn up and taxes raised to pay for their execution.

Cansignorio was apparently not a physically strong man, and died in 1375 aged only 35. On his death bed, however, he arranged for the assassination of his imprisoned brother Paolo Alboino, so that there would be no obstructions to his own bastard sons assuming control. Bartolomeo, in a mirror of the previous generation, was stabbed 26 times by his younger brother Alberto in 1381.

The three main tombs of the Arche Scaglieri mark the rise and fall of a dynasty, if only all who viewed them now realised how much blood was spilt by their owners.

My fascination with medieval violence sated, I stroll to the nearby Porta Leoni, another roman gate that lies at the end of the old cardo maximus road. Less is left standing than the Porta Borsari, but excavations underneath the modern road have been left uncovered to view.

I have just enough time for a stroll to soak up as much Veronese atmosphere as possible before my final stop.

#igersverona

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Love notes left at 'Juliet's House' #verona #igersverona

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I’ve fallen in love with Verona from ground level so it only makes sense to view the city from above as my time left slips away. For a small fee, it’s possible to get an elevator up the Torre dei Lamberti.

The view of the Piazza della Erbe from the Torre dei Lamberti, Verona #igersverona #ig_verona

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Views from Torre dei Lamberti #igersverona #verona

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And with that, it’s time to walk down the streets that still follow the ancient Roman paths down to the amphitheatre, pick up my backpack and head to the airport. On the plane home I decide that my daughter will be old enough for a trip in October when we will both be celebrating birthdays. And so I start planning a trip to Greece…

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Veneto Adventure Travel Journal – Verona Day 1

18 April 2016

I wake up in a tiny B&B a mere few dozen yards from a huge Roman amphitheatre. Life is good. I don’t usually mention the restaurants and hotels that I use, but the owner of the B&B Principe All’Arena is such a charming gentleman that I will happily endorse him here for any traveller to Verona with a limited budget. He was easily the warmest host this trip.

I was adamant that I was going to include Verona on my trip. The city predates the Romans, becoming a colony around 300 BC. The Romans have lured me here; the architecture left behind from the various rulers who followed are a delightful bonus. It’s a Monday, the day when Italian museums traditionally close. Verona is blessed with numerous beautiful churches for me to explore instead. First however, I need to spend a bit of time soaking up the ancient atmosphere outside the arena.

I never usually leave monumental ancient ruins til the last 48 hours of a trip! #igersverona

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First church of the day is the Basilica San Zeno. I purchase a Verona Tourist Card instead of delving around for a handful of coins, particularly since the Verona card will grant me access to everything that I’ve come to see.

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There has been a religious structure here since the 4th century AD when a small church was built next to the tomb of the eighth Bishop of Verona, a North African man named Zeno. Zeno was made a saint after his death (sources differ on whether his death was a martyrdom,)  and became patron  saint of Verona. The original church was replaced with a romanesque basilica and monastery in the 9th century, but what we see today is the result of a rebuilding and enlargement following an earthquake that hit Verona in 1117.

I can’t recall visiting a church with an open, split level before. The presbytery is higher than the rest of the church, whilst stairs lead down to the crypt beneath. It’s a beautiful effect in an already beautiful church.

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13thC  statues of Christ and the Apostles line the balustrade separating the nave and presbytery levels.

I decide to head into the crypt first, optimistically claimed by some to be the wedding chapel of Romeo and Juliet…

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The coffin of St Zeno

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The crypt is a church within the church and each of the 49 columns has a unique capital.

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The basilica is decorated with several frescoes from the 13th and 14th centuries. They depict religious scenes for the benefit of the illiterate congregation.

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George and the Dragon

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Bronze panels decorate the door

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After San Zeno I walk back east, passing Castelvecchio and the arena on the way to the Church of San Fermo and Rustico.

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Firmus and Rusticus were Christian martyrs, tortured and beheaded under Emperor Maximian for refusing to make pagan sacrifices. The church is supposedly built on or near to the site of their execution.

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The upper church

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The pulpit and frescoes date from 1396

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This structure encloses the choir

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The lower church is accessed via stairs in the right transept.

12th century fresco of the baptism of Christ Situated in the lower church of the Church of San Fermo, #Verona

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Walking north along the River Aldige it’s a short walk to the Basilica Sant’Anastasia. The rather plain ( and technically unfinished) facade hides a truly beautiful interior.

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The building of the Basilica began in 1290 and was mainly finished by 1323 with further building completed between 1423 and 1481.

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The Basilica of Sant'Anastasia #igersverona #ig_verona

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Look up. #igersverona #ig_verona

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It’s only a short walk to the Cathedral and I’m disappointed to find it temporarily closed to the public. As a consolation, the Baptistery and Church of St Helen are still accessible.

The Chiesa Sant’Elena is on the site that Saint Zeno laid down the first Christian church in Verona.

The Chiesa di San Giovanni in Fonte was originally the cathedral baptistery. The octagonal font is carved from a  single block of stone and dates to the 13th century. The reliefs depict scenes from the Annunciation to the Baptism of Christ.

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After a spot of lunch, keeping a wary eye on a grey cloud threatening to turn black, it’s time for the ancient theatre and archaeological museum accompanying it. I’m not surprised to find it closed, it is becoming somewhat of a curse for me whenever I visit Italy to find the things I most want to see shut or covered in scaffolding.

Grumpy, I decide to climb up the Scalinata Castel S Pietro, a stairway up the hill to an Austrian barracks built over an older castle that had been built on the site of a Roman temple. Naturally, to add to my frustration, the Castel is inaccessible behind chain link fences because of some renovation works. The panoramic views from the piazzale and the glimpses of the theatre on the way up are enough to cheer me up, though…

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A few hours now sadly left free, I wander around Verona before choosing a restaurant just off the Piazza Bra by the amphitheatre. The restaurants facing the piazza look touristy and expensive but mine, Le Cantine de l’Arena has al fresco seating tucked in the Piazzetta Scaletti Rubiani where I can happily dine on gnocchi with walnuts in a gooey Monte Veronese cheese sauce whilst gazing at the arena as the night gets darker.

I can’t resist a bit of night time photography on my last night of the trip.

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Palazzo Barbieri

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Tourism at Christmas – A Plea From a Museum Worker

In Britain this year the media has started to report about the growing backlash over the commercial side of Christmas.

There is an online petition against opening shops on Boxing Day (Dec 26th,) when bargain hunters will ravenously scour the high street for discounts as early as 6am. the petition argues that the traditional January sales could start on Dec 27th (if not actually January) and that shoppers should have the patience to wait 24 hours so that retail workers (many of whom had to work Christmas Eve and face a deluge of unorganised gift buyers,) can have an actual break over Christmas. It doesn’t seem fair that retail workers have to work extended shifts on Christmas Eve and make do with a relatively sober early night on Christmas Day, facing a depressingly soulless and interminable day at work immediately after.

As far as I’m concerned, Christmas Eve is for watching The Muppet Christmas Carol with a large amaretto and cola and Boxing Day is for eating my way through a mountain of leftovers (let’s face it, sometimes better tham the orginal meal,) and playing Cluedo, all whilst watching my baby daughter ignore her new toys in favour of playing with the boxes they came in. None of which involves a commute, putting on a uniform and pointing people towards the toilets for eight hours; a prospect that will make me feel anything but festive.

So I can’t help but agree that shops (even the supermarkets) should stay closed on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

Even if you hate the Muppets or Cluedo (how could you though…) you will no doubt have your own valued traditions that you share with family and friends. Every festive song, advert and movie tells us we should aspire to the idyllic Christmas break with our loved ones, preferably all wearing comedy knitted jumpers. In fact the supermarket Sainsbury’s are cashing in on this wish with their 2016 advert, despite expecting their staff to work every day but the 25th, a hypocrisy that thankfully hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Some people will have to work over Christmas, this is inevitable. Doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers et cetera all sacrifice their precious time with loved ones to keep us healthy/safe/alive. Is it right that people should sacrifice that same experience just because we can’t organise ourselves to buy gifts/food in advance and have lost the patience to wait for a bargain?

I’m pleased and not at all surprised to see the petition has already received enough signatures to ensure that the issue is debated in Parliament. 

I hope the petition succeeds because I sympathise with anyone in the retail sector who loses their quality family time. I also sympathise because museums stay open too.

We’re less numerous than our retail cousins but our plight is the same; we stay at the coalface so that others can have the family Christmas we are denied.

I’ve worked a lot of Christmas Eves and Boxing Days, and for what? So that people can show their families a castle/art gallery/stately home/exhibition as part of the ‘spending the festive season with loved ones’ tradition. I wonder how many visitors pause to think about the staff who are missing watching Christmas specials in their jammies, playing with the children/nieces/nephews, eating dangerous quantities of chocolate assortments and other cosy activities. 

Most museums are open every single day of the other 11 months, is it really necessary to visit on those two days? If your family are determined to leave the house, why not go for a walk in the forest, or on a beach, or around the park? See a landmark that doesn’t require staff to open, or simply walk around the pretty areas of your hometown in their oddly deserted state. 

The museum staff who decide to open on the 24th and 26th are not the employees who will actually need to be present on the 24th and 26th. I recall one Christmas Eve at a small-mid sized attraction where every single department manager booked themselves a holiday day whereas floor staff were told only two out of a team of twelve could have the day off. In the end the museum wedding planner was the only member of management staff on site all day, herself upset that after a full shift she would have to drive into the night to join her family in her hometown. In the end, about 15 staff in total had to work an eight hour shift on Christmas Eve for the sake of seven visitors who couldn’t think of anything better to do. 

Not that all museums see low figures on days such as this, I’ve also worked Christmas Eves where tickets have sold out and the galleries were full to bursting. At the end of those days I fell asleep in the car, exhausted as my husband (who was waiting patiently for me alone, at home,) drove us to see family. By the time we arrived we had missed dinner, dessert and most of the booze. Even our teeny nephews were already fast asleep and they’d tried their utmost to stay awake and peek at Father Christmas. 

I understand the desire to do something out of the ordinary to enhance the festivities and do something as a family, I’m not immune to that at all. I’m merely suggesting that this year and in the future people should consider what they do with a bit more care and thought.

Last Christmas was my first as a parent and as I was still on maternity leave I could enjoy a relaxed week without work.  I was desperate to do something lovely and visit somewhere picturesque as a family to make some memories. We chose to visit a castle on Christmas Eve, but we chose it because only the keep requires staff and the purchase of a ticket (shout out to my ticket desk/gift shop comrades…) We had a great time in a heritage setting without inconveniencing a soul, but I did feel a pang watching other families gleefully queue up for keep tickets, wondering how they could look the members of staff in the eye. Didn’t they realise that the warm welcome and customer-service bright smiles required so much extra effort that day? Couldn’t they hear that the “Merry Christmas!” from even the most professional of staff members sounded just a little melancholy, just a little hollow?

It is true that some people don’t mind working on the 24th or 26th, but these people in my experience are nearly as rare as unicorns. Neither should you assume that all visitor attractions offer staff double pay to soften the blow, or even time and a half. Some museum staff consider themselves lucky to be offered a day in lieu, nearly always compulsorily to be taken on a weekday in late January when their friends and families are back at their office jobs. 

Whether you’ve returned home and that Christmassy nostalgia makes you want to return to the places you went to as a child or you want to impress visiting friends and family by taking them to your local famous attraction, consider going on the 23rd, or even better in that awkward inbetweenie stage after Boxing Day and before New Year when even the most close knit families become sick of turkey sandwiches and get a bit of cabin fever. Museum workers are just as grateful as anyone to escape to work by the 29th! But keep the 24-26 sacrosanct. Let non essential workers spend their Christmas with their families, just like you are fortunate enough to. 

Museums, just like shops and restaurants, only started to shrink their Christmas break due to demand. So don’t demand it! Vote with your feet and stay at home by the tree with a plate of mince pies in one hand and a glass of something bubbly in the other. Eventually, museum directors will take the hint and close for more than a single day and their staff can celebrate properly.

Purchase your presents and booze in advance, buy enough food to last you a few days and leave your nearest tourist attraction alone.

We’ll see you in January!

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Veneto Adventure Travel Journal – Venice Day 4

15 April 2016

I’ve deliberately left my itinerary for the morning quite bare, every book of Venice I can find advises to wander aimlessly for a few hours. After waving the gulet at Sant Elena goodbye, I board a vaporetto to Ferrovia to drop my backpack off at the train station left luggage office.

After using vaporetti with purpose over the last few days, I decide to use one to simply cruise up and down the Grand Canal and soak up views. I advise any tourist to do the same. My tip is to avoid the No. 1 route. It stops more frequently, is always crowded and seems to be used more often by locals who, let’s face it, only tolerate tourists. Wait for a No.2. Fewer lengthy stops and a greater chance of finding an empty seat with a good view.

Photos in no particular order:

After my little voyage it was time to wander, crossing countless little bridges over the little canals.

With my massive backpack safe at the train station left luggage office, I can happily stroll into the Basilica San Marco.

Photos aren’t allowed inside, so you should JUMP ON A PLANE AND SEE FOR YOURSELF. The Basilica is incredible.

#venice

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In 828 AD Stauracius and Theodorus some Greek monks of Alexandria were worried that their most treasured relic, the body of St Mark, would be damaged by Saracens. The monks approached Venetian merchants named Tribunus and Rusticus, asking them to transport the body to safety. The Venetians smuggled the dead Saint (covered with slabs of pork so that the Muslim guards would be unable to thoroughly search the cargo,) and took him to Venice. The delighted Doge set about creating a church attached to his Palace to inter the Saint in and the first version of the Basilica was consecrated a mere 3 years later.

The church was razed in the 97os during a riot and so the new Basilica was started in 1063 and finished some 3 decades later. Following the Venetian sack of Consantinople during the Fourth Crusade the Basilica was adorned with loot. It became tradition for the Venetians seafarers to return from distant ports with statues, columns, mosaics, gold, friezes and marble; all of which went onto and into the Basilica. The result is a dizzying hotchpotch of spoils, almost too elaborate to be elegant. Almost…

It’s almost always busy inside but if you resist the insistent flow of fellow visitors it’s possible to hang back slightly and just relish your time in a beautiful place, which is good advice for the entire trip to Venice.

Nearly everyone will have seen the articles and opinion pieces on the negative aspects of tourism in Venice and it was enough to make me feel slightly guilty about visiting. Tourists are slowly but surely murdering the city.

I saw myself the ‘small’ (but still bloody large) cruise ships moored by the Riva and the thousands of people disembarking. I watched as they swarmed the Piazza. Only about 1 in 10 ever got further into Venice than that, apart from to bob up and down the Grand Canal or clig up the Rialto bridge. I ate lunch in empty restaurants as these people tucked into their cruise ship-prepared packed lunches and suddenly the ban on eating your own food in the public squares made sense. Mountains of rubbish are left behind and local businesses (that aren’t the Café Florian!) have empty table after empty table. Cruise passengers aren’t even providing hotels with business. The little money they bring into the city must barely cover the upkeep of the city structure that large ships are proven to damage.

My advice? Go to Venice. You have to, it’s bewitching. But visit responsibly. Fly in or get a train from the mainland. Stay somewhere that’s preferably independantly owned, my stay on the Freedom Caicco proves that this can be inexpensive. Eat is cute little restaurants (as far away from the Piazza as possible!) and buy snacks in bakeries and at the market. Be as courteous and self aware as possible when travelling by vaperetto and try not to clog up the narrow streets. Don’t be the knob who tries to go for a swim or tries to visit a church wearing little more than underwear. Venice isn’t a theme park designed for your entertainment, it is the home of thousands of long suffering people. Few Venetians want to ban all foreigners. Just the idiots. Don’t be an idiot! 

It’s a wrench to leave Venice and I have a heavy heart and reluctant pace as I head back to Ferrovia to pick up my backpack and hop on a train to Ferrara. I’ll be back one day, just not on a bloody cruise liner.

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Veneto Adventure Travel Journal – Venice Day 3

14 April 2016

It’s a short vaporetto ride from Sant Elena to Salute. The church of Santa Maria della Salute is open earlier than most so it makes sense to start off my day there and it’s wonderfully quiet first thing in the morning.

 

 

This church is so ridiculously beautiful that it’s easy to forget that we have bubonic plague to thank for it. The epidemic of 1630 was particularly savage, claiming a third of the population. 46,000 lives were claimed, 16,000 of them in November alone. Doge Nicolo Contarini vowed to build a church to the Virgin Mary as soon as the plague ceased as she was seen to be a protector of the Republic.

An earlier church and monastery on the site were demolished and nearly 1.2 million wooden piles were driven into the clay bed to provide a solid base for the new structure. A competition was held to find the right architect for the job and a 26 year old named Baldassare Longhena was chosen from eleven candidates for his bold, octagonal design, intended to represent a crown for the Virgin Mary. It is the pinnacle of Venetian Baroque architecture. Construction took several decades and sadly, Longhena never lived to see the church complete.

The style and placement of decoration has definitely shifted from earlier Venetian churches. The exterior is undeniably the focus (just ask Canaletto, among other painters,) and is far more elaborately Baroque than much of what was built in Venice before. Longhena manages to stop short of excessive gaud but it’s clear that Venice wanted to convey that a dose of plague would not be enough to diminish its beauty or penchant for extravagance.

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Any excuse for a Venetian lion… #Venice #SantaMariaDellaSalute #igersvenezia #ig_venice #visitveneto

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The high altar beyond the octagon

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After admiring the church it’s time to hop back across the water to Piazza San Marco where I have booked a tour for the Doge’s Palace. Looking at the snaking queue, I’m thankful that I booked my ticket in advance online and sashay to the ticket desk with only a hint of smugness. I’ve paid extra for the Secret Itineraries tour, and it is WELL worth the extra euros but I’ll save the details for another post.

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Palazzo Ducale

Today if you google ‘Doge’ the results will all feature a Shibu Inu with a poor grasp of the English language. In Venetian history the Doge was the senior official of the Republic, almost like an elected Duke.

Successive Doges ruled over the Venetian Republic for a thousand years until the 18th century. The Republic was operated by a number of different councils under supervision of the Doge, the most senior being the Great Council. In order to restrict the power of the Doge, the Council could be vetoed by the Doge and the Doge could veto the Council.

The Doge was the only person in the Republic with access to all files and paperwork, many of the councils and committees focusing on a single aspect of government. As such, the Doge was not permitted to talk to any foreigner alone, lest he reveal secrets and betray Venice. The Doge was kept under strict surveillance at all times. His family members were not allowed to hold office during his tenure to avoid nepotism. The Doge could not run any businesses and could not accept gifts in case the Councils accused him of accepting bribes. Neither the Doge nor his immediate family were allowed to leave Venice. As the position was held until death, anyone wanting to be Doge was making a great sacrifice of personal freedom to hold power. What could be offered as a consolation prize? A spectacular residence.

The exterior architecture breaks nearly every rule for a harmonious, attractive building with a mishmash of styles and designs. I’d hardly call it ugly, however. In fact, the effect is beguiling and I can’t wait to see inside. The entrance is in the broglio or arcade on the water-facing side.

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The exterior staircase

This is a staircase that is seen on dozens of postcards and featured in dozens of guidebooks. What I didn’t hear any tour guides mention was its bloody past.

By all accounts, Marin Falier was an irritable man with a sharp tongue. Nevertheless, he had served Venice with exemplary military service and was elected Doge in 1354 at the grand old age of 76. At the time he had been acting as ambassador to the Pope and was trying to negotiate with him to resolve a long dispute with Genoa.

As Doge, Falier could no longer continue with these aims without consulting various councils and as restricted as to how much he could achieve when the Genoese captured 35 Venetian galleys and took 5,000 prisoners at the Battle of Sapienza a mere few weeks after his election. Falier was forced to sign a humiliating 4 month truce which many Venetian nobles took umbrage to.

Frustrated by the limitations of his role and insulted by pompous young aristocrats, Falier planned to wrest control from the nobility and their numerous councils. The role of Doge would have more freedom and more power.

Rumours were spread that the Genoese were planning an attack in mid April. Amid the panic, his conspirators would arm themselves and kill as many aristocrats as possible in ‘protection of the Doge.’

The Council of Ten caught wind of the plot and swiftly rounded up the plotters and hanged ten of them from the windows of the Palace. The following day Falier was led to the top of this staircase and publicly beheaded. His mutilated body was displayed before the crowds and was later buried in an unmarked grave.

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Every possible inch is decorated. There are uglier places to be executed…

 

The Palazzo Ducale was a lavish residence, a seat of government and state prison. It was the heart of the Republic and is suitably overwhelming for a first time visitor.

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Sala del Senato

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The Sala del Maggior Consiglio – The Hall of the Great Council

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Neptune stand guard at the top of the exterior staircase

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Scala D’Oro – the Golden Staircase

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Scala D’Oro

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Dante’s Paradise by Tintoretto

I was amused to find that most tourists didn’t realise when they were crossing the Ponte dei Sospiri – the Bridge of Sighs. The bridge was constructed in 1600 to connect the Prigioni Nuove (New Prison) and the interrogation suites within the Palazzo. It was over two hundred years before Lord Byron would give it such a romantic nickname, imagining the sighs that incarcerated Venetians would emit as they crossed the bridge and caught their last glimpses of their city through the stones and iron bars.

 

View from the Bridge of Sighs #igersvenezia #venice #ig_venice

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Although the interior is plain, the bridge is a beautiful sight from the outside. The view from the Ponte della Paglia allows for some arty shots if you can elbow your way through the crowds…

#pontedeisospiri #igersvenezia #ig_venice #visitveneto

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As tourists leave the Palazzo Ducale many seemed to miss a hidden gem on the corner of the Basilica San Marco:

The Palazzo Ducale is Venetian pride in stone and paint. Popping into a nearby museum is to unwittingly witness its humiliation.

By 1796 the Republic was weakening and a young Napoleon was approaching across the mainland, spending his honeymoon invading the Italian peninsula and fighting the Austrian empire who had controlled parts of Italy since the end of the War of Spanish Succession. Venice, the Papal states and a few other areas had retained independence and Venice was keen to remain neutral whilst the French and Austrians quarrelled on the mainland and rejected an offer from Napoleon to form an alliance, hoping to benefit from trading with both sides.Venice did, however, start to build up military forces. Napoleon was suspicious but Venice replied that neutrality was all that it desired. Napoleon fired off a warning that neutrality did not involve harming the French nor aiding the Austrians.

Venice had grown complacent, the navy had been allowed to shrink to a handful of old fashioned ships. Venice could not afford to make enemies and perhaps underestimated Napoleon, who despised Venetian decadence as much as he had despised the French nobility that had so recently been swept away. Venetian treasures could fund his army for years to come. Venice needed to be cautious and yet demanded compensation every time Napoleon led troops through Venetian territory whilst also allowing Austrian troops passage. Napoleon was getting angry.

At the entrance of the lagoon is Fort Sant’Andrea, a relic of the Venetian military might in the 16th century. In April 1797, three French ships anchored by the fort, possibly seeking shelter. The Venetian commander in the fort decided that the tiny French fleet was a threat and took the fateful decision of opening fire. Two ships sailed away but one decided to remain and the fort commander continued to fire. Even after the French ship raised a white flag, the cannons of the fort kept firing. The French captain was killed along with four of his crew. Napoleon was enraged and proclaimed that he would  be an “Attila to the Venetian State.” French artillery along the shores of the lagoon were trained on Venice.

On the 12th May, in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, the grandest room within the Palazzo Ducale, the Doge, Ludovico Manin, proposed that Venice should dissolve its government and submit to French rule. 512 of the assembled patricians voted for, only 20 voted against. The Venetian Republic was dead. On the 17th May 7,000 troops entered the city. Napoleon stripped the city of treasures and sent them back to France. As a final insult, the Venetians learnt that the French had no intention of occupying the city. They had been signed away to the Austrian Empire in the Treaty of Leoben. The treaty had been signed weeks before the Doge decided to abdicate, Napoleon had been so assured of victory.

It’s a short stroll across the Piazza to the Museo Correr at the opposite end from the Basilica. Even those exhausted with museums should pop into the cafe for a drink and this view of the Piazza…

The two buildings running perpendicular to the Basilica are the Procuratie Vecchie and the Procuratie Nuove and the floors above their arcades were for the offices and apartments for the Procurators of the Republic.

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The building that now joins them is the architectural reminder of the fall of the Republic. It is known as the Napoleonic Wing as it was built on the orders of Napoleon’s stepson Eugene Beauharnais in his role as Viceroy of Italy, the French having temporarily retaken Venice between 1805 until Napoleon’s fall in 1815. The new wing was finished in 1813 as a residence for Beauharnais and after 1815, the Hapsburg court.

As a nation who were so careful to prevent nepotism, Venetians must have hated to see a palace built for a man in power only through his stepfather, however competent Beauharnais turned out to be. It must have been even worse to see the place occupied by inbred Hapsburgs.

The building now houses the Museo Correr which documents Venetian life and culture. The collection was brought together by Venetian aristocrat Teodoro Correr, who donated everything to the city when he died in 1830. Steadily growing ever since, the collection was moved to this location in 1922 and spills into the Procuratie Nuove.

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You can access the National Archaeological Museum from within the Museo Correr. The collection of Greek and Roman antiquities was mostly formed by the Grimani family in the 16th century. It’s easy to see where Venetian sculptors took their inspiration from.

Make sure to pop into the Sala D’Oro or main hall of the Biblioteca Marciana, or national library. The library of Venice is now housed in La Zecca, the old mint, making this room easier to admire.

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Walking between these museums and the pontoon for my next vaporetto, I glance at the exterior of the Biblioteca Marciana which may pop up in some guidebooks as the Libreria Sansoviniana.

After a great fire in 1514 a passion for classical architecture took hold in Venice. An architect called Jacopo Sansovino became the darling of the Venetians. He was a charming Florentine with a quick with and a taste for cucumbers. In 1529 he was made the Protomaestro of the Procurators of San Marco, essentially state architect, as the authorities liking how his classical designs complemented the Venetian Gothic style.

He designed a loggia to adjoin the campanile, the Zecca housing the mint and several grand churches. Above all, his masterpiece was the Biblioteca Marciana.

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The Campanile loggia by Sansovino

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Facing the Ducal Palace across the Piazzetta, creating a beautiful building that blends into the Piazza must have been a daunting task. Sansovino decided to go with a design that could have been lifted from ancient Rome, then gave it a distinctly Venetian twist.

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Biblioteca Marciana

Unfortunately for Sansovino none of his charm could save him when in December 1845 the first floor collapsed, eight years into construction. Whatever the cause (Sansovino blamed anything from frost to distant gunfire,) the Venetian state treated him like a general after a military defeat, holding him personally responsible and throwing him into prison. Sansovino was made to pay for the repairs out of his own funds, which took him 25 years to pay off. He may have been able to hear the hammers from his cell within the Palazzo Ducale opposite. Thankfully for Sansovino, his famous friends Titian and Aretino managed to negotiate his release.

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This career setback paved the way for the rise of his rival, Andrea Palladio. This makes it incredibly fitting that I’m heading to the San Marco pontoon to hop onto a no.2 vaporetto to San Giorgio Maggiore.

Palladio was a man of bold designs that had previously been rejected in Venice in favour of Sansovino. Now, Palladio had a chance to shine. The design for San Giorgio Maggiore is like Roman classicism with a few strong cups of espresso added for punch. The church looks lovely from the Riva degli Schiavoni or the Dogana, up close it is awe inspiring. It’s not enough to see this church from a distance, although it sits so perfectly placed in relation to the Piazza and Santa Maria della Salute that anyone would think Palladio put the island there on purpose. Just ask Marco Boschini, a 17th century painter:

“This island is truly a jewel, set in this crystal which surrounds it

where ebbing and flowing the waves beat.

Doesn’t it look as if it were done with a paintbrush?”

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Initially commissioned to improve some monastery buildings on the tiny island, Palladio was soon asked to come up with a replacement for the old, existing church. The new church was started in 1566 in the presence of the Pope.

It’s clear to see that Palladio had a fascination with the buildings of ancient Rome. Unfortunately for Palladio, ancient temples were a bit too pagan looking to copy outright and Christian churches had aisles to consider. Palladio works around that issue here by layering two temple-esque facades together. The tallest shows the height of the nave and interrupts the wider, lower pediment that shows the width of the aisles.

Palladio can’t resist a good old Roman dome, either. The interior of the church is huge and cool, with lots of light flooding in from high windows.

Palladio lived to see most of the church completed.

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The monastic quire

#StGeorge at the Basilica San Giorgio Maggiore, #venice #igersvenezia

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The campanile is a later addition to replace a tower that collapsed in 1774. For a few euros (about half the price of the San Marco campanile with no queues…) you can whisk up to the top in the elevator. On a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with this…

#Venice #venezia from the Campanile of #SanGiorgioMaggiore

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A quick vaporetto ride back to San Marco later leads to a pleasant walk to find San Zaccaria, a church with odd opening hours but well worth tweaking your itinerary for.

Campo San Zaccaria feels hidden away and even with a map I felt that I stumbled upon it by accident. The quietness of the square belies its rowdy history.

In 864 Doge Pietro Tradonico was stabbed by assassins after attending a service in the church. Riots ensued and the nuns of the convent had to wait until night had fallen before it was calm enough for them to retrieve the body for burial. His successor hunted down the conspirators and within four months they were all executed.

In 1171 Vitale II Michiel led the Venetian navy to attack Constantinople. The attack failed, the lengthy peace negotiations were bungled and all Michiel succeeded in bringing back in 1172 was an outbreak of plague having already lost thousands of Venetian sailors to the disease. Michiel attempted to defend his actions before the increasingly furious crowds and eventually attempted to flee and seek sanctuary in San Zaccaria. He was fatally stabbed before he reached the gates. Afterwards the crowds were ashamed of their violence and turned their rage on the attacker, Marco Casolo. Casolo was executed and his house on the Calle de le Rasse torn down, an edict soon followed that no permanent building should be erected on the site. This edict was upheld until 1948.

Not that San Zaccaria was only notorious for blood spilt and lives lost, of course.

The convent in particular was famous for raucous nuns. Venice was not unique in sending its daughters to convents. Some families could not afford dowries for more than one or two daughters and sent the others away to avert bankruptcy, for some a convent was a dignified alternative for those who failed to find a willing husband. However, this is still Venice. These women were still vivacious, cultured and accustomed to a certain lifestyle. Numerous accounts of Venetian convents mention that nuns didn’t bother to wear habits and instead chose to wear the same daring, sumptuous dresses as their married friends. They curled their hair and wore jewellery, decorated their cells with expensive and comfortable furniture and held parties. Some took lovers, others took several lovers and some managed to have children. Convents hosted masquerade balls and parties with free flowing wine, lots of dancing and attractive male guests. Venetian nuns were, by all accounts, well, Venetian. To be honest, the life of a Venetian nun can even seem enviable compared to the lives of her married relatives. Whilst the government frowned upon licentiousness in convents, many Venetians were sympathetic to these women who had been forced into a life they would not choose, usually due to the financial constraints of her family.

In the sixteenth century officials were sent to San Zaccaria to shut down a particularly rowdy soiree. The nuns responded by pelting the officials with sticks and stones until they gave up and fled.

The exterior of the church is a mish mash of Gothic and Renaissance styles designed by Antonio Gambello and started in the 1440s on the site of an older church. The interior is pure dark, brooding Gothic with Renaissance paintings.

Entry to San Zaccaria is free, but do look for a member of staff at a desk on the right. For a few coins, they will let you in to see the incredible Capella di San Tarasio.

12th century chapel of San Tarasio #igersvenezia #ig_venice #venice

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Even better than the chapel is the crypt beneath, accessed by a pair of tiny staircases. Obviously, crypts are rare in Venice. This one is particularly evocative and one of my favourite places in the city, even with its sad past.

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The sun is setting for the final time during my visit, so there is only one place I want to be; the Piazza. A short walk back and I’m back among the crowds, but mercifully there are no queues for the second campanile of the day.

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The Campanile was built in the early 16th century to replace a smaller tower. It collapsed in 1902 (miraculously only killing the caretaker’s cat,) and was rebuilt a decade later to be an exact copy of the original.

A belltower, watchtower, landmark for mariners and subject of dozens of paintings, even the Campanile has a hidden past.

Supplizio dela Cheba was a form of torture. Cheba is Venetian dialect for ‘rabbit hutch.’ A punishment for clergymen guilty of murder, sodomy, blasphemy or forgery was to be hoisted in a small wooden cage up the south side of the Campanile. He was allowed a basket on a rope so that he could haul up dry bread and water. This punishment would last a few days for most, although apparently a sentence passed on Christmas Eve 1391 saw Jacopo So kept in the cage until he died as punishment for murdering a priest. The practice ceased at the end of the 15th century.

The Emperor Frederick III of the Holy Roman Empire apparently didn’t want to climb the stairs to the top in 1452 so instead rode his horse up the winding staircase. The Campanile was also the scene for Galileo to show his newly invented telescope to the Doge in 1609.

 

#SanGiorgioMaggiore #venezia #Venice #ig_venice #igersvenezia

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I have one night left in Venice. Determined to make it last, I hop across the entrance to the Grand Canal to view some landmarks in the dying light.

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The Dogana – The Customs House

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With that, all that’s left to do is jump back on a vaporetto to Sant Elena for the final time, staring longingly at the view the entire way…

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My last Venetian sunset (for now…) #venice #igersvenezia #ig_venice

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Veneto Adventure Travel Journal – Venice Day 2

13 April 2016

It would be tempting to take a quick vaporetto to my first museum of the day, but the short walk between Sant Elena and the Arsenale is far too pretty to pass up, even if the weather isn’t overly lovely. Besides, the clouds don’t bother you when you get your first glance at one of the best views of Venetian landmarks. A black and white filter doesn’t hurt either…

#venice #venezia

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It seems fitting to start my explorations of Venice itself with a stroll to the Arsenale. It’s a place that turned Venice from a small town in the middle of a lagoon into an empire.

In true Venetian fashion, the Arsenale Land Gate (Porta di Terra,) is decorated with lions and statues plundered from elsewhere (including lions from Piraeus and Delos.) As a first impression to the area, this gate tells a visitor an awful lot about Venetian history. It was built in 1460, seven years after Venice sacked Constantinople and stirred up Ottoman wrath. Beyond are the greatest shipyards the world has ever seen. The Arsenale produced ships at astonishing rates. Almost 16,000 workers made ships in an assembly line fashion with teams of workers specialising in each stage. By the 17th century the Arsenale could produce and rig one ship each day, a feat that would take other European cities months to achieve. This was aided by the ‘flat pack’ nature of Venetian boat building, with pre-produced elements made in large quantities and kept in storage. There was room and equipment to ensure that 100 galleys could be in production at any one time, with 25 completed warships moored and ready to go immediately. The Arsenale, after several expansions, takes up 45 hectares (15% of Venice.)

Unfortunately for me, the Museo Storico Navale is closed. Mercifully the Ships Pavilion is still open as a substitute introduction to Venetian mastery of the sea.

The building was constructed as a workshop producing oars and provides an atmospheric backdrop to the many vessels on display.

From merchant ships to a merchant’s house. Halfway up the Grand Canal is Ca D’Oro – the Golden House.

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This palazzo dates from 1428 and belonged to the influential Contarini family, who could count eight Doges in their lineage. It was built in an architectural style unique to the city known as Venetian Gothic. It’s a style that seamlessly blends Western Gothic architecture with Eastern flourishes that echo the Moorish and Byzantine designs seen by Venetians traders on their travels.

Ca D’Oro, (Palazzo Santa Sofia is the official name,) is a wonderful example of Grand Canal building. The waterside facade is ornate and was once covered in golden detailing as well as deep red and vivid blue details.

The ground floor is consists of a loggia and entrance hall and is particularly spectacular.

In 1894 the Palazzo was bought by an avid art collector called Giorgio Franchetti. He bequeathed the house and his collection to the city in 1916 and it is now open to the public.

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The Palazzo houses this painting of Saint Sebastian, pierced by arrows. It was painted by Andrea Mantegna in 1506.

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Once finished at the Golden House I pop over to Palazzo Mocenigo, which now houses a costume museum. The Mocenigo family were also a prominent fixture in Venice with seven Doges in their family tree.

The museum is a window to the clothing of Venetian nobles in the 17th and 18th centuries as well as the beautiful decoration of their living spaces.

Having viewed some palaces, it was time to turn my attention to sacred architecture. There are 139 churches in Venice and each have their merits, but there are few quite as grand as Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Built by the Franciscans in 1250 on the site of an older church, work continued until 1338. Almost immediately work resumed to enlarge the building, construction continuing for another century. Monks lived here until 1810 when Napoleon Bonaparte expelled them. His soldiers used the convent building as a barracks.

The exterior of the church is misleadingly plain.

Inside the church houses a selection of ornate tombs and memorials.

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Canova designed this monument as a possible memorial to Titian. When Canova died his friends erected it in the church for him instead. His heart lies here.

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This large monument to Titian was designed by Canova.

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This is the rather ostentatious monument to Doge Giovanni Pesaro who died in 1659

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The only rood screen in Venice

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The Quire

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The High Altar. The painting is by Titian and depicts the Assumption

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The Titian Monument

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Behind the Basilica is the Scuola Grande di San Rocco

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The Scuolo Grande di San Rocco

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The Sale Terra – ground floor

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The Brothers of San Rocco founded the school in 1478 after a particularly deadly spate of plague within the city, San Rocco being the patron of plague victims. The name is misleading as this isn’t a school at all, the term in this case being used to describe a brotherhood of laymen dedicated to providing charitable aid. In subsequent plague years the Scuola would be inundated with donations by those hoping to avert the plague from their homes. This allowed for the exquisite decorations of the hall as well as charity works.

The Upper Hall is the jewel in the San Rocco crown…

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The paintings show the genius of Tintoretto

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#venice #igersvenezia #ig_venice

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Next door is the Chiesa of San Rocco.

Time for another Palazzo turned museum, this time Ca’ Rezzonico which houses the Museum of Venice in the 18th Century.

#carezzonico #venice #venezia #visitveneto #igersvenezia #ig_venice

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The poet Robert Browning died here in 1889.

#carezzonico #igersvenezia #ig_venice #visitveneto

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I had booked on a tour of murders and scandals that was sadly cancelled. I decided to instead spend my evening searching for a famous staircase that was apparently going to feature. I’ll never know if a murder took place here, but the Scala Contarini del Bovolo (‘snail shell’) is definitely worth a look.

Recently opened up after restoration when I visited, I was delighted to be able to climb up to the top. External staircases were a way of saving space inside houses. No external staircase is quite as flamboyant as this, dating to 1500.

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Inside the cupola

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The Cupola

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Roofs of #Venice #igersvenezia #ig_venice

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I decided to take a slow stroll down the Riva degli Schiavoni as the sun sets. This is a walk that gives some of the most iconic views of Venetian landmarks and is characteristically bustling.

#venice #venezia #igersvenezia #ig_venice #visitveneto

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Gondolas with a view of San Giorgio Maggiore #venezia #veneziaunica #ig_venice #igersvenezia

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Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

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Veneto Adventure Travel Journal – Padua

16/17 April 2016

For all my pride in prior planning, somehow I missed that I was spending a night in Padua during their marathon. Have you ever visited a large city during a marathon? The route clings tightly to main roads and winds around landmarks and monuments. Scenic if you’re a runner, a problem if you’re a tourist with only 24 hours to spare.

I had arrived in Padua keen to drop off my luggage at the hotel and head straight for the Prato della Valle for sunset. It’s the largest piazza in Italy, with a huge oval island in the centre surrounded by statues and water.

It is renowned as a beautiful spot.

Great shot of Prato della Valle and it's canal! Thanks to @madalina_solomon #LOVEpratodellavalle

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You’ll notice that these photos aren’t mine. When arrived Isola Memmia was covered in marquees, the water was barriered off with tall chain link fences and portaloos blocked the nicest views. The night before the marathon was bustling, but the grass was strewn with litter and the bins were overflowing. I would have to try some imaginative angles to block out the trash and shirtless teenagers…

#padova #pratodellavalle #igerspadova #ig_padova

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Perhaps a gelato and an early night would improve my mood.

In the morning I power walked to the Scrovegni Chapel for which I had timed tickets. If you plan to go (and you should,) BOOK ONLINE IN ADVANCE. I booked my advance ticket through my Padova Tourist Card, an indispensible purchase for a visit to the city.

The chapel was built within the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre in 1300. The Scrovegni family were money lenders and the chapel would be attached to a huge palace intended as a newer, grander family residence. Enrico degli Scrovegni commissioned Giotto di Bondone to paint the chapel interior with fresco cycles of the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ. It was to be the greatest work Giotto ever painted.

I checked online to see whether photography was allowed inside and seeing that it wasn’t checked my camera in with my bag. Apparently the rules changed two weeks prior to my visit and LUCKILY I had my phone in my pocket. The quality isn’t as good, but I have something at least. Visiting times are strictly limited so that each group enters on time. Woe betide the tourist who attempts to sweet talk the custodian for an extra five minutes…

The #scrovegnichapel, painted by #giotto between 1303-5 #padova

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The Kiss of Judas #scrovegnichapel #padova

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The Crucifixion #scrovegnichapel #padova

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Fresco of the Last Judgement by Giotto, 1305 #scrovegnichapel

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The Eremitani Civic Museum is next door (you have to pass through the ticket hall to get to the Scrovegni chapel,) and I’m eager to see what Roman treasures Padua has to offer. There’s a medieval section as well, but we all know my heart lies in more ancient times!

I’m always in a good mood when looking at antiquities, but my day is about to get more frustrating. The marathon is in full swing and easy routes from museum to museum are either blocked or too crowded to navigate. Many churches were closed or inaccessible.

I got some nice photos of architecture, but that was about it.

The Orto Botanico is at least open and a respite from the crowds. It was founded in 1545 by the Ventetian Republic and is the oldest continuous botanical garden in the world.

 

 

I take an earlier train than planned to my next destination. I may one day return to Padua and I’ll bloody well make sure it’s a couple of days with nothing major happening in the city!

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The Superstar Athletes of the Ancient World

In the modern world we are used to celebrity sportsmen. We buy their merchandise, see them in commercials and buy magazines with interviews about their personal lives. Famous athletes stare down from billboards and grace a millions memes and gifs. When a popular athlete retires nowadays they can look forward to a life of panel shows, reality TV stints and endorsement deals. It’s easy to think that this is due to our print media and social networks, but athletes have been achieving celebrity and notoriety for millennia.

A quick look at the ancient sources can make the exploits of even our most charismatic modern idols look a little tame…

Track and Field

Soccer fans lament when their club has a talented young player who gets lured away to a more prestigious club on the promise of a higher salary. The player is seen as a sell-out and the fans resent the richer club. It’s not a new phenomenon. Astylos of Croton won both the stadion (sprint) and diaulos (double length sprint) races at Olympia and perhaps he felt he deserved more adoration and gifts when he returned home. The next two times he ran at Olympia he won both races again as well as the hoplitodromos (race in armour,) this time running on behalf of Syracuse. Rumours swirled that he had been bribed by Syracusan tyrant Hieron I to defect with huge piles of cash. The city of Croton weren’t best pleased and tore down statues of him and turned his house into their state prison. Even his family disowned him and he died rich but lonely. Similarly when the city of Ephesus bribed Olympic dolichos winner Sotades of Crete to run for them at a subsequent Games the Cretans told Sotades never to return home.

Leonidas of Rhodes

Leonidas was the most versatile and most decorated runner in Greece. In 164 BC at Olympia he won the stadion sprint, the diaulos double-length sprint at the hoplitodromos race in armour, all in one day. Not only that, but he repeated his triple victory in 160 BC, 156 BC and 152 BC. He eclipsed all who came before him and was never bettered. His fellow islanders even worshipped him as a god, something that eludes even the most popular athletes of today.

Callippus of Athens

Callippus was a pentathlete who craved Olympic glory so badly that in 322 BC he bribed his opponents with cash to let him win. The judges found out and ordered Callippus and his opponents to pay major fines to the sanctuary. Athens appealed the decision but were turned down. The Athenians refused to pay the fine and boycotted the Olympics. Eventually Delphi declared that they would not grant Athens access to the Oracle unless the fine was paid. Athens had no choice but to pay the money, which was used to erect 6 bronze statues of Zeus at the sanctuary of Olympia, complete with inscriptions that weren’t too kind to the Athenians.

Boxing, Wrestling and Pankration 

Milo of Croton

Milo first won the wrestling at Olympia and Delphi in the youth category in the 60th Olympiad, winning again as an adult a further 5 times at Olympia and 6 at Delphi. He also won 9 titles at Nemea and 10 at Isthmia. That meant his professional career lasted for about 30 years from 540 BC, 24 of those years as unbeatable champion at every stephanitic Games. An athlete that won at all four Panhellenic Games was called a  Periodonikes. Milo achieved this five times. He finally lost in 512 BC to another wrestler from Croton called Timasitheus, who simply stayed at arm’s length and waited until Milo eventually tired himself out.

Milo apparently built up his strength by carrying a calf on his shoulders every day for four years until it was a fully grown bull. He also had an awe-inspiring diet, eating 20lbs of meat, 20lbs of bread and 18 pints of wine a day. In 520 BC he strutted around a festival to Zeus dressed as Heracles, casually carrying a bull which he later ate in one sitting. Ten years later when Croton attacked nearby Sybaris, Milo donned his Heracles costume again as well as his athletic crowns and led the charge into battle.

Milo was fond of party tricks and enjoyed tying a cord around his forehead, holding his breath and snapping the cord with only his bulging veins. He would also love to challenge opponents to steal a pomegranate from his hand. Not only could no man loosen his grip, Milo would not even have bruised the fruit. In fact, a favourite game was for Milo to ask somebody to bend his outstretched finger. No-one ever did.

A legendary wrestler required a legendary death. Milo apparently saw a tree with a spilt trunk, held open by wedges. Milo attempted to split the tree in apart by pushing the two halves away, but the wedges fell out and clamped his hands in the tree. Trapped, Milo was eaten alive by wolves.

Kleomedes of Astypalaia

Kleomedes could be a character from Greek tragedy. He was a boxer who competed against Ikkos of Epidaurus in 492 BC. Kleomedes dealt Ikkos a fatal blow, but the judges denied him the victory and said that the blow was a foul. Kleomedes was driven mad by the humiliation and disappointment, returning to Asypalaia in a rage. He pulled down the pillar of a school causing the building to collapse. 60 children were killed. His fellow citizens angrily pelted him with stones and Kleomedes was forced to hide in a temple of Athena, escaping later, unseen. Kleomedes had the Oracle of Delphi to thank for the mercy eventually shown to him when the Pythia declared him a hero.

Arrhichion of Phigaleia

Arrhichion won the pankration at Olympia in 572 and 568 BC. He attempted a third win in 564 BC but was put in a devastating choke hold. He may have been tempted to tap out, but his trainer Eryxias yelled

“What a wonderful funeral honour if one can say: he did not give up at Olympia!”

Arrhichion used all of his strength to thrust himself left whilst kicking his right foot out as hard as possible. This broke his opponent’s ankle and caused him to tap out, unfortunately he had not loosened his hold on Arrhichion’s neck,killing him. The judges crowned the corpse of Arrhichion the victor.

Damoxenos of Syracuse and Kreugas of Epidamnos

In Greek boxing the only legitimate target was the head. If opponents were too evenly matched and a bout seemed like it would never end, judges would order the boxers to strike a single blow to the head in turns until someone gave up or could not continue. This happened at the Nemean Games circa 400 BC. Kreugas dealt his blow with his fist, as per the rules. Damoxenos instead thrust his fingertips beneath Kreugas’ ribcage and tore out his intestines. Kreugas was declared posthumous victor, not because Damoxenos had not aimed for his head, but that his four fingertips counting as four separate blows. A statue was erected of Kreugas at Argos.

Kleitomachos of Thebes

Kleitomachos was a triple threat. At one Isthmian games he won the wrestling, boxing and pankration titles in one single day. He won three victories at the Pythian Games and was so formidable that the hellanodikai (judges,) at Olympia agreed to change the age-old programme and swap the order of the contact sports on his request (Kleitomachos didn’t want to compete in the pankration with boxing wounds.) He won the pankration at Olympia in 216 BC and the boxing there in 212 BC. One of his boxing matches at Olympia was against a newbie from a Greek colony in Egypt named Aristonikos. He’d apparently been trained on the orders of King Ptolemy who wanted to disprove that Kleitomachos was unbeatable. Ancient fans loved and underdog just as much as we do and they cheered Aristonikos loudly for daring to take on the titan of boxing. Aristonikos managed to hold his own and land some hard blows to even louder cheering. Kleitomachos was furious and berated the crowd for preferring an unknown Egyptian and King Ptolemy to a Theban champion who was trying to win for the glory of Greeks. The crowd immediately started to cheer for Kleitomachos again and he easily beat the humiliated Aristonikos.

Kleitomachos abstained from sex as a means to conserve his strength. He would leave the room if he heard an innuendo or raunchy joke and hated foul language. It was rumoured he even turned away if he saw dogs mating.

Diagoras and family

Diagoras of Rhodes had a glittering career, winning the pugmachia (boxing) twice at Olympia, at least once at Delphi, twice at Nemea and four time at Isthmia. He also won at prize Games all over Greece, including Athens. He was the subject of a victory ode by Pindar that was displayed on the wall of the Temple of Athens at Lindos in golden lettering – all 95 lines of it.

The patriarch of a sporting dynasty, his three sons were all also Olympic victors. Damagetos won the pankration, Akousilaos was a boxer like his father and  Dorieas was a champion in both pankration and boxing. His daughters were of course forbidden to compete but each gave birth to boys destined for Olympic victory, Peisirodos and Eukles followed in their grandfather’s footsteps to win the pugmachia.

Legend has it that when Diagoras watched Damagetos and Akousilaos win the pankration and boxing respectively in the same Olympic Games of 448BC his sons lifted him onto their shoulders and paraded him around the sanctuary. Sports fans showered him with flowers and a Spartan shouted that he may as well die now, his life will never be happier or greater than this moment. With that, Diagoras apparently died.

He now lends his name to an airport on Rhodes, remaining a household name for Greeks 2,500 years after his victories.

His Olympic legacy would also help two of his children when they found themselves in trouble.

Kallipateira was barred from watching the Games as a married woman but was desperate to see her son Peisirodos compete so disguised herself as his trainer. When he won, she was so excited that apparently leapt over the fences to go to him and accidentally revealed that she was, in fact, a woman. Women sneaking in to the Games was forbidden and the penalty was to be thrown from the cliffs of the nearby Typaion mountain. Kallipateira was only spared from this gruesome execution when it was pointed out that her father, three brothers, son and nephew were all Olympic champions. She was allowed to live but from then on, all coaches and trainers were required to attend naked to avoid any further deception.

Her brother Dorieas would overshadow their father’s victories with 8 wins at Isthmia, 7 at Nemea, 3 Olympics in a row and a win at the Pythian Games where his opponent was so overawed that he conceded before the match began. Dorieas fought in the Peloponnesian War as an ally of Sparta. His athletic fame spared him when the Athenians captured him as a prisoner of war. Athens let him go free out of respect for his achievements. No  victory wreath could spare Dorieas when Rhodes switched allegiances however, and the Spartans didn’t hesitate to execute him.

Theagenes of Thasos

Theagenes was a man of bravado. His father Timosthenes was a priest but some whispered his real father must have been Heracles. Theagenes became famous at the grand old age of 9 when he brazenly stole a large bronze statue of a God and carried it home. Some people in Thasos asked for the death penalty for this act of sacrilege, but in the end his punishment was to haul the massive statue back, which Theagenes easily managed.

In 480 BC Theagenes won the Olympic boxing title in a fight again Euthymos of Locri. Theagenes wanted to win the boxing and pankration in one day, which meant once again facing off against Euthymos. Theagenes lost, and was furthermore fined for entering the boxing for the sole reason of annoying Euthymos, as far as the judges could make out.

At the next Olympics, Theagenes won the pankration and didn’t enter the boxing, which Euthymos again won. Euthymos seems to have travelled to Tamesa at some point after this and beaten a murderous ghost in a wrestling match, saving the city and marrying a beautiful maiden who was to be sacrificed to the ghost…  

Theagenes won several wreaths in boxing and pankration; 10 wreaths at Isthmia, 9 and Nemea and 3 at Delphi. He apparently also won 1,400 victories at various other Games during his stellar career. At Phthia he even ran and won the dolichos race, just to prove how versatile he could be.

After Theagenes died his hometown erected a large statue of him. A longtime rival who had never managed to best Theagenes took out his humiliation and frustration by sneaking up to the statue after dark each night and whipping it. The statue toppled one night and killed the hapless man. The statue was accused of murder and thrown into the sea, as the punishment in Thasos for murder was exile. A drought then hit the island. The Oracle of Delphi told the people to recall their exiles to end the famine and it wasn’t until the people of Thasos retrieved the statue of Theagenes from the sea floor did the drought stop. From that point on, sacrifices were left at the statue which was reputed to have healing powers.

Polydamas of Skotoussa

Polydamas won the pankration at Olympia in 408 BC but is more famous for his exploits that had Greeks likening him to Heracles. Like Heracles, he apparently once killed a lion with his bare hands, not at Nemea but on the slopes of Mount Olympus.

He also halted a moving chariot with nothing but his own brute strength and also wrestled a bull with such ferocity that the animal escaped leaving Polydamas holding a severed hoof.

Darius II, King of Persia, invited Polydamas to Susa. He challenged Polydamas to fight three of his elite soldiers known as Immortals. Polydamas killed all of them.

He died in a brave or incredibly stupid manner, depending on which source you listen to. Polydamas was exploring a cave with his friends when the roof started to fall in. Polydamas held up the roof long enough to ensure that his friends could escape to safety, although Diodorus Siculus sniffs that it was actually to try to prove that he could hold up the mountain.

Melankomas of Caria

Melankomas was a boxer famed for his handsome features that were never marred by scars or bruises. Throughout his career he never threw a punch and never received one either, maintaining such a solid defensive stance that his opponents would tire out or lose their temper and grow careless. He won the boxing this was in 49 AD. A modern spectator may find this a little boring to watch, but the ancient Greeks admired Melankomas for his strategy and stamina. It was said he once held his fists up for two straight days without wearying, let alone eating or sleeping. Melankomas trained harder than his peers, and spent far longer at the gymnasium. He died at a relatively young age during a Games held in Naples; on his deathbed he asked his companion how many days were left to compete.

Kallias of Athens

Kallias of Athens should have been famous for being the first Athenian periodonikes (winner of all four Panhellenic festivals,) winning 4 Nemean titles, 5 Isthmian, 2 Pythian and 1 Olympic pankration victory in 472 BC. He also won in front of an ecstactic home crowd at the Great Panathenaia. Unfortunately he was better known for his disastrous political career which saw him ostracised from the city for a decade (banished by a popular vote of male citizens.)

Equestrian

Alcibiades of Athens

Chariots and thoroughbred horses were expensive commodities, making chariot racing a sport for the fabulously wealthy. Not only was Alcibiades loaded, he was also snobby about mixing with rough wrestlers. He entered seven chariots at Olympia in 416 BC, brazenly flaunting his wealth. He came in 1st, 2nd and 4th. He must have been confident of a win, he’d ‘borrowed’ golden plates and cups from the Athenian treasury and threw a massive banquet for all the spectators at the Games (convincing various city states to donate sacrificial animals, wine and even tents.)

Kyniska of Sparta

Kyniska was a Spartan princess who was the first woman to circumnavigate the Olympic males-only rule. Her four-horse chariot (complete with a male driver,) won in 396 BC and 392 BC. Some sniffed that this proved that chariot racing was a sport with no athletic skill required as long as one had a big pile of cash to burn. Sparta was markedly less misogynistic than the rest of Greece, and Kyniska ignored her detractors by placing a statue of bronze horses at Olympia, complete with a proud victory inscription.

Aula

Aula won the keles race at Olympia in 512 BC. Her rider didn’t, having fallen off at the beginning of the race. The horse was so well-trained that she finished the course alone. Aula’s owner, Pheidolas of Corinth won the crown.

Nero

Romans grew to love the Games of Greece, even if they were scandalously nude and could have benefitted from a bit more violence and a bit less misogyny.

They enthusiastically entered athletes (when and where they were permitted to,)  and wealthy Romans spent a lot of money to refurbish the sanctuaries and make them more comfortable according to Roman tastes and expectations.

Nero loved the Games so much he invented two of his own, the one-off Juvenalia (to commemorate his first shave,) and the Neronia (these Games would not continue past his death. Domitian would later create the Capitolian Games in Rome which proved to have far greater longevity and prestige.)

What Nero wanted most of all was to be a periodnikes, to win at each of the four Panhellenic Games. This would in theory take at least three years, but Nero wanted to achieve it in one and wasn’t shy of bribing Greeks to make his dream a reality, spending a rumoured one million sesterces on the Olympic helladonikai alone. In an unprecendented move the Olympics of 65 AD  were postponed and all four Games were scheduled for the same year of 67 AD.

Funnily enough, Nero won every event he took part in, some because of his bribes, some because his opponents didn’t care to find out what happened to the man who made Nero lose.

At Olympia, the festival that had staunchly refused to include musical and literary competitions since 776 BC, Nero insisted on competing in singing, playing the lyre and reciting tragic poetry. Spectators were forbidden from leaving, some chose to fake their own deaths to escape.

Nero also entered a chariot, with ten horses instead of the usual two or four. Scandalising the conservative Romans at home, Nero drove the chariots himself. He was thrown from the chariot and nearly died. He did not complete the race, but was declared victor anyway.

Nero returned to Rome with 1800 wreaths from various Greek Games and threw himself four triumphs to celebrate. Within two years, he was forced to commit suicide, his last words being  “Qualis artifex pereo!” “What and artist dies with me!”

After his death, Greek officials erased the Games of 67AD from the Olympic record and encouraged Greek sports fans to pretend they had never happened. Some Greek history websites still fail to mention their existence.

Our modern athletes may cause the occasional stir and some become more famous for their actions away from the stadium than for their athletic prowss, but even the most melodramatic have never been deified. The athletes of the ancient Greek world truly achieved everlasting fame.

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